- Robot warehouse enables deliveries within 2-3 hours
- Network of subterranean tunnels enables transportation by robotic cargo pods
- Biometrics-controlled, state-of-the-art automated self storage facility
- Using the metaverse to enable full, end-to-end supply chain visibility
With e-commerce volumes soaring, digitisation taking hold, and client expectations evolving, logistics and warehousing companies all over the world are increasingly faced with unprecedented changes. Advanced technologies, including the IoT, robotics and more, enable more collaborative operating and production processes, leading to increased speed and efficiency. Logistics and warehouse automation technologies typically include devices and tech that assist the movement and handling of goods – such as AGVs (automated guided vehicles) that are used to transport pallets and cases, or retrofit software kits that enable standard forklifts to operate autonomously. Other technologies include advanced conveyor systems that can move goods