In control – from MHD magazine

Sean Ryan

System availability makes or breaks the productivity of an automated warehouse. Downtime caused by unscheduled system shutdowns not only lowers efficiency, it can result in delivery delays and an explosive rise in costs, which, in turn, effect customer satisfaction.
Automation and robotics, connectivity and increased use of data are all driving changes in intralogistics and are paving the way for Industry 4.0. Software is at the heart of that evolution. To stay ahead of the competition, it is critical to find a WMS that offers the full-spectrum of systems and controls, yet is modular and has the ability to integrate with your current IT infrastructure and logistics software landscape. Software with basic warehouse management functionality, warehouse execution, warehouse controls, manufacturing execution systems, material flow, and automation control systems provides a full-spectrum of software ability within the fours walls of the warehouse. Furthermore, a proven interface that has the ability to connect to any ERP and/or multi-site WMS system will allow for a seamless integration of automated warehouse processes.
A new approach to warehouse management software was needed that delivers all of the functionality, intelligence and services required to optimise warehouse operations in an integrated, modular platform. The software’s ability to adapt to future technology would see users benefit from a future-proof operation, where additional functionality can be securely added, helping businesses capitalise on the opportunities emerging as Industry 4.0 evolves.
Stay ahead of the competition with a smart WMS system
Many supply chain professionals feel the elements of Industry 4.0 including WMS systems seem theoretical, but in fact software that combines synchronisation and business intelligence across warehouse management, material flow and automation control system functionality, is available today in a single platform.
A modular software platform provides the flexibility to deploy components that are relevant to individual business requirements and KPI, whilst intelligently synchronising automation equipment, robotics, people and processes for peak performance. An Industry 4.0 future-ready software platform enables a business to commence the journey to operate at ideal performance with the agility and insight to make informed and proactive decisions.
Collaboration at the heart of your technology
A crucial supporting platform to any WMS platform is a collaboration component that provides continuity no matter the level of automation your business has installed. When considering software, professionals must seek one that has proven functionality and outstanding quality assurance.
A collaboration platform is the heart of SynQ software that makes seamless integration possible. This platform includes real-time 3-D visualisation to manage and control automation through the Single Point of Control (SPOC) interface. SPOC provides a unique, easy-to-use, user interface for visualising and controlling all warehouse operations and machines. SPOC gives employees in the control centre an intuitive and accurate overview of all warehouse operations, indicate where the failure of individual components would impact the entire flow of goods, and are able to trigger proactive measures when needed. For example, if a bin in the high-bay warehouse shifts or a palletising robot runs too hot, the system issues an alert before an incident arises. Such software must also offer flexible IT, whereby software can be installed on existing infrastructure or anywhere in the cloud.
Software that adopts the advantages of virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools are available and provide important staff support. VR is used to provide a realistic visualisation of your future warehouse, that enables you to train your staff and technicians in their future environment before the warehouse is built or before they commence employment. Augmented reality devices like the HoloLens will allow users to pick without additional hardware whilst at the same time call on remote assistance from higher-skilled technicians or management.
Analytics and business intelligence
A real-time holistic view of a warehouse is a valuable tool for managers. With future-ready software, operational reports can be managed and scheduled to maintain a thorough understanding of warehouse performance for continuous improvement of operations across automation, inventory and operators. Smart software compares the measurements and error events generated by data-collection sensors and stores the data in the cloud against predefined target values, allowing deviations to be diagnosed quickly and with pinpoint accuracy. As a result, you can determine 24/7 whether your system operates flawlessly or whether there is imminent damage due to wear or excessive usage of automation, inaccuracies in inventory and processes that people are completing.

“Business intelligent tools encompass the future of warehouses as they provide the visibility and data required for optimal warehouse operations.”

