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Industrie 4.0

Picking in the Age of Industry 4.0

eCommerce is booming. Everyone wants to get quicker and more flexible. The field of picking is the latest to adapt to the lessons of Industry 4.0.

16 Jan. 2018

Logistics in the Age of Digitalization must be efficient. Short delivery times, reducing returns and optimal process workflows — those are the factors that can decide between failure and success. Automated digital processes offer a solution. Robots and smart glasses are already turning these concepts into reality.

Smart glasses guide visually through the process

One of the most common reasons for goods being returned is painfully obvious: Tt happens when the wrong article is delivered in the first place. This, in turn, typically occurs when the picking process breaks down. A variety of digital tools can help reduce error rates and streamline the overall process. One trend is towards so-called "wearables" like data glasses, which are spectacles with an integrated display. When combined with Pick-by-Vision software, they deliver quick and simple access to information that supports the employee during the picking process.

The data glasses serve as an assistant, putting a stream of timely information about the current job right in front of the employee's eyes. The glasses are outfitted with a scan function that can compare the bin location barcode with the one on the merchandise itself, ensuring that the right goods are being withdrawn. The display is transparent, with the information presented as "augmented reality" within the employee's field of vision. Solutions already in use in industry include those from Picavi and KBU-Logistik , as well as Google Glasses.

Smart glasses deliver work instructions in real time, document and correct processes and ultimately improve picking precision and speed. Employee also have their hands free to work and are guided optimally through the warehouse system.

Robots move freely through the warehouse

Driverless transport systems using robots to move through the warehouse represent another autonomous logistics system. Robots receive their assignments via the materials planning system and move on their own to the storage bins, where they can pick individual items or empty entire shelves. Each robot has one or more grippers and is capable of moving around obstacles and navigating independently through the warehouse.

One issue at present for the robots is handling of heterogeneous goods, as their gripper function and storage space is usually not optimized for a wide range of sizes and shapes. TORU, a picking robot from Magazino , can be outfitted with a variety of different gripper systems. The "Stack Access Machine" – or SAM for short – from Fraunhofer IML is an automated vehicle capable of carrying stackable containers, either individually or en masse.

No longer science fiction: Automated logistics

It sounds like a dream: intelligent logistics systems that put machines and robots into flexible, networked deployment across the entire transport process. But for picking process engineers, more intelligent and mobile technologies are already a happy reality.

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Industrie 4.0