Solve intralogistics challenges with automation

The global market of intralogistics is expected to have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.5% and reach 75.36$ billion by 2032. With increasing product customization trends and short lead times, there is a rising need for fast and cost-effective material handling systems. Intralogistics automation is a promising solution that can maintain the effectiveness of operations even in current dynamic markets. 

Intralogistics refers to all internal material and information flow inside a warehouse until final products are sent to customers. More specifically, intralogistics includes planning, optimization, and implementation of internal physical material flow, information, and production

Automated guided vehicles (AGV), autonomous mobile robots (AMR), and fleet management solutions can elevate the effectiveness of intralogistics with high productivity, safety, and WMS and WCS integration. 

INTRALOGISTICS: TRENDS AND CHALLENGES

Mass customization is now taking over modern markets, replacing mass production and standardization. Customers demand tailored experiences and customized products, and companies must adjust their mass-production processes to be customer-oriented and keep short lead times. At the same time, companies still have to maintain the cost-efficiency of their production.

In addition to this trend, recent years have revealed the vulnerability of production and material handling systems based mainly on human labor. Shortage of labor resources due to pandemics forced many companies to revise their production and warehousing systems based purely or mainly on the human workforce.

The new market reality requires new approaches. Automated intralogistics is a solution that can help companies prosper in the current market conditions. 

Industrial automation helps to overcome obstacles in material handling, providing more safety and accuracy through all stages. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are widely involved in production processes, from material flow to manufacturing and loading final products into trucks. The current market of AGVs is expected to grow at 9,6% CAGR in the next seven years. AMRs and AGVs are currently utilized in many areas, contributing to efficiency in manufacturing, warehousing, automotive, and more.

HOW BENEFICIAL IS THE AUTOMATION?

Automated material handling solutions bring many benefits and opportunities:

  • AGVs are available to work 24/7, are highly flexible, and can effortlessly adapt to manufacturing needs for customized products. AGVs and AMRs ensure a short turnaround time for loading and unloading materials.  
  • With a reliable fleet and mission management software that handles fully automated battery charging management, mobile robots can keep production running without disruptions and adapt to changing production requirements extremely fast.
  • In a multistage production process, such an AGV system can vary the type and number of manufacturing stations that the vehicle drives to depending on the product carried by the AGV. Meaning, that you can produce products with varying specifications at the same time on the same production line with ease. It significantly reduces costs for companies in comparison with traditional intralogistics methods requiring human labor, such as forklift trucks operated by drivers or regular assembly lines. Such lines typically require weeks to months for changeover to a new product and don’t allow efficient manufacturing of customized products.
  • Automated guided vehicles and automated mobile robots are equipped with various sensors to detect any obstacles and guarantee high accuracy and safety in the workplace, even in dynamic environments and dense traffic.
  • Since AGVs come in various sizes and load capacities, automated vehicles can safely transport large and heavy loads, avoiding accidents and product damage. 
  • Integration with WMS and WCS allows for accurate inventory management and just-in-time supply of manufacturing lines with raw materials. High-speed of data communication provides instant information about the locations of boxes and pallets, which can be shared across the factory.
  • Moreover, AGVs can replace people in hazardous environments. Overall, automated solutions bring many advantages in all stages of material handling processes.

AUTOMATED GUIDED VEHICLES TO SOLVE THE INTRALOGISTICS CHALLENGES

Let’s review specific areas of AGVs application and how they can elevate the efficiency of your operations.

Warehousing

Automated processes ensure high accuracy of the product movements in a warehouse. Automated forklifts quickly and easily pick, transfer, and unload materials with high speed and safety. 

Accident prevention is another advantage. Forklift trucks operated by human drivers are involved in many accidents, resulting in an average of 87 deaths, up to 34,900 serious injuries, and 61,800 non-serious injuries each year. It happens due to the limited visibility of human drivers and the high speed of the forklifts. Automated forklifts are equipped with laser scanners, and they will stop when anyone or anything is detected on the planned route. 

As mentioned above, integration with WMS/WCS provides instant information updates in the system and makes finding and moving certain pallets fast and easy. Fleet-control software can manage an AGV fleet in a warehouse, optimizing the routes and saving time for the material flow process.

Truck-loading

Truck loading and unloading means dealing with high volumes of products. Mobile robots reduce turn-around times and help avoid product damage, as they are using highly accurate scanners and sensors to coordinate the moves. Automated vehicles can handle large volumes and heavy loads quickly and efficiently. Truck loading is a challenging task for an AGV system and requires states of the art technology to perform this task accurately and reliably. Navitec’s unique navigation software offers this solution as well. Our system can be adapted to any loading and unloading situation.

Very narrow aisle (VNA)

Optimizing warehouse space is essential in material handling, as there are large volumes of products that are constantly moving. One of the space optimization techniques is very narrow aisle (VNA) – very high racking systems with small space between the racks. It allows for storing more materials and increasing warehouse capacity, avoiding higher costs at the same time. Storage volume is increased at the expense of aisle space; however, it makes transportation of items in the warehouse more complicated and riskier.

Automated forklift trucks specifically designed and adjusted for narrow aisles make the flow of materials fast, safe, and accurate. While forklift trucks operated by humans have blind spots, AGVs equipped with laser sensors on the top and utilizing natural feature navigation have a 360 degrees overview, and thus can provide safe and accurate load and unload of pallets (+- 1 cm accuracy with Navitec automation). Laser scanners provide a real-time view of the environment and make the safe movement of goods possible even in the dynamic and constantly changing environment

Block-stacking

Block-stacking is another approach for utilizing warehouse space that suitable for racking due to some reasons, such as the warehouse’s architecture or columns. Block-stacking a cost-effective solution that doesn’t require investing in racks and their installation. At the same time, the risk of damaging the materials increases without sturdy racking constructions. AGVs and AMRs can also implement block-stacking, keeping it safe and accurate. Navitec’s unique full dynamic mapping feature allows you to navigate in such a heavily changing environment with natural features with ease.

Flexible assembly line

As already discussed, current market conditions mean higher customization with large production volumes. While fixed assembly lines would obstruct and slow down the process, AGVs can increase the flexibility and scalability of production areas. AGVs are easily adaptable to increased production scales – it’s possible to rearrange or change production lines at any time because there’s no need for construction to run an AGV-based production line. Easily reconfigured assembly lines allow more customization and easily adapt to demand changes. 

Another advantage here is the information flow – receiving live information on goods and production is vital to keep lower inventory and cutting costs. Automated information flow is available via integration with WMS/WCS that allows receiving and storing information and updates about the flow of goods in the warehouse. 

CONCLUSION

Intralogistics can significantly benefit from automation solutions. AGVs and AMRs contribute to processes at all stages of material handling, starting from raw materials loading and unloading at a warehouse, manufacturing on AGV-based assembly lines, and subsequent loading of final products into transport. An optimized automation system elevates material handling and ensures cost-efficiency, accuracy, and safety. 

Learn more about benefits of natural feature navigation in automation and our services. Our team will be glad to talk to you and answer your questions, so don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. 

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