1. What potential do you think digitalisation has within intralogistics?
Intralogistics and digitalisation are inextricably linked to one another. Now, in the fourth industrial revolution, we are once again on the front foot with this, and are implementing the Internet of Things with intelligent containers and materials handling systems or autonomous vehicles and forklifts. The potential is enormous, as we are dealing with highly scalable systems where the digitalisation of intralogistics is concerned. We are not talking about one container, but rather about thousands or even hundreds of thousands. We already have the first intelligent solutions, but we haven't by any means exhausted the potential of existing technology. In the next ten years, we expect there to be 40 billion cyberphysical systems. Many of those will be used within intralogistics.
2. Are there any flagship projects?
Our colleagues at KIT are always a long way ahead on this. For example, the vehicle study project called "Fifi" can understand gestures and follows behind her "master" at his heels. Or the many different shuttles which are now available on the market and which are also in part already autonomously controlled via multi-agent systems. I am absolutely convinced that the enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles will increasingly penetrate the domain of classic materials-handling technology. At CeMAT 2016, we will be presenting a new generation of driverless vehicles which do not require complicated set-up procedures or commissioning.
3. What are the greatest hurdles facing practical implementation currently?
The problems lie in the details. For example, we know how to network a thousand containers in a meaningful and energy-efficient way - but we aren’t sure how to do that for one hundred thousand containers in a storage facility. Quite simply, no one has ever tried to do it and simulations aren’t always reliable. It’s a similar situation with energy consumption. We have got used to charging up our smartphones every couple of days. With cyber-physical systems we are attempting to create systems which are self-sufficient in terms of energy, which only need one hundred thousandth of the electricity and yet can still conect up, control an e-paper display and remain affordable.