Contactless, fast and convenient – e-commerce has been very popular not only since Corona. More and more companies are offering their products purely or additionally online. This increases the competitive pressure and with it the quality demands of the customers. After all, nowadays nobody willingly waits a week or more for delivery. Fast deliveries are a logistical challenge and – a masterpiece of the interplay of know-how, optimal processes, automation, and digitalization. Looking at a modern warehouse, many would be surprised at what is possible – provided you have the right technology partner, that understands how complex intralogistics is. As the organization, implementation, control and optimization of the logistical flow of goods and materials within a company, optimal intralogistics is essential for the company’s success. And an industry that is currently changing rapidly. Siemens supports these changes with a broad portfolio of software and hardware solutions.
Have you ever wondered how your favourite online shop seems to know what you need before you even know it yourself? Anyone who regularly orders certain products from the same online retailer, for example, may have already experienced that delivery takes place only a few hours after the order. One wonders how e-commerce platforms manage these lightning deliveries without being able to read minds. The answer is not so much a crystal ball, but something much more reliable: a combination of digitalization, clever algorithms, artificial intelligence, and perfectly organized intralogistics. But one after another.
Money, money, money: the growing importance of e-commerce
Especially since the beginning of the pandemic, online sales have skyrocketed; year-on-year comparison between 2019 and 2020 by a whopping 24 percent to over 4 trillion dollar. For 2021, experts even expect a further increase. The boom is understandable. After all, contactless shopping and “StayHome” are extremely popular. Whether electronic goods, food, medication, pet supplies, clothing, or cosmetics: We order like world champions. This presents online retailers, and even more so warehouses, with major challenges. For instance, rapid growth means that intralogistics processes do not only have to be scalable but also adaptable.
In order to cope with this and many other tasks, mail order companies, fulfillment and distribution centers rely on modern technology and the numerous possibilities of digitalization and automation. Digitalization, for example, plays a major role for both existing and planned warehouses when it comes to analyses, tests and process optimization. This is the only way to ensure maximum flexibility, reliability and availability of the solutions used.
Squaring the circle – digitalization makes it possible
In addition to digitalization, modern automation is also important for economic success. Being able to react quickly to trends and especially developments such as those since the Covid 19 pandemic, e-commerce needs an integrated solution that can cope with the most important two aspects of B2C orders: small order volumes at increasing delivery speeds – ideally same day or overnight delivery.
Online retailers and their shipping service providers can only manage this balancing act if they rely on the support of intelligent systems and automate processes that were previously manual. Apart from that, the number of returned goods most likely increases with the growing number of orders. These have to be managed just as efficiently as an unforeseen rise in delivery quantities. In addition to flexibility and scalability, simple operation, maintenance, and commissioning of the systems are also important.
Futuristic setting – driverless, sophisticated, and quick
Let’s have a look into a modern warehouse. You find a lot of high-end solutions – hardware as well as software. This includes sorting systems, automated high-bay rackings with stacker cranes or shuttle systems and of course transport trolleys and forklifts. These conveyor systems are one example of how highly modern the intralogistics industry is. As a high-end industry, its mostly driverless transport vehicles, so-called Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) or Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), take over a decent share of flexible goods movements. The smooth interaction of the AGVs/AMRs is based on the close connection of the individual vehicles with one another, which is made possible by digitalization. More precisely, there are sophisticated algorithms that tell each individual AGV/AMR where it has to get what, when and as quickly as possible. Including collision avoidance. The logistics centers often have private networks – some already equipped with 5G – in which AMRs are networked and communicate both with each other and with the higher-level intelligence. With all the technology, it is important for the users and the company’s success that the systems can be easily installed, handled, controlled, and networked. This is only possible if automation and digitalization go hand in hand.
A kaleidoscope of possibilities
When it comes to automation and digitalization, Siemens is ideally supporting with its offering for intralogistics. This includes software products and automation systems for the simulation based design and automation of core applications such as AGVs, storage and retrieval machines or conveyor systems. Starting from Plant Simulation for material flow simulation and optimization, a comprehensive suite of PLM SW to design and engineer automated material handling systems based on Teamcenter and TIA Portal, an unmatched automation portfolio including PLC, HMI, communication, identification, drives and motors, and a sophisticated IoT platform incl. Edge for maximum transparency of operations. All in all, the solutions from the Digital Enterprise Portfolio ensure a high degree of efficiency and flexibility for all applications in intralogistics in which the digital twin serves as a link between the digital and real world.