Dematic Acquires NDC Automation

Dematic, a leading global supplier of integrated automated technology, software and services to optimise the supply chain, today announced the acquisition of NDC Automation, a transition period locally, and globally as Dematic, and will continue to deliver the highest quality AGV solutions for Dematic customers.
Ulf Henriksson, Dematic President and CEO stated, “We are pleased to announce the acquisition of NDC Automation, which enhances our ability to design, deliver and deploy global AGV solutions that move, store and/or retrieve goods.”
“The NDC portfolio expands upon an existing portfolio that will dynamically optimise the movement of raw materials or finished goods as they move throughout a facility, including software that provides real-time information addressing material flow metrics.”
Headquarted in Australia, NDC Automation has been providing AGV solutions for companies located in Australia and New Zealand for more than 40 years. The company has pioneered major advances in the areas of safety and vehicle navigation for its customers.
Glen Borg, Dmeatic CEO ANZ/ASEAN commented, “This acquisition further enhances our offerings to the global marketplace, complementing our storage equipment and logistics IT technologies and providing our customers with expanded flexible, scalable and modular solutions.”
“The NDC Automation team is excited to join the Dematic organisation and leverage our technology, deep breadth of experience and provoking thought leadership in the area of goods transportation,” stated Tommy Eklof, NDC Automation CEO.
“We look forward to offering our combined technology solutions to create competitive advantage for the Dematic and NDC customer base.”

The Voice of Reason: Hands Free in Cold Storage

Australian 3PLs and the food retail businesses they supply are all too aware of the need to ensure in-store stock levels are maintained. However, it is not uncommon to come across an empty shelf or freezer in a supermarket. At times, this can be linked to unsupplied stock due to warehouse discrepancies and challenges presented while delivering goods through the cold supply chain.

Perishable food products must be transported and stored at chilled temperatures to ensure they meet government food standards. Within medical environments, chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs must be stored and transported within specific temperature settings to maintain quality. Therefore an unbroken cold chain, meaning an uninterrupted series of storage and distribution activities maintained at a given temperature range, is of paramount importance to many industries across Australia.

Importantly, and what some Australian 3PLs and the retailers they work with are still not fully appreciating, is that just as coats, hats and gloves are essential for workers to function in cold storage areas; it is vital that the technology being used in these challenging materials handling environments is fit for purpose and supports workers throughout the order fulfilment process.

Standard retail-grade devices don’t perform at adequate levels when confronted with cold storage situations. LCD screens can freeze up, barcode readers will not function if frost or condensation covers their optical ports, and mobile computing batteries won’t release energy when temperatures drop below certain levels. These challenges contribute to situations whereby distribution centre (DC) pickers may resort to manual data entry – which severely reduces productivity and increases error rates – just to ensure that product tracking is occurring.

The cold, hard facts

Operating in cold storage environments requires technologies that offer workers the freedom of movement needed to complete their tasks efficiently in challenging situations. Voice picking technology is ideally suited to cold storage settings because it offers a hands-free, eyes-free, rugged design for increased productivity in cold operating environments.

Many warehouses have learnt the hard way that using paper-based picking and some hand-held computer or scanning technologies can lead to inefficiencies and inaccuracies in the cold chain picking process. This is due to the specific challenges faced in common product sorting and picking tasks due to both low temperatures and the protective clothing workers are required to wear in such settings.

When using paper-based systems in a cold storage setting, workers often find that even straightforward activities like writing on a piece of paper is very awkward and slow, if not nearly impossible, given they are often required to wear bulky gloves and clothing to protect themselves from the cold conditions. This means that pickers either have to remove their gloves when writing on order forms or try to complete vital product delivery forms without a proper grip on a pen, which can lead to incomprehensible writing and result in goods being shipped to the wrong customers.

With Voice technology, workers have both hands free to make the picks. Since they are not looking down with Voice, they can also continue to move while receiving instructions. They do not have to stop their walking or driving to read from paper or a screen improving their operational efficiency.

While there are a number of handheld scanner and mobile devices designed to withstand cold temperature operating environments, these are not without their operational challenges for warehouse workers. Keying vital product and delivery information into a mobile computer wearing gloves, even if they are larger keyed devices, is an enormous challenge – along with the fact that the worker constantly has to shift their line of vision between the mobile device in their hand and the product they are looking for.

