Industry 4.0 – innovations in logistics
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Industry 4.0 – innovations in logistics

Industry 4.0

 

When employees enter the logistics halls of the future at the start of their shift, they will not be the first. Autonomous floor conveyors will already be swooshing around there, bringing goods to the next destination. In the background, drones float above the production lines. They supply the machines with material. In the racking aisle, a flexible storage and retrieval machine moves to in turn provide new material for the drones. When employees arrive at their workplace, they receive the next picking order via their data glasses. In the fourth industrial revolution, transport trolleys will be operated by gesture control. A single hand gesture is enough here.

 

Numerous innovations from research and development clearly demonstrate that Logistics 4.0 is now already more than just a vision of the future.

 

Flexible all-rounders – automated guided vehicles of tomorrow

Automated guided vehicles (AGV) have already become established in logistics. In future, their abilities will be extended in the direction of free movement, load carrying, and more flexible control. One example of this is the “RackRacer” from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML. This shuttle has been developed for the operation of a small parts and/or buffer warehouse. Equipped with crawlers, the “RackRacer” moves not only horizontally, but also diagonally through the racking aisles and puts goods into and out of storage independently.

 

Another development from the IML is “Emil” – a mobile, gesture controlled, ergonomically adaptable load carrier – designed for direct employee contact. The tasks are transmitted from human to machine by means of smartwatch (or alternatively smartphone, tablet or data glasses). Using pre-defined hand movements, the employee gives the interactive load carrier instructions to lift and lower the loading area and/or to stop or follow. “Emil” communicates via an e-ink display and indicates its current state by means of simple facial expressions (e.g. smiling, widening eyes, etc.). The system can be sent to individual destinations via pre-defined tracks and visual markers.

 

The company Serva Transport Systems has developed the AGV “Eve”, for the transporting of europallets, wire mesh crates, or picking carts up to 1 t and 1.20 m high. Transport orders are triggered via a central coordinating control system. Navigation is by means of laser technology. Thanks to the connection to the ERP system, “Eve” finds its way to the load independently.

 

Drones – express delivery from the air

In the fourth industrial revolution, the airspace will be captured by drones. These flying helpers are currently experiencing a real hype in the world of logistics. Technical concepts exist in a wide variety of designs, including the ball drone “Bin:Go” for internal transport. For greater energy efficiency, this transport drone from the Fraunhofer IML moves by rolling and only takes off from the ground when necessary. Centrally warehoused, the material is directly transported to the consumer. Surrounding struts protect the employees and rotors.

 

Robots assist people

In the course of Industry 4.0, human-robot collaboration (HRC) is becoming increasingly important. In this, machines assist people in physically burdensome work, such as handling heavy loads. In addition to the classic robot control by means of joystick, there is also the prospect of gesture control. The new robot technology is currently being tested in some pilot projects. In the BMW Group’s plant at Dingolfing, for example, the lightweight robot “KUKA LBR iiwa” assists people in ergonomically demanding assembly work on differential cases.

 

Networked IT systems as the basis of Industry 4.0

Internet of things, big data, cloud computing, etc. – (digital) networking and data availability throughout the whole supply chain are the basis of Industry 4.0. Within the cloud, data and information are provided across departments. Users and terminals and/or objects (PCs or machines) can access this independently of time and place, and communicate (independently) with each other within the cloud.

 

Material procurement in complex supply chain networks will also change in the age of the internet of things. Systems such as advanced planning and scheduling (APS) will in future coordinate the procurement of supplies. Software here forms the seamless link between already existing MES and ERP systems in the company. Necessary information on the planning is provided and processed during ongoing operation via existing systems. Software takes over warehouse management, clocks repeat orders in good time, and coordinates transports in the supply chain.

 

Digital twin – the real and virtual blend

In future there will be a realistic virtual representation of physical plants – a digital twin. This models not only the exact appearance of the plant, but also its actual behaviour. Processes too complex to be comprehended can be realistically experienced by means of the digital twin. This way, planned systems can be virtually put into operation before the actual start and tested for possible weak points.

 

 

WE CAN CONCLUDE THAT THE FUTURE OF LOGISTICS OFFERS MANY NEW SOLUTIONS IN MATERIAL FLOW OPTIMISATION, ERGONOMICALLY IMPROVED LOAD HANDLING AND AN INTELLIGENT, NETWORKED FACTORY (“SMART FACTORY”). HUMAN BEINGS WILL CONTINUE TO PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE, BUT THEIR WORK WILL DECREASE IN THE OPERATIVE SPHERE WHILE INCREASING IN PLANNING, ORGANISATION AND MONITORING. THE VISION OF FULL AUTOMATION IS OF LESS IMPORTANCE IN THE NEAR FUTURE. IT IS MORE THE CASE THAT LOGISTICS 4.0 PROVIDES HUMAN-DRIVEN PART AUTOMATION THAT FAVOURS A MORE LIQUID, EFFICIENT MATERIAL FLOW AND SIMPLIFIES WORK IN LOGISTICS. THINGS ARE STAYING INTERESTING …

 

 

 

Sources:
VDI-Nachrichten Nr.14/15 April 2017, Gastbeitrag von Prof. Dr. Michael ten Hompel, Thema „Der Ideale logistische Raum ist leer“
VDI-Nachrichten Nr. 13 März, 2017, Artikel: „Softwareplattformen verknüpfen Prozesse in der Fertigung“, „Der Mensch steuert die Produktion und der Roboter assistiert ihm“, „Reale und virtuelle Produktion verschmelzen“ und „Änderungen hautnah erleben“ Autor Hans Schürmann
VDI-Nachrichten Nr. 24 Juni 2017, Artikel: „Mehr Spaß in der Intralogistik“
VDI-Nachrichten Nr. 12/13 Januar 2017, Artikel: „Der App-Store für die Fabrik“
www.iml.fraunhofer.de Pressemittelungen
Bullinger, H. J.; ten Hompel, M.: Internet der Dinge. Berlin: Springer-Verlag 2008
https://www.kuka.com/de-de/presse/news/2017/06/bmw-dingolfing

 

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