Product and packaging diversity is impacting on warehouse technology
Intralogistics, according Germanyґs engineering federation, the VDMA, is defined as the organization, control and implementation of in-company processes for handling materials, information and products. In this area, in particular, there is still significant optimization potential, just waiting to be tapped, in the production of beverages, dairy products and liquid foods. Just what tools and services are best for exploiting that extra potential will be highlighted at drinktec 2013, the Worldґs Leading Trade Fair for the Beverage and Liquid Food Industry, which takes place from September 16 to 20, 2013, in Munich.
Along the intralogistics chain there are many different stages. But a core component is the warehouse. This is the place where raw materials and operational and auxiliary supplies are held in stock, and where finished products are stored and prepared for dispatch. In warehouse technology a distinction is made between storage in blocks, or on racks, i.e. between block-type and high-bay warehouses. A second criterion is the way in which the material is handled. Stackers are used in manual warehouses, while in automated warehouses rack-operation equipment or driverless transport systems (DTS) in combination with computer-controlled conveyors are used. In addition to this there are semi-automatic versions in which pallets are transported by stackers and then put on the shelves by a shelf-stacking machine.
Product and packaging diversity is having a clear impact on warehouse technology
In the beverage and food industry, the increasing diversity of products and product packaging has made a big impact on warehouse technology in recent years. Pallets with foil-wrapped PET containers cannot be stacked as high as bottles in rigid crates, for example. And if the container is fitted with a trendy “sports cap” closure then the pallet can no longer be stacked at all. In this way a block-type warehouse loses storage capacity significantly and takes up more space – and in urban areas this can be a very serious factor. On the other hand, because of the limited maximum capacity of a shelf-stacking machine, the investment required in transport technology is high if the capacity of a block-type warehouse with 6-pallet handlers is to be achieved. The pros and cons have to be weighed up in each individual case. Other important factors to be taken into account in this optimization include ever more rapidly changing product ranges, ever shorter ordering cycles, inventory ranges and the declining order and delivery quantities per article. Also, in dairies, the refrigeration chain has to be maintained.
New conditions, new solutions
drinktec exhibitors have long since geared up to the changing warehouse environment and produced corresponding solutions, as illustrated by Andreas Oy, Sales Director at SSI Schдfer Noell GmbH: “At present there is increasing demand in the beverages sector for modular and scalable concepts which the manufacturers can use for optimum space utilization, for significantly increasing availability, deliverability and service quality, and for higher throughput. One current example is a fully automated compact channel warehouse with a Lift&Run system, orbiter shuttles and intelligent materials handling control from the warehouse management system for Gerolsteiner beverages manufacturer.”
Robots and sustainability – major trends
In terms of current trends in the logistics chain, there is an increasing number of applications for industrial robots. Thanks to major improvements in gripping and sensor technology, it is now possible to automate intralogistics processes that until recently had to be carried out manually. A second example are driverless transport systems which handle internal movements of goods in storage completely autonomously, at least for some stretches. Also, of course, sustainability is now an integrated part of intralogistics operations. The latest stacker control systems, for example, optimize route planning and thereby further reduce energy consumption. Then there are both stackers and warehouse and conveyor systems with energy-efficient, i.e. “greener” drive solutions. All of these trends will be illustrated in full in the products and services showcased at the booths of the exhibitors in the halls at Messe Mьnchen, as Petra Westphal, Exhibition Group Director explains: “As the worldґs leading trade fair for the sector, drinktec is putting on a display, covering at least 132,000 mІ, of raw materials, installations, systems and products for manufacturing, filling, packaging and marketing, and this includes of course hardware and software innovations for intralogistics.”
Further information: www.drinktec.com