From 0 to 100 % automation in intralogistics

Published on in Digitalization, Industry, Logistics of the future, Production logistics, Technology, Trends
05:00 minutes reading time

Striking the right balance: from purely manual to fully automatic

Increased efficiency, lower costs and process optimization – the positive features of industrial automation are always accompanied by fear of losing one’s job. Which means we must be discriminating in our approach: What degree of intralogistics automation is sensible and justifiable for my business? We envisage different levels of expansion, from the innovative, manual warehouse to full automation controlled by artificial intelligence.

The call for automation and what can actually be achieved

The manufacturing industry in Europe is facing increasing challenges such as cost pressure, a shortage of qualified personnel caused by an increasingly ageing population, and rapidly changing demands. This requires flexible and efficient production processes. So it is hardly surprising that manufacturing companies are increasingly looking at automation projects. But what does the automation of intralogistics mean for individual companies and what is the impact on employees? Do the economic benefits of automation always come at the expense of jobs? Our answer is no! Automation in intralogistics brings many opportunities.

One aim of automation is to pay more attention to employees’ skills and make the most of them. Monotonous, physically strenuous, or dangerous tasks can be done by machines instead. This relieves the strain on the individual, who can then be deployed elsewhere to generate value. Automation changes our daily work but does not replace it.

Another aim of automation in intralogistics is to improve efficiency and lower costs. Automation can increase quality, process reliability, and production speed. This in turn helps manufacturing companies stay competitive, and also lets them work and generate value in Europe.

Robot and human working hand in hand.

Automation solutions from 0 to 100%

What would intralogistics automation look like now? It doesn’t always have to be a fully automated high-tech warehouse. Automation can also take the form of intelligent software. Thanks to our comprehensive technology portfolio, we can offer 0–100% automation solutions, ranging from manual to fully automated.

The graphic shows the five levels of automation in intralogistics.

0 % automation in intralogistics: a manual warehouse with intelligent software

Intralogistics automation is usually associated with large warehouse solutions and a lot of technology. For smaller companies, this means too much power, and unacceptably high investment costs. But with innovative software, individual processes or existing production steps can also be designed and optimized efficiently and intelligently.

Quality assurance with work stations using integrated image processing systems

At Jerich International, quality checks are made on vehicle body parts at a state-of-the-art work station equipped with an integrated image processing system, which helps the employees to check the parts. Actual images are compared with expected images. Thanks to real-time feedback, quality deficiencies are immediately identified and employees are given optimal support while working.

The ivii.smartdesk work station for assembly work.

The ivii.smartdesk provides employees with real-time feedback on the correctness of each work step. This prevents errors, and what’s more, the work station seamlessly documents the work processes. The costs of customer complaints or correcting errors are fully eliminated.

Process optimization thanks to intelligent redPILOT software

redPILOT optimizes processes in the warehouse, even if no automation technology is being used. The software is modular in design and intended to ensure optimal resource management. Cost- and performance-based schedules can be created for all employees at a simple click of a mouse. Planned, current, and ideal performance and costs are evaluated across all processes to identify where there is room for improvement. As the degree of automation increases, the mechanical resources are integrated into redPILOT. The software also helps to evaluate when it makes sense to increase the degree of automation in the warehouse.

With redPILOT’s intelligent software, existing resources can be optimally managed and efficiency increased.

25% automation in intralogistics: A manual warehouse with automated transport processes

Transport processes play an important role in a warehouse and in manufacturing. They safeguard the goods flow and connect the individual locations to one another. It makes sense to automate transport processes: Employees no longer have to drag heavy crates around, required parts are available just in time, and an autonomous mobile robot system is easily integrated into existing structures.

Open Shuttles supply work stations flexibly and quickly

At an aircraft manufacturer in Bremen, Germany, our autonomous mobile robots, the Open Shuttles, handle the transport of calibrated tools to the manual work stations in manufacturing. Open Shuttles bring just-in-time automation to material transport, from the tool crib to the work stations, and allow employees to work more efficiently. Thanks to autonomous navigation, our Open Shuttles can also move in mixed traffic between racks, forklift trucks, and carriers.

KNAPP’s Open Shuttle avoiding a forklift autonomously.
Open Shuttles continuously scan their environment thereby avoiding both people and obstacles with full autonomy.

50% automation in intralogistics: an automated small parts warehouse with ergonomic work stations

If what matters is high-performance and space-saving storage of small parts, along with supplying work stations quickly and efficiently, then it is worth investing in an automated small parts warehouse. Our technology portfolio offers a range of different options. The storage system for small parts is directly connected to the work stations for picking, kit creation, or assembling. Behind it all is an intelligent software solution. We cover the processes with our KiSoft and SAP® EWM by KNAPP product lines as needed and servicing can also be automated. The redPILOT CMMS module supports structured and scheduled performance of necessary maintenance and repair, thus enhancing the service life of the systems and the management of spare parts.