Software that combines analytics and embedded business intelligence, can improve operations and synchronise the performance of your automated or manual warehouse equipment. Business intelligent tools encompass the future of warehouses as they provide the visibility and data required for optimal warehouse operations.
Such tools include mobile notifications of system operations and the trigger of automated corrective actions to improve material flows. The SynQ cockpit provides a clear and concise overview of warehouse operations with plugins for inventory statistics, labour performance and condition monitoring to provide quick visibility into your operations through smart data aggregations and appropriate visualisation.
Do you have your warehouse under control?
Condition Monitoring is based on the idea of detecting and correcting system component changes caused by wear, excessive use and other potential causes as early as possible – ideally immediately after they arise. This gives users the ability to predict and prevent problems before they occur by viewing the current state of your intralogistics system at any time and ensuring that your equipment works at maximum efficiency for the longest lifespan. The warehouse remote monitoring services predict possible problems, reducing the risk of unscheduled downtime and maximising delivery reliability. This provides the advantage of real time analysis of error and throughput trends to provide faster fault identification and highest availability.
An integral functionality feature is the ability to continually record equipment condition by incorporating the measurement and analysis of physical values, such as distances covered, temperatures, energy consumption of individual elements and disciplines from state-of-the-art sensors into system reports. The collected information can then be used to identify vital elements that are prone to malfunctions and draw conclusions regarding the potential error rates of individual disciplines and entire logistics systems. Condition Monitoring allows control centre employees to view the current system condition at any time, document the development of trends and evaluate failure risks. The goal is to turn the data and data analyses into decisions designed to improve the planning of operations and maintenance processes to prevent system failures caused by malfunctions and maintenance factors, especially those that occur during peak periods and are therefore particularly disruptive.
Businesses can set a pre-defined data series (KPI) and pre-configured pages and charts to simplify the management of KPI. This uses the data collected by the hardware components using state-of-the-art sensors. Whether it is the energy consumption of a conveyor system, the deceleration path of a stacker crane, the number of movements of a shuttle or the temperature generated by the movements of a roller conveyor, continuous and seamless evaluations of the condition of all components and disciplines in a warehouse are achievable.

“Future-proof operations with software that provides convergence of connectivity, big data and advanced robotics to create cyber-physical production systems.”

Through continuous monitoring and real-time data, warehouses can continuously operate at maximum efficiency to ultimately reduce operational costs. Furthermore, early-warning system for malfunctions reduce downtime of critical equipment and allow a business to create calculated risks. Predictive maintenance is the next step towards Industry 4.0.
Smart concept
Condition Monitoring replaces the preventive or reactive maintenance and service strategy of the past. Instead of conducting routine checks at regular intervals and performing scheduled replacement of intact parts with a specific remaining service life, maintenance and spare parts provisioning occur precisely when the data indicates they are necessary. This innovative approach to proactive maintenance and service offers enormous cost-savings potential because the service life of critical elements can be fully utilised.
The core tasks of the condition monitoring include recording, analysing and visualising information to provide ongoing warehouse monitoring, including all tasks, processes and warehouse components. State-of-the-art sensors, data collection methods, and optimisation algorithms based on big data analytics are the cornerstones of Industry 4.0 that supports systems throughout their entire lifecycle.
Business intelligence tools, such as Swisslog’s cockpit manager, availability manager, event manager and, at the core, 3D real-time system visualisation interface (SPOC), record the data generated by the system. Information about the condition of the system can not only be displayed as classic charts, but also directly on the system visualisation screen as, for example, heat maps which highlight all critical elements. A number of other apps can be added to the chain of software modules. For example, the Report Manager can be used to generate a PDF report when a specific problem is detected. This report, in turn, is then e-mailed to the warehouse managers by the Event Manager. The result is effective reporting about all the errors that occur and the corrective measures that are initiated in response.
The power of software
In today’s competitive world, more than ever before companies must be able to deliver with increasing frequency the right orders to the right customers at the right time. Intelligent software has the ability to manage peak demands and provide holistic automation to ensure optimisation is achieved at the appropriate level to enable material handling equipment and people to perform at their maximum level. Furthermore, a powerful software can transform insight into intelligence. This is achieved through tools that give businesses quick and accurate visibility of operations through standardised data aggregations and appropriate visualisation, all without the need for IT experts or custom programming. This transformation of data becomes actionable intelligence to help with analysis and optimisation of warehouse performance.
The future of the warehouse
Future-proof operations with software that provides convergence of connectivity, big data and advanced robotics to create cyber-physical production systems that will be the hallmark of Industry 4.0. With its modular architecture and intelligent, automation-centric design, SynQ helps users adapt to these changes and capitalise on the opportunities that are emerging as Industry 4.0 evolves.
Building on condition monitoring and predictive maintenance service will be the next building block of Industry 4.0. Predictive maintenance will be made possible by networking all automation sensors, integrating external data into the complete system and detecting correlations and behaviour patterns. Sending information not only about where a problem will occur but also about when and how it can be fixed proactively.
Sean Ryan is the head of sales and consulting at Swisslog Australia. For more information call +61 447 771 933, email or visit Swisslog is a member of the KUKA Group,

