The use of automation technology is on the rise in logistics. What is behind it?
The increasing use of automated warehouse solutions is currently driven primarily by complex fulfilment processes, strongly rising volumes in online retail and high delivery speeds. This sets limits to manual execution. Likewise, we have seen a shortage of qualified warehouse staff for some time now - a trend that will continue in the future. Automation offers solutions that enable higher efficiency and cost savings at the same time.
What about automation at Arvato Supply Chain Solutions?
We have a clear strategy and are pushing the further automation of our worldwide locations. Eight major projects are currently underway, including three new AutoStore facilities and for our customer Douglas we are building a distribution centre with a highly dynamic shuttle system, the most modern and efficient of its kind in Germany.
In order to be able to offer all our customers the best solution, we have bundled our competences in a central department, in which operational logistics experience, location know-how and in-depth knowledge of automation technology are interlinked.
The department works like an in-house consulting unit that takes a holistic view of logistics and automation projects, analyses all parameters and evaluates and implements solutions in close coordination with the customer - this is very unusual in the market to this extent and is a unique selling point.
Which technologies do you rely on?
This must always be decided for each project according to the respective requirements. It is important that the solution is flexible and scalable. Because we are constantly screening the current market developments, automation technologies and innovations, we can recognise quite quickly which solutions make sense for which customers.
Currently, we mainly implement automatic storage and retrieval systems such as AutoStore or shuttle systems. In addition, we are increasingly using driverless transport systems and autonomous mobile robots for transporting goods in the warehouse. But also automatic and material-saving packaging machines for more sustainable packaging are increasingly coming into focus.
What contribution does digitalisation make?
Efficient automation is based to a large extent on standardisation, and this standardisation can only ever be solved through IT. We are already fairly standardised with our IT setup, but we want to expand it even further. In addition, we have also clustered the automation technology according to application standards. This enables us to roll out a basically standardised automation for major clients in a short time or to quickly integrate new clients into automated multi-client solutions.
Digitisation is a key topic, because understanding data structures and the intelligent use of big data is necessary to drive an automation strategy.”
What else can be expected in the future?
The next step is certainly the field of image recognition, where, for example, complex returns processes are automatically recorded with the help of camera technology and image recognition processes. The topic of AI is even more exciting. With the AI Control Tower, we have developed a solution that uses artificial intelligence to analyse historical data, customer forecasts and additional external data, among other things, in order to create precise forecasts for quantity volumes, optimally position products in the warehouse or plan staff deployment.