Efficient handling of various logistical demands with an OSR Shuttle™ at Terberg

Several processes at Terberg Benshop BV have been centralized in one storage system in order to handle an increasing number of picking orders. The small parts are stored in the OSR Shuttle™ and presented to the ergonomic Pick-it-Easy Flex work stations as needed. Picking is conducted here for manufacturing, the assembly line, or for the shipping of spare parts, according to the order. All these processes are mapped by the KiSoft software, the brain of the solution.

Pick-it-Easy Flex work stations by KNAPP at Terberg.
At the Pick-it-Easy Flex work stations, three types of picking are carried out: Kanban picking, picking in roll containers and spare parts picking.

75% automation in intralogistics: an innovative logistics solution that knows all the tricks

When the degree of automation increases, more and more areas and processes are linked together and mapped using innovative technology. At the heart of such technology is an automatic storage system equipped with ergonomic work stations that is directly connected to autonomous mobile robots or tugger trains. The software has a major role to play while assistance and image processing programs make an innovative add-on.

Innovative logistics solution at Pankl makes it possible to implement a zero defect strategy

Maximum quality and end-to-end traceability are the basic requirements for implementing Pankl’s zero defect strategy. An automated small parts warehouse supplies the assembly work stations. Modern image processing technology checks every work step when assembling transmissions and ensures error-free assembly as well as end-to-end traceability. A comprehensive KNAPP software solution tops off this mix of technologies.

ivii.smartdesk in use at Pankl Racing Systems AG.
At Pankl, the ivii.smartdesk is on the job. It is connected directly with the automated small parts warehouse and supports employees as they assemble the transmissions.

MFC: a highly flexible, scalable automation solution in miniature

E-Grocer MFC for the food retail sector is an example from outside the manufacturing industry. It uses the OSR Shuttle™ Evo as the storage and picking system. The orders are fulfilled semi-automatically at the adjacent Pick-it-Easy work stations where the employees are guided through the picking process. The Open Shuttles then handle the picking orders directly and take them to the flow racks in the shipping area. They sort the containers automatically, according to a range of criteria. The specifically developed solution is used around the globe by well-known food retailers, such as Woolworths, Albertsons, and Carrefour.

In the E-Grocer MFC, the Open Shuttles load up the picked orders right from the conveyor system connected to the work stations.
In the E-Grocer MFC, the Open Shuttles load up the picked orders right from the conveyor system connected to the work stations.

100% automation in intralogistics: what full automation might look like in logistics

Full automation in intralogistics does not mean a warehouse without people. On the contrary, it means a warehouse full of technology, where human and machine work closely together. The storage system, work stations, robots, and autonomous mobile robots are directly connected to one another. Everything is coordinated and in tune, and pursues one aim: efficient, fast, and error-free working. It is also important to make the best use of the vast amounts of data that this generates. The intelligent application KiSoft Analytics, which combines the logistical processes with real-time data, derives recommendations for further action.

An automation solution geared to the future helps Würth work more efficiently and productively

The logistics solution at Würth Austria includes an all-round package of technology and software. Along with a fully automatic carton erector, this includes an OSR Shuttle™ Evo, which is responsible for the storage and sequenced provision of items to the Pick-it-Easy Evo work stations. Completed order containers and cartons are also buffered in the shuttle system and transferred to the shipping station as needed. Customer orders are subject to a quality check before shipping. An ivii.photostation checks and documents what is in the container. If the check reveals deviations, our Open Shuttles handle the transport of the container to a check station. The load carriers are then automatically labelled and conveyed to a fully automatic folding and lidding machine. Also in the shipping area, two robots handle the fully automatic palletization of the load carriers. With the aid of KiSoft Analytics, data are stored long-term, trends identified, errors analyzed, and steps for optimization derived with regard to operation and maintenance.

Automation at the highest level. Robots at Würth Austria are palletizing load carriers fully automatically.
Automation at the highest level. Robots at Würth Austria are palletizing load carriers fully automatically.

From the optimization of existing resources in a manual warehouse to a comprehensive high-tech solution, we have the right mix in our technology portfolio. We address your requirements and allow the degree of automation offered by the intralogistics solution to grow along with your company.

05:00 minutes reading time
Anna-Carina Adam
Industry Solutions
From production to smart production: Digitization is at the forefront of the new trends and challenges facing production companies. Anna blogs about this topic, especially about the intelligent automation solutions for production. Autonomous mobile robots is another topic she researches and writes about.


Additional Information

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