The Voice terminal is typically worn comfortably under an operator’s coat. The Voice system also has noise-cancelling features that filter out high levels of noise from the fans and compressors blowing in cold temperature buildings. As a result, workers are comfortable and extremely productive.

A cool change

Pickers are usually not solely confined to cold environments and their job often requires them to roam in and out of refrigerated environments. This worker, if equipped with a mobile computer, would need a specialised solution (i.e. a mobile computer equipped with big buttons for use with gloves) which could potentially make things difficult back on the warehouse floor. And the dramatic swings in temperatures these workers experience as they move from the warehouse to the cold storage environment can lead to standard retail grade scanners and mobile devices seizing up. 

Alternatively, a Voice solution which is specifically built to operate in cold storage environments can be used across all warehouse functions by simply capturing lot or serial information, therefore eliminating the need to have separate solutions for different areas of the warehouse. Additionally, Voice systems overcome the need for specialty attributes, such as larger buttons, on hand-held computers. 

In a difficult working environment, it is essential that cold storage operators have the best tools for the job. Voice solutions improve worker productivity in cold storage environments – improving traceability, enhancing order accuracy and speeding up shipping times – while also being adaptable and applicable to other warehouse situations. 

Dematic Real Time Logistics awarded Vocollect Partner of the Year

Logistics automation and IT supplier Dematic recently received the Vocollect APAC Partner of the Year Award at the Vocollect Annual Asia Pacific Conference in Chengdu, China.

Dematic received the honour for significant business growth and innovation as well as the smooth transition to working with Intermec following Intermec's acquisition of Vocollect. Dematic is now an Intermec Platinum Partner.

The Vocollect APAC Partner of the Year Award was presented to Dematic's General Manager for Real Time Logistics, Nathan Taylor by Vance Lau, Vocollect's Managing Director and Vice President Asia Pacific. Dematic also collected awards for Most Significant Win in SEA, Outstanding Tech Support SEA and Outstanding Tech Support ANZ at the conference.

Accepting the Partner of the Year Award, Mr Taylor described how Dematic has been partnering with Vocollect since introducing this innovation in warehouse technology to the APAC supply chain industry over 15 years ago.

He added that Dematic offers the experience, track record and infrastructure to not only design and implement voice solutions but also support them with their comprehensive service and support infrastructure and in-country repair facilities in Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

He stated that the recognition solidified Dematic's position as a clear partner of choice for voice solutions in Asia Pacific.

How to give your distribution a competitive edge

Most successful businesses make promises about the availability of their products through creative marketing programs. The responsibility of delivering on the promise falls fairly and squarely in the lap of the supply chain team. It’s not an easy job to get the right product to the right place, in good condition, just when the customer wants to buy… but someone has to do it.

To meet these business objectives many companies make substantial investments in their supply chain. Whether that be in state-of-the-art distribution centres with purpose designed automation interfaced with sophisticated controls and software, or outsourcing to a third party logistics provider,  the desired outcome remains the same: an operation that performs reliably to achieve its targets week-in, week-out over the life of the system.

But as any logistics professional will tell you, there are traps and pitfalls. Unexpected peaks in demand, changes in product profiles, errors in picking or despatch and – despite the fact that most modern systems are highly reliable – mechanical, electrical, controls or software malfunctions can adversely affect results.

Logistics practitioners place great emphasis on finding new ways to increase uptime, optimise system performance and ensure they meet their customer’s highest expectations. Your logistics and distribution systems can be a powerful competitive strategy and there are many new ways in which your ongoing performance can aid in the creation of a more powerful brand and a more respected position in the marketplace.

In this article, we explore what you can reasonably expect of a service organisation and how they should ensure that your system is finely tuned and highly responsive. We also consider the changing capabilities of a modern service organisation and how advances in processes and technology can give you an extra competitive edge, even as product profiles and demand changes in the future.

