Transport robots boost pharmaceutical logistics
Arvato Supply Chain Solutions is consistently pursuing the process automation of its sites: Following the Vereinigte Verlagsauslieferung (VVA) in Gütersloh and the logistics center in Halle/Landsberg, the Harsewinkel distribution center has also been relying on automated guided vehicles (AGVs) since the beginning of 2020.
In the 31,000 square metre distribution hall of the Healthcare Division, six autonomous vehicles have since then taken over all ground-level pallet transport. They independently drive to warehouses, incoming and outgoing goods as well as the waste disposal area of the containers, open gates and independently put pallet conveyor systems into operation. On average, the smart transport robots in Harsewinkel thus transport 400 pallets from A to B every day - fully automatically and autonomously.
To ensure that they do not cause any damage, 300 reflectors have been installed on the walls and shelves along the transport routes. They serve the vehicles as navigation points and are recognized by a laser scanner on the vehicles. This enables the transport robots to navigate their freight with an accuracy of up to two millimetres and to place the pallets at the specified destination with pinpoint accuracy. This reduces the number of rejects due to incorrectly stored or damaged products and thus contributes to quality assurance and cost reduction.
Real-time tracking through better integration
Since the smart warehouse vehicles are seamlessly integrated into the warehouse management software and the conveyor system, all pallet movements can be tracked in real time, incoming and outgoing goods can be handled more efficiently and empty runs can be reduced.
This enables the complete traceability of individual batches and products.
The system clearly shows when which product was where and that the specified maximum temperatures were never exceeded. That is important. After all, pharmaceutical logistics are subject to particularly strict compliance regulations.
According to the EU directive on Good Distribution Practice (GDP), all parties involved in the supply chain must ensure that the storage requirements of the manufacturers are reliably met throughout the entire transport route.
- Max. speed: up to 2.5 meters per second
- Max. lifting height: 6 meters
- Max. lifting capacity: 1,5 tons
- Transport length: 2,605 metres
- Transport width: 0.985 meters
- Max. Operating time: 8 hours under full load
Precise transport to the millimetre
Since the beginning of 2020, the automated vehicles have been making a significant contribution to seamless traceability at the Harsewinkel distribution centre. They transport the pharmaceuticals and medical products with precision and accuracy to the desired pallet location within the specified temperature range.
As a result, goods can be retrieved more quickly and the delivery process is noticeably accelerated - especially since the AGVs are ready for use around the clock, seven days a week.
The built-in lithium-ion batteries last up to eight hours under full load and can be recharged by the transport robots themselves: At the end of operations or when the vehicle is idling, the vehicles dock at their charging station without being asked.
In addition to quality improvements and cost reductions, warehouse operators also benefit from the automation solution. They no longer have to spend time on strenuous transport tasks, but can devote all their energy to more value-adding activities - such as stocking the reserve storage facilities.
This is an important added value in view of the continuing lack of skilled workers.
After all, good personnel is hard to find, also for Arvato. This makes it all the more important to relieve employees of wearing out activities - and to make their daily work easier with intelligent solutions like AGVs.
In the future, as many other Arvato sites around the world as possible should benefit from these advantages. The course for this has already been set: The automation solution is not only arbitrarily scalable, but also has a relatively generic structure. This means that other locations can also use it as a blueprint for the automation of their own warehouses without any problems. These are ideal prerequisites for further developing and optimally using the intelligent logistics processes.