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Industry 4.0: Is Your Logistics Equipped for the Future?

by Dickson Yeo, Senior Logistics Consultant, WDS Southeast Asia, Swisslog

The world has changed profoundly over the last couple of years. New technologies stride ahead, changing our lifestyle and also evolving many business models. The concept of Industry 4.0 becomes more and more important in intralogistics. Swisslog’s Industry 4.0 concept brings transparency and efficiency to warehouse so they can secure tomorrow’s intralogistics processes today.

Over the years, the Internet has evolved into a space of sheer limitless possibilities. Whether it is a granola, notebook or a new car, there are so many everyday things that we can already customise online. What is more, the Internet is gradually breathing intelligence into commonplace objects in our daily lives. For example, researchers have been working for some time on the development of a smart refrigerator that uses modern camera technology and sensors to monitor consumption habits and independently places an order as soon as an essential item runs low. In addition, cars are being tested that navigate through traffic completely autonomously while the driver, for example, leisurely peruses his or her e-mail.

The Internet of Things puts the value chain on track

In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become more meaningful in industrial processes leading to the wide adoption of terminology like Industry 4.0 and Advanced Manufacturing. The underlying idea is the end-to-end digitalisation of intralogistics and production. Machine control systems and sensors are connected with classic production and intralogistic applications, like WES or WMS, to exchange information, independent of their location, through software services.

Thanks to this merge, Industry 4.0 technology optimises the entire value chain of a company. Simply put, Industry 4.0 technologies open the door to creating a digital image of reality that can be used as a basis for optimising physical processes. This transformation process is often referred to as a “digital shadow.” These digital shadows are not only tremendously beneficial for the future of industrial production, they also bring transparency and efficiency into all processes along the value chain. In Swisslog’s Industry 4.0 concept, they ensure that warehouse processes run reliably and at optimal performance, even under constantly changing conditions.

It is unrealistic to expect that warehouse logistics will undergo rapid, radical changes in the age of Industry 4.0. In Swisslog’s understanding of Industry 4.0, this change is an ongoing process whose initial steps are to collect and analyse data and optimise individual warehouse components. The next development stage will be devoted to the entire warehouse. After that, more boundaries will successively be overcome, allowing optimisation to propagate from production to the higher level supply chain.

The journey into the Smart Future has begun

As a visionary and pioneer of fully integrated and digitalised logistics processes, Swisslog is already at the starting gate, ready to offer its customers future proven solutions. To promote economically efficient facility operation, Swisslog focuses on the real-time optimisation of all data gathered from the logistics systems. State-of-the-art sensors, data collection methods, and optimisation algorithms based on big data analysis are the cornerstones of a new service portfolio that could monitor all Swisslog facilities throughout their entire lifecycle. Because Swisslog places maximum value on the modular structure of its logistics facilities, Industry 4.0 technologies deliver optimal performance even when the requirements in a world driven by ever higher customer demands are constantly changing.

Together with the KUKA Group, Swisslog is developing new solutions that not only help individuals perform difficult and repetitive logistics tasks but also control processes, thus contributing to sustainable business improvement.

Industry 4.0 brings efficiency to logistics

Predicting today what will most likely happen tomorrow is of great interest to supply chain and management professionals. Swisslog supports this process with state of-the-art methods. It is Smart Logistics approach that relies on the analysis of a wealth of historical and future forecast data.

The underlying idea is simple: In the age of Industry 4.0, logistics systems themselves are becoming clever organisational talents. Recording all movements in the warehouse, for example, makes it easy to detect risks early on to avoid conducting facility maintenance during peak times. The list of benefits new Industry 4.0 technologies offer for warehouse operations goes on and on. Major events that attract media attention could deliver forecast data relevant for the handling of relevant merchandise. For example, if an underdog team manages to climb towards the top in a sports tournament, this approach makes it possible to respond to changes in demand early on. Many a company can even use the current weather forecast to their advantage – for instance to determine as accurately as possible tomorrow’s demand for rainwear or swimsuits.

More than anything else, securing a competitive advantage through Industry 4.0 technologies is dependent on choosing the right partner and making the right management decisions. With this in mind, Swisslog is eager to start a dialog with its customers on this very topic.

Condition monitoring for predictive maintenance

Making warehouse operations more efficient using the means available today starts with collecting and analysing information. A variety of optimisation algorithms give warehouse operators the ability to make the best decisions possible. Swisslog offers services for the full breadth of warehouse management. Services such as condition monitoring and 3D warehouse visualisation provide realtime data. These services make it possible to simulate overall operations in a logistics facility in real time and create a digital shadow of the actual physical processes.

Swisslog’s predictive maintenance service, the next component in its Industry 4.0 concept, additionally uses the data supplied by the facility sensors. All automation sensors communicate with and learn from one another, helping to identify service and maintenance times with pinpoint accuracy and to optimise machine operations overall.

The next stage will focus on using forecast data to supply warehouse operators with important information on the future facility situation, performance, and warehouse utilisation.

About the Author

Dickson Yeo has joined as the Senior Logistic Consultant of the Warehouse and Distribution Division of Swisslog since November 2016. He is providing specialist support in logistics operations, translating client’s requirement and processes into the automation designs and project realisations in South East Asia region. Prior to this, Dickson was a client and user of Swisslog solutions and systems for 12 years.

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