The changing role of a modern service organisation

Service has evolved from the stereotypical image of the mechanic in greasy overalls. Today’s service technicians are multi-skilled, multi-disciplinary professionals, who use a range of sophisticated tools and software to monitor the performance of logistics and IT systems, responding immediately to any equipment failure and, in many cases, identifying problems which could affect system reliability even before they happen.
The advent of high speed communications means keeping controls, software and IT systems up to date often doesn’t even require service personnel to be present, with security updates, software patches and the like being delivered electronically.
A modern service organisation will be able to provide you with previously unattainable levels of service and support in the following impressive ways.

Field Service and Support is essential

At a very basic starting point, any good service organisation will provide a team of field service and support personnel who are available around the clock, 365 days a year. These highly trained service technicians provide emergency support for those unplanned events that disrupt your systems. They can also maintain your system through regular servicing to maximise availability and minimise breakdowns. It’s during peak demand times that systems failures are most critical to your business.  A regular service program will minimise the risk to your operations.

Operational Audits highlight improvements and identify safety issues

Operational requirements invariably change over time. Often the original business and product mix the system was designed for has to be changed as customer and market forces dictate.
Whether it is a full functional audit to assess system and operator effectiveness, or specific safety and equipment-related details that are needed, a thorough and professional operational audit is an economical way to highlight productivity and safety improvement ideas. Any operational audit should include Equipment Condition Assessments and recommend upgrades and improvements to mechanical, controls and IT systems, in addition to safety and productivity reports.

Residential Service

Reliability is the key to achieving service targets week-in, week-out over the life of a system, and many larger distribution systems users – for whom uptime is absolutely critical to meet demanding order turnaround cycles – are taking a new approach to service.
Residential Maintenance Programs provided by the system integrator are becoming more commonplace. They typically provide trained, mechanical, electrical or software technicians who can perform preventive, corrective and emergency maintenance as well as providing operational assistance to ensure systems function at optimum efficiency.
These programs reduce operating cost and improve system performance by providing a systematic approach to service.  Additionally, KPI reporting provided under a Residential Program can give management insight to other benefits, such as reduced parts usage and increased system longevity.

Remote Monitoring & Diagnostics

Today, the internet and high speed communications networks mean that service centres don’t need to be located on the actual DC site. Monitoring can take place at a remote location.
Centralised teams of skilled engineers can significantly reduce the impact of faults and the time taken to rectify them, and ensure systems are fully supported 24/7. Trained operators have the expertise to provide immediate advice about the best course of action to respond to any issue, or to actively intervene to correct system faults often before they become a problem. 
Remote access, help desks and programmers can be on standby to ensure software and IT systems meet operational needs. Software support programs can include regular database checking, server architecture and software applications.

Seeing into the future with Early Warning Systems

Sophisticated software has enabled the development of predictive tools to further improve system performance. Diagnostic software has the capability to monitor systems performance, look for potential malfunctions and analyse events and issues that could affect system reliability.
The aim of early warning system software is to optimise DC performance improving delivery, accuracy and reliability. But there are added advantages. Unscheduled stoppages are reduced, maintenance cost is lowered and system working life is maximised.

Modernising your Distribution Centre operations

With supply chain demands changing at a faster pace than ever before, keeping your distribution operations up to date – even if they’re only a few years old – is vital to responding efficiently to changing customer and market demands, including regulatory requirements.
Systems may have provided many years of excellent service, but should performance levels fall, or business model and requirements change, then a modernisation program can breathe new life into an existing system at relative low cost.

Older systems can also become expensive to repair and maintain as parts and software become obsolete. Alternatively, and without scraping the whole system, performance can be enhanced by introducing automation and new technologies.

As businesses grow and develop, so too can systems, especially when the initial design is based on modular and scalable components. As no two logistics operations are the same, a range of options can be evaluated and a modernisation plan tailored specifically to suit business requirements and timescale. Proven modernisation and upgrade technologies can transform systems and deliver increased efficiency, ease of maintenance and reliability, quick smart.

Updated controls, software and mechanical components are also available, and they may be all that’s needed to increase operating efficiency to meet current needs.

