CeMAT 2020, 20 - 24 April
Industrie 4.0

Autonomous warehouses

Self-propelled vehicles are taking over the picking areas. The first practical projects are already in the process of being implemented.

15 Oct. 2015
Selbst ist das Lager
The logistics service provider BLG is implementing self-propelled racks for its customer Engelbert Strauss in Frankfurt.


More and more logistics companies and warehouse operators are opting for transport systems which operate autonomously in-plant. This is because self-propelled robots, which move racks and goods around the warehouse as if operated by an invisible hand, are very versatile indeed. The company Grenzebach Automation is present in the marketplace with G-Com and has thus reached the technical pinnacle - with a mobile rack system. Small robots called "Carrys" pass under the mobile racks, pick them up and take them to the picking station automatically and then, once the items required have been taken, they transport them back to the warehouse. Different types of racks ensure that the most varied item types, from small components to hanging goods, can be stored in a safe and space-saving way. Indeed, particularly in e-commerce, speed and flexibility will be increasingly required to permit companies to react to dynamically changing requirements within intralogistics. Trading companies and their customers expect logistics to deliver a flow of materials in a highly adaptable and flexible way and to handle all logistical processes to allow quick reactions to changed conditions withhin the environment.

LogiMover Controller Eisenmann

Grenzebach and Eisenmann are amongst the industry’s pioneers

The racks can be adapted to a complete range of con igurations and can therefore be used to store items with many different measurements and weights, as well as hanging products. Their flexibility means that they can be used for very heterogeneous and frequently changing ranges of goods. Also, from an ergonomic point of view, the station can be used quickly and efficiently without great physical effort - while simultaneously reducing the effort of picking by up to 70 percent compared with conventional solutions. Considering the background of demographic change, this is a requirement that should certainly be taken into account for a logistics system of the future.

Eisenmann, the Böblingen-based company, describes its independent fork system, the "LogiMover”, as a "fork without a truck". It consists of two autonomous parallel forks, which travel flat along the ground and are able to locate, direct, lift and transport pallets, for instance, to another area of the warehouse. All of the floor conveyor vehicle’s drive components, as well as its energy supply, are compactly located in the two parallel forks which are not physically connected to one another. Unlike conventional systems, this system can be used without time-consuming system installations and complex commissioning procedures. The pallets can bei lifted directly from the ground without any loading assistance, which saves time and space, as transport operations are not required.

The system can operate within the smallest of spaces due to its compact size and outstanding manoeuvrability. The system was developed at the Institute of Mechanical Handling and Logistics (IFT) of the University of Stuttgart. Tests conducted to date at potential customers’ premises have proved extremely successful, according to Eisenmann, and the first pilot implementations may take place soon.

Kooperative Roboter STILL
STILL's cooperative robots

STILL puts insights from the marion research project to use

STILL, the intralogistics provider from Hamburg, has been working on autonmous robotics for more than ten years already. Active participation in the BMWi joint project named marion ("Mobile, autonomous, cooperative robots

within complex value chains") gave rise to numerous important insights about robotising work processes using driverless vehicles, with particular consideration for the cooperation of the machines in question. Once the marion 2013 project had finished, STILL continued to pursue the topic rigorously, focussing specifically on the increased integration of driverless vehicles in modern warehousing and picking processes.

"The insights we gleaned from marion increased our resolve to focus even more strongly on autonomous transportation robots within intralogistics in future" said Volker Viereck, former Project Leader of the marion research project, with responsibility for the topic of "autonomous transportation robots", in pre-development at STILL. "This is because in our view, they are an important pillar in constructing the Smart Factory and Industry 4.0". For example, the control intelligence in the new concept vehicle, the multifunctional floor-conveyor system, "cubeXX", which was presented at CeMAT 2014 for the first time, was solely the product of this research project. The knowledge gained through the marion research project was also very important in the research project Hub2Move which looked at automated and adaptable material flow systems, as a joint project between the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML), Lanfer Automation GmbH & Co. KG, Linogistix GmbH, Transportanlagen Ryll GmbH, van Eupen and STUTE Logistics GmbH.

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Industrie 4.0