Emergent Cold collaborates with tech firm on analytics

The temperature-controlled supply chain company that recently purchased Swire Cold Storage, Emergent Cold, has signed a Heads of Agreement with technology company irexchange, to support the next phase of growth for both businesses.
The Agreement outlines a collaboration between Emergent Cold and irexchange that will provide temperature-controlled flow-through distribution-centre transport and fulfilment capability to irexchange, initially within Victoria and then nationally. irexchange is to provide technology and analytical capabilities to facilitate the creation of a next-generation temperature-controlled supply chain capability.
The Agreement with Emergent Cold will support irexchange’s growth into fresh and perishable products and enable irexchange to broaden its customer base.
“We are pleased to partner with irexchange to develop the next generation of supply-chain capability in the temperature-controlled market, especially for smaller independent retailers,” said Greg Holt, Managing Director, Emergent Cold Australia. “There are great synergies between Emergent Cold’s capability and the irexchange platform and technology which we look forward to realising.”
Clive Yoxall, CEO, irexchange, added: “We are continuing to build our efficient world-class network and national footprint. With this agreement, we will deepen our support capabilities across the independent grocery and smaller retailer sectors. Our new relationship with Emergent Cold is a significant and important milestone and we are confident that both our organisations will generate strong and sustained value through the partnership.”

Analytics skills in demand in logistics

A recent survey of requests for consultant skills in Australia found that the three top in-demand skills for the logistics and supply chain industry in 2017 are supply chain management, business analytics and process improvement.
The research, carried out by online consultant marketplace Expert360, analysed over project postings since 1 January 2017 from Australian corporates with more than $500 million in annual revenue.
“The current most in-demand skills include project management, process improvement, data science & analysis, financial modelling and business transformation,” said Bridget Loudon, CEO, Expert360.
“A big trend we’re seeing…is growing demand for data and analysis skills. Businesses are still grappling with how they can best store and use data to better improve a range of business functions, including internal processes, the customer experience and their go to market strategy. As a result, there is high demand for data and analytics consultants in Australia’s biggest companies across a wide range of industries from aviation to telcos.”
“Process improvement is also a key focus for many of Australia’s biggest enterprises across the banking, healthcare, logistics & supply chain, government and the consumer goods sector. As better business processes help boost customer satisfaction and revenue growth, businesses are turning to Expert360 to engage experienced consultants as a way of topping-up their workforce and driving change.”

Data management top tech priority for global supply chain

A new survey carried out by supply chain operator Geodis has found that the top five technology supply chain priorities globally are all related to data management, they are data analysis, Internet of Things, cloud computing, info security and predictive analytics.
“In the wake of globalisation and rampant digitalisation, commercial trade flows have evolved dramatically,” the company said in a statement. “Both the volume and the scope of services managed within supply chain have reached unprecedented levels.”
Seventy per cent of respondents of the 2017 Supply Chain Worldwide survey stated that they consider their supply chain to be either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ complex, and they also emphasise the strategic position it has reached in their overall organisation.
The majority – 57 per cent – of firms surveyed said that they consider their supply chain to be a competitive advantage, and 66 per cent dedicate 5–15 per cent of their turnover to supply chain spends.
Three quarters of the firms Geodis spoke to reported that they use four or five different transportation modes in their supply chain, with road (full truckload) and airfreight the two most common.
Focus on achieving full visibility over the supply chain – from suppliers of suppliers to clients of clients – has increased in recent years – it is now the third most important priority reported, while it came in sixth place in the 2015 survey. Only six per cent of firms succeeded in reaching this target, however.
“[The] supply chain has become more customer focused and mostly considered as a lever to win competitive advantage,” the statement concluded.