Summary

Service can no longer be looked at as a necessary evil. It plays a crucial role in fulfilling the delivery promise. An unreliable supply chain can quickly bite into profits and, more importantly, business reputation.
The high cost of disruption to the supply chain means keeping logistics systems operating reliably is a key driver for all DCs. Advances like remote monitoring and early warning systems, and constantly evolving IT connectivity, are revolutionising the approach to service, enabling users to achieve high uptime levels while lowering total distribution costs and optimising service levels.

Michael Jerogin is the general manager, customer service at Dematic .

New standard offers safer, more economical storage systems

A NEW standard covering the design of steel storage racking systems was released on February 29th 2012 and will bring Australia up to date with the latest international knowledge and experience in the design of storage systems and cold-formed steel structures.

Compliance with the new standard, AS4084-2012 Steel Storage Racking, is a rack-by-rack, application-dependant proposition.

It is the designer's task to create steel racking systems that are fit for purpose, meet the user's requirements and budget, and provide acceptable safety margins to ensure safe, long-term operation.

However, when it comes to day-to-day operation, the onus of responsibility to ensure the systems are being properly used and maintained, and continue to meet the standard, falls squarely on the user.

Key changes

The major change contained in the new Australian standard for steel storage racking is the switch from using a "permissible stress" design philosophy to a "limit states" design approach – a move which brings Australia into line with most of the advanced rack designs codes in the world, including the European racking standard EN15512: 2009 and the Rack Manufacturers Institute Specification from North America. 

It also brings the standard into line with the relevant cross-referenced companion Australian standards, including AS/NZS4600: 2005 Cold Formed Steel Structures and AS4100-1998 Steel Structures.

From a structural design perspective, the limit states approach offers advantages over the permissible stress format. 

It allows the designer to consider the application of different margins of safety to different types of loads (dead loads, storage loads, live loads, seismic loads) to facilitate design optimisation, while guaranteeing a prescribed level of safety across different combinations of loads. Limit states design also provides the designer with greater insight as to how the structure will behave in the event of an overload that approaches the true collapse load of the system.

Other significant changes in the new standard include vastly expanded and improved testing provisions, including statistical evaluation, and the inclusion of advanced methods of structural analysis and finite element analysis.

Compared to the old standard from 1993, the new standard has the potential to result in more structurally efficient and finely tuned designs. 

The result is that the storage racks of today are generally lighter and cheaper than those of yesteryear, while still possessing the required minimum level of structural safety – and that's good news for end users.  

AS4804-2012 Steel Storage Racking contains a number of important changes storage system users should be aware of:

  • No changes to storage system configuration allowed without the approval of the equipment supplier or a structural engineer.
  • The vertical clearance requirement for pallets stored above heights of 6m has been increased from 75mm to 100mm. This is aimed at reducing the risk of accidental impact with beams during pallet put-away and retrieval.
  • The "flue space" between pallets backing on to each other has been increased by 50mm, reducing the risk of an adjacent pallet being accidentally dislodged when storing or retrieving pallets. This increase in flue space also better accommodates the needs of insurance companies who often insist on a minimum flue space of 75mm to allow adequate penetration of water from roof and rack-mounted sprinklers during a fire.
  • A minimum of two ground anchors must be used per baseplate on racks where forklifts are used.
  • Minor changes to rack load signage whereby the dimension from ground to first beam level, and from first to second beam level must be noted explicitly on signs.

What AS4808-2012 doesn't cover

Like the standard before it, the new steel storage racking standard is only relevant for closed-face racks such as Selective, Narrow-Aisle and Double Deep racking. It does not cover open-face racks such as Drive-In or Cantilever racking. 

When designing open-face racks, designers will need to seek guidance from other international standards and codes such as FEM 10.2.07 for drive-in racking and FEM 10.2.09 for cantilever racking. These codes can be used in conjunction with AS/NZS4600-2005 Cold Formed Steel Structures to obtain structurally sound racking designs consistent with world's best practice.

As per the previous standard, storage system users should ensure their system is professionally audited every year.

[Dr Murray Clarke is a member of the Standards Australia committee for steel storage racking and Structural Design Manager and Structural Design Manager with Dematic.]

Big changes at Dematic

The new chief executive of Dematic ANZ, Glen Borg.

The new chief executive of Dematic ANZ, Glen Borg.

On the back of another record year where growth exceeded 18%, material handling and logistics automation company Dematic ANZ has announced two significant senior management changes.

