Features and innovations

Innovative and efficient on the move: Driverless transport systems

Digital, automated and networked? Increased productivity and efficiency in the warehouse? Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) (e.g. from E&K Automation GmbH) are ideal for automating internal material transport. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are increasingly being used in intralogistics, both as an introduction to automation and as a supplement to already automated areas. Due to continuous operation, low space consumption and comparatively simple integration, AGVs are enjoying growing popularity.

But "who" actually arranges for all the automated guided vehicles to arrive at the right time, at the right place and with the right goods? The solution here is the interaction of our powerful and flexible warehouse management software SuPCIS-L8 in conjunction with the AGV control system. Due to the available interfaces of the AGV control and our warehouse management system, AGVs from different manufacturers can be integrated. In this way, it is possible to exchange important information on pending transport orders in real time - be it that a load carrier needs to be picked up or the feedback that a load carrier has been parked. The result: a smooth and efficient automated material flow in the warehouse.

The automated guided vehicles and our WMS SuPCIS-L8 are already in use at our customer. There, the AGVs are primarily responsible for transporting pallets from predefined source areas in the distribution centre to the respective destination transfer points. A particular challenge in the integration of AGVs is the overall synchronisation of material flows. The timely start of preceding processes in order to avoid waiting times of AGVs must be taken into account, as well as the required sequence for the supply of sinks. To achieve this, a comprehensive control system is indispensable. In addition to the AGVs, the employees and the existing automated warehouse technology (e.g. the high-bay warehouse or palletising robots) also play an important role. The operational logistics process can only be supported in the best possible way if all components work together synchronously and precisely in time. The system supports both the loading of empty pallets in the shipping area, the disposal of this area after palletising has been completed with picking or shipping cartons, and the delivery of packed pallets to a pallet wrapper. In addition, the AGVs take over processes such as the loading of the goods issue with wrapped pallets or the provision of the pallets to be stored, which are recorded in the goods receipt, at the storage aisle heads and thus keep the material flow constantly in motion.

Still sounds rather abstract? Then let us illustrate the whole thing with a practical example - the provision of a picked pallet to the wrapper at goods issue. First, the AGV receives a transfer order for further processing of the picked pallet. The SuPCIS-L8 warehouse management system now decides whether further follow-up operations are planned for this pallet in the material flow. After picking up the pallet, the AGV moves to a pallet wrapping system, which is equipped with both pallet conveyor elements and a label applicator. When the pallet is delivered to the conveyor system, the AGV then reports back to the WMS that the pallet has been transferred. At this point, the WMS can in turn send an order to the wrapper so that the pallet is conveyed to the wrapping device, wrapped there and then provided with a pallet label printed by the WMS. After the pallet has been wrapped, the AGV control is informed that this pallet can be picked up. It is then either transferred to the specified tour staging zones and loaded from there or transferred to a manual processing station where employees have to process the pallet further.

The use of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and our WMS is particularly suitable when employees cannot or should not be deployed due to the length of a transport route. With the introduction of the AGVs, employees are optimally supported in their daily work and save significantly on muscle power as well as on kilometres travelled per day. The use of AGVs can compensate for the ever-increasing demand for labour and the ever-increasing challenge of recruiting personnel. Nowadays, the flexibility of the freely navigable automated guided vehicles and the high reliability for the transport of goods in the warehouse are also of particular importance.

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