Transforming the Logistics Industry

Dean Priebe, Sr. Director, Robotics Center of Excellence, Dematic

Dean Priebe, Sr. Director, Robotics Center of Excellence, Dematic

Recent technological advancements in robotics have transformed the logistics industry, and Dematic is tackling these challenges like…wine and cheese. Let me explain.

Robotics techniques have been developing for some timein manufacturing where the consistent processes lend themselves to more straightforward, repeatable solutions. However, as technology has advanced in recent years, the promise of adapting robotics to the highly variable processes of the supply chain has grown.

So the potential of robotics in addressing some of the supply chain’s top concerns (such as labor challenges and whipsaw changes in consumer demands) has pointed us toward the opportunity ofpairing robotics technology with our automation solutions. By themselves, robotics and automation are good — but whenthe two are integrated together it can be great, just like wine and cheese.

A Recent Example

Dematic recently worked with ODW Logistics, a third-party logistics company, to implement an automation system featuring robotic palletizing. ODW had a particularly interesting challenge with fulfilling online beverage orders.

At the concept stage of the project, the team was on their way toengineering a conventional zone-route system. But orders including wine came with a requirement to ship orders on same-state pallets to allow for proper taxation and handling. Rather than set-up 50 build zones, all completed orders were designed to buffer in a single aisle of a Dematic Multishuttleautomated storage and retrieval system.

The most successful companies dealing with product fulfillment and distribution are already pretty good at anticipating trends and embracing automation

Now when a full-pallet worth of orders is complete, the system releases those orders to a robotic palletizing station. The software sequences the cartons to release in carton sizes largest to smallest, allowing the robot tooptimally build palletswithup to three cartons at a time.

The critical element was the integration between the software and the hardware. Bringing those elements together allowed the entire operation to sing from the same sheet of music. As Jason Streitenberger at ODW put it, “Dematic has been a reallygood partner.”

The Dematic Multishuttle provides approximately 450 cartons per hour, and the robot can handle as many as 600.With cartons weighing up to 45 pounds each, this back-breaking work is now safe, fast, and efficient.Together, the integration of robotic palletizing and Dematic Multishuttle automation created a combination that brings greater benefits.Additionally, because the ODW solution went live Q3 2019, ODW was able to leverage robotics and automation through the pandemic staffing challenges.

Getting Results with Robotics and Automation

For our customers, the improvements in robotics technology is certainly important. But the real difference-maker is how that technology is applied. At Dematic, that translates into preparing operations teams for not only what they need now, but what they might need in the future.

A key lesson from the coronavirus pandemic is to expect the unexpected. The most successful companies dealing with product fulfillment and distribution are already pretty good at anticipating trends and embracing automation. Dematic encourages our customers to take that a step further and consider the advantages ofcombining automation with robotics technologies.

By thinking strategically, not only can robotics and automationbe a solution tocurrent challenges, they can also help customers adapt quickly for the challenges ahead.

Robotics technology is becoming more reliable and particularly well-suited for larger automation solutions by addressing some of the primary demands our customers face:

Managing Space:Real estate is expensive, and distribution and fulfillment operations increasingly need to be nearer to consumers.Robotics and automationmake highly efficient use of space and can be quickly adapted to existing facilities.

Driving Growth:The path to increased sales is rarely clear. Our customers need to be able to adjust their supply chains based on current and future trends. Robotic equipment provides the means to accommodate sudden changes in consumer demands.

Gaining Efficiency:It’s a global economy and competition will only continue to become increasingly fierce. Robotics can improve operational efficiency for better productively and improved margins.

Empowering People: To attract and retain good employees, our customers need to provide jobs for modern workers. Robotics can perform the strenuous, repetitive labor. Then our customers can train staffto program and maintain the systems and equipment.

Today and Tomorrow

Currently, robotics and automation integrated with software is becoming more and more reliable. Operations teams in product fulfillment and distribution are gaining confidence in the combination.Tomorrow will bring additional benefits with technologies such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that lead to greater efficiency and flexibility. Again, like wine and cheese, we will continue to look for pairings where the sum is greater than the individual parts.

 

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