To remain competitive and keep a finger on the pulse of time, FIEGE Engineering has been advancing the roll-out of process automation at our warehouses where currently several Proof of Concepts are underway.
Ants are generally considered to be pretty smart. Even if quite helpless on their own, when working as a collective, their abilities reach new heights. It is not for nothing that they are a textbook example of swarm intelligence which they use to figure out the shortest possible path to the nearest food source. A particularly smart ant is at work at our multi-user centre in Emmerich: An AGILOX ONE Driverless Transport System (DTS) has been autonomously moving through the aisles of the high-bay store since early June.
The market for smart automation in intralogistics has in the meantime become quite large. “In Asia especially, a growing number of start-ups are springing up”, says Jens Veltel of FIEGE Engineering. The team has been working amongst others as an internal service provider for process automation to ready FIEGE and its logistical projects for the future. “We sound out the offer, sort the possibilities, and move promising technology to a Proof of Concept stage, to trial their practicality”, Veltel adds.
Real-life testing conditions
FIEGE Engineering creates these Proof of Concepts (PoC) as step zero. “The principle is this: Keep it simple! With the help of simple feasibility studies, we aim to assess the benefits as quickly as possible. Not only in theory, but also in practice”, Veltel explains, adding that, “for us, it is not only about whether a technology works, but more particularly about whether it will in fact work for and at FIEGE.”
The AGILOX ONE project is named Andreas and supports the transportation of pallets on site, for example. During another trial run at the Greven-Reckenfeld site, two TUGBOTS by RoboSavvy Ltd. operate as tractor units for the picking carts. Cleaning bots have previously been trialled in Worms. “Many working stages exist where the human in the loop remains unmatched. This includes, for example, order picking”, Veltel says. “Recurring tasks, however, can be automated to free our employees to work more specifically where they are needed because human intelligence is quite simply indispensable.” This is also relevant in light of the search for personnel, an undertaking which is becoming more and more complex.
As an interface partner with suppliers, the team falls back on WAKU Robotics. The team of experts serves as a development partner for FIEGE in robotic automation and delivers solid market analyses. “We don’t just focus on a single provider but instead review a variety of different technologies for their market-ready use at our warehouses”, Veltel adds. And there is no one better to rate this than staff on location. Feedback from employees on the floor is therefore invaluable to rate the potential of the automated helpers.
To train the virtual map which the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) needs to move around the warehouse, a technician from AGILOX spent a day and a half on site. Rika Voß of FIEGE Engineering sums things up like this: “Next to the principal route and some side lanes, there are pre-defined slots at the terminals where pallets are loaded or offloaded.”
To ensure optimum visibility and to protect staff, the AGILOX ONE is equipped with indicators and emits both light and sound signals. “The vehicle also has sensors to respond to possible obstacles”, says Voß. The battery-driven robot moves at up to 1.4 metres per second, which allows it to cover around 150 transports per day. “Once the battery’s charge drops below 60 per cent, the AGILOX will independently steer onto its charger mat which recharges the robot in seven minutes only”, Voß tells us.
The four-week Proof of Concept with AGILOX ONE is going extremely well, as Markus Pohle, Regional Director North-West at FIEGE confirms: “We were promised a plug-and-play solution and that is exactly what we got. We have had no issues or malfunctions so far.” The robot’s productivity is constantly monitored with the help of evaluation software that records all the movements and activities in real time.
The long-term goal of the test runs is to connect the respective technology with the material management system and integrate it into additional process flows. For this reason, additional devices are being tested next to the AGILOX ONE. Jens Veltel explains: “In the end it is about weighing in whether a roll-out to other branches or, ideally, to the entire World of FIEGE, is possible.”