Australia, Automation, Companies, Features, Logistics, Supply Chain

CoGri automating logistics

Although AGVs and ASRS crane systems are not new, they have become more popular. Image: CoGri.

MHD caught up with Kevin Dare of the CoGri Group to understand how automation is changing the design and construction of industrial warehouses.

Kevin is considered one of the world’s leading experts in the design, testing, construction, and upgrade of concrete warehouse floors and is involved in more than 10 million sqms of industrial warehousing annually. He has been engaged with high-tolerance floors for more than 30 years. 

As well as developing methods for constructing ‘Super Flat’ floors, he is the inventor of the Laser Grinder® and the family of Face Digital Floor surveying instruments.

He is often regarded as the link between the Materials Handling Industry and the Industrial Flooring Industry, helping both with his understanding of the requirements of the former and the capabilities of the latter.

Kevin has helped write specifications for many robotics providers, including market leaders such as Geek+, AutoStore, Hai Robotics, and Quicktron, to name but a few. 

MHD: You travel the world to most parts of the globe annually. What changes are you seeing in the logistics industry when it comes to automation?

KEVIN: Most clients we talk to include automation as an integral part of their logistics system. Although AGVs and ASRS crane systems are not new, they have become more popular. AMRs, ACRs, and AutoStore-type grids are common discussion points at today’s design meetings. The wave of change has been embraced in the USA and is in full swing in Europe. The Middle East has been slow to adopt this move, but in the last couple of years, we have seen more adoption of such systems in Australia and New Zealand.

MHD: Compared to 10 or even 20 years ago, how different is today’s logistics?

KEVIN: As a flooring specialist life was all too simple as little as 6 years ago. When designing a floor, the main questions asked were: What were the loads from the racking and was this Very Narrow Aisle or Wide Aisle? Occasionally, we would talk about ASRS and from there determine the flatness requirement. However, with robotics and automation, we need to consider a raft of other floor characteristics, joints, multi-level warehouses, consideration of defections, and even having to rip out brand-new floors which have never been used. 

MHD: It sounds like today’s warehouse has much greater requirements on the floor, whereas everything else in the warehouse is pretty much the same. Is that fair to say?

KEVIN: No, not at all. The materials handling equipment is different, and the operating height required by some of these systems has been reduced in some cases, resulting in the possible use of mezzanines to maximise the building volume.

MHD: Multi-storey warehouses are starting to take off in Australia largely due to last-mile logistics and restricted warehouse space near conurbations. In Asia, multi-storey warehousing is common because of restrictions in space. What is your view on multi-storey warehousing?

KEVIN: The closer you get to conurbations, the more expensive the land and the plots get smaller – multi-level is a good option for some, but it is expensive to build. In Asia, most multi-storey warehouses are multi-use or multi-tenanted. In this case, the warehouse needs a road delivery system for each level. In a single-tenancy, multi-site warehouse, the floor levels can be serviced by an integrated system of lifts and conveyors with no need for an expensive and space-wasting access road and delivery levels.

MHD: It is interesting that ceiling height is not necessarily a requirement these days, especially if the AMR (Amazon-type) goods-to-person solution is used. However, with solutions like Geek+ that can now reach 10m or more, should ceiling height still be considered for new developments to future-proof the building?

KEVIN: Indeed, the envelope can be filled with mezzanine levels if clients want to fill a high-level warehouse. Developers will be looking at flexibility. One question for developers would be whether to build the floor before knowing what systems will be installed, as a speculatively designed floor may not be suitable—for example, consideration of loads from mezzanine columns. There is plenty of discussion about reaching carbon-neutral buildings, but ripping out brand-new concrete floors and re-laying them is doing nothing to reduce the carbon footprint.

MHD: What should a logistics operator consider when looking at automation?

KEVIN: The first question to ask is if the building is Greenfield or Brownfield. With Greenfield, there is the opportunity to change the floor design to meet the specific requirements of the automation system. There is no such thing as a robot-ready floor, as they all have different requirements. On brownfield sites, a condition survey of the floor is paramount. This will include flatness testing, joint condition and type, and load capacity, to name a few. Then consideration of the necessary remedial works to the floor to ensure the best performance of the automation system.

For more information on CoGri, click here.

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