Adelaide on track to be Australia’s smartest city

Thanks to the city’s adoption of Big Data and Internet of Things analytics, Adelaide could soon be Australia’s smartest city, according to a global authority on the use of technology in government.
At the 2017 Australian Smart Communities Conference on 30 May, Adelaide was singled out as an example of government using technology to better its understanding of challenges.
Brett Bundock, Managing Director of geospatial technology company Esri Australia, said Geographic Information System (GIS) technology offers governments the ability to better understand their challenges.
“By integrating data sets from a variety of sources and visualising them across a time-space continuum, decision makers can see more clearly the cause and likely remedy of even the most complex of issues,” Bundock said.
“Adelaide is showing real leadership in this space. Areas such as driverless cars, smart lighting enabling lower energy consumption, environmental monitoring of CO2, sound and temperature to innovate solutions to improve the city and plans to make the capital a high-speed internet zone.
“The technology is here. By displaying Big Data, policy and program information on a map, a clear picture emerges that can show the best ways to target resources, track performance, and communicate with the public.”
Governor Martin O’Malley said that embracing advanced location-based analytics technology could help Australia support significant economic and social growth.
During his tenures as Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore, O’Malley was credited with cutting crime rates, improving healthcare, reducing government expenditure and taxes and transforming environmental management practices, earning him a reputation as one of the US’ most effective leaders.
O’Malley now heads the MetroLab Network, a collaboration between US cities and universities to develop technologically driven solutions to urban challenges.
O’Malley told attendees that GIS technology enables leaders to be on the front edge of the wave of change.
“When you have government, business community and thought leaders committed to embracing new technology, you can completely rethink how cities are planned and operated to develop economic and social growth,” he said.
“I’ve seen a new way of governing emerging – a change that’s being brought about by smart cities.
“Cities that understand that spatial intelligence allows us to better reduce crime, better manage traffic and understand what’s going on at any given point in time in our city. This visibility to see, track and act ultimately delivers better data-driven decisions.
“In Chicago – a city of 2.7 million people and growing – we’re installing more than 500 sensors on city streets by 2017 to understand the movements of pedestrians and vehicle traffic and measure air pollutants is expected to give a sound data-driven vision of the situation,” he explained.
“This will provide the basis for clear decisions based on evidence for solutions – things like public apps that display safe walking routes at night or apps that monitor air quality.”

Chute Technology’s world-first chute design cuts costs and downtime

A multidirectional rotating underground coal chute system that can be installed in less than a single shift at a typical mine has been developed by Chute Technology in what the Australian technology and manufacturing partnership believes is a world first.

The cost-saving universal chute – which can rotate output through 160 degrees left or right – can remove completely the need to custom-manufacture individual chute types to fit the confined spaces and particular angles of individual mines. 

The versatile bolt-in system – comprising a complete integrated structure from head end to conveyor outlet – features a rotating outlet beneath the head that can be angled to any position required to facilitate product flow.

In addition to radically reducing the labour required for manufacture and installation, the chute’s ability to be installed in a fraction of the time of custom chutes minimises downtime by keeping production moving when chutes wear out.

“This is a brilliantly simple breakthrough in cost and time saving at a time when the mining industry needs it most to maintain production. The benefits are obvious when you look at the basic concept, but we don’t know of anywhere else in the world where it has been done,” says Chute Technology Partner Mr Tom Woods, whose experience of coal chute manufacture through family company T.W. Woods Construction extends back more than 40 years.

The new chute system – of which the first example has already been produced – is the result of the analytical, design and manufacturing experience of each of the three Principal Partners in Chute Technology, who have combined experience of more than 80 years in a wide variety of resource industries including coal, iron ore, alumina and limestone across Australia, the USA, South America and South Africa. The company’s technologies are also applicable to gold, nickel and other bulk minerals and ores.

“A great thing about the new system is that it is easily configured to flow with the hugely diverse geology of mines throughout the world, which have shafts joining other shafts at whatever angles the geology and conditions underground dictate.

“Instead of having to engineer custom-fabricated chute systems to suit unusual angles, this system just bolts into place in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost in time and money.

“In addition to savings in extending mines and adding new production, the chute system is far more time and labour-efficient in replacement of worn-out chutes, when you usually have to dismantle the old and install the new piece by piece. This one just slots into production virtually overnight.  

Chute Technology Pty Ltd combines the local and international manufacturing experience of T.W. Woods, represented by Director Tom Woods, with the similarly broad engineering and technology experience of Engineering Consultant Dennis Pomfret of Dennis Pomfret Engineering, and Design Engineer Gary Telford of McKajj Services, which contributes extensive design engineering, detail drafting and project management experience.

A bonus of the system they have produced is that it is designed from the outset to solve spillage and conveyor bulking problems common in coal mining and coal handling facilities.

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