Glen Borg has assumed the role of chief executive officer ANZ. Glen joined Dematic as an engineering graduate in 1987. Since his early roles in purchasing, manufacturing and supply chain planning, Glen has held many senior positions within Dematic including the head of consulting and general manager of the company’s Logistics Systems Division. Glen is well known to the industry having developed many of the country’s leading supply chain and distribution systems.  He is a renowned public speaker presenting leading-edge papers at a number of SMART Conferences and Dematic’s 2020 Seminars.

Simon Barrow, who held the position of general manger engineering, has been promoted to the role of chief operating officer ANZ. Simon has been responsible for Dematic’s successful project delivery team as well as overseeing the development of innovation in the Colby range of products, by Dematic’s industry-leading structural design team. He has an extensive background in engineering program and operational management gained prior to joining Dematic in early 2003.

Steve Reeve will continue in his role as CEO of Dematic’s Asia Pacific business which oversees the ANZ business. During the last five years, Steve, as dual head of Asia Pacific and ANZ, has driven tremendous growth including the establishment of a manufacturing plant in China servicing both domestic and international requirements.

Dematic’s growth throughout Asia Pacific is expected to continue to increase significantly through market development, expansion into adjacent markets and a number of key strategic acquisitions throughout the region.

Smiths Crisps robotic packaging line awarded

An innovative robotic packaging line at snackfoods manufacturer Smith’s has improved everything from product presentation, storage, transport to environmental impacts, and earned the company an award.

The packaging line at Smith’s Tingalpa production site in Brisbane was named the Best of the Best in this year’s Mercury Awards, also garnering the company the Best Manufacturer award.

The company’s space efficient multi-pack (SEMP) project was designed to create clear production differentiation in an increasingly crowded multi-pack market segment, as well as to cut manufacturing and supply chain costs.

While the multi-pack concept has become a strong family favourite in Australia, the large volume of conventionally packaged multi-packs made them expensive to handle and transport. Their bulky nature also meant they also required better strategies to optimise limited shelf space in retail outlets.

Smith’s national project engineering manager, Steve Reilly said the SEMP project was “one of those rare projects that not only achieved the goals of the marketing, engineering and manufacturing departments, it also managed to deliver a wide range of supply chain benefits.”

Benefits

The collaborative project brought together technology partners including Germany’s Schubert for the robotic packing line, France’s Cermix for case packers and local suppliers Visy and Dematic for packaging and materials handing systems respectively.

Packing the individual inners in a cardboard carton instead of a large plastic bag has reduced the volume of the finished goods by about 30 per cent, which enabled the company to store 30 per cent more product in the same space while delivering a similar reduction in handling and transport costs.

The upgrade has doubled throughput capacity at the Brisbane site and removed up to 350 tonnes per annum of non-recyclable plastic wrap from landfill.

Working with Dematic – challenges and rewards

The SEMP robotic packing line comprises ten robotic packing stations, each with two robot arms fitted with gentle vacuum gripping attachments that enable them to precisely place individual packs into cartons in a pre-determined location.

The accuracy with which the packs are placed means the volume in the carton is used very effectively, delivering significant handling and transport cost savings.

Supporting the new robotic packaging line is a Dematic conveyor system that interlinks various processes and fulfils the role of removing empty work-in-progress (WIP) boxes containing bulk quantities of inners from the packaging line and returns them to the packing plant’s interface with upstream production.

Dematic had to install the WIP conveyor system within the sensitive packing environment without the need for any ‘hot work’ such as welding and grinding. Every connection in the system that would have normally been welded was converted during design into a bolted connection.

The installation was completed within six weeks, with the system commencing production this January.

A key challenge in designing the new conveyor system was to proof-test the design by computer simulation to prove the conveyor could remove and return the empty WIP boxes for reuse at the required throughput rates.

Mr Reilly said Dematic’s simulation gave the company confidence in design options.

“The fact that we could see in real-time how the whole system would operate was very reassuring for the project team,” he said.

“This was also the first time we had worked with Dematic and we were impressed by their performance at all stages of the project, particularly during installation, which had to occur while the plant was still fully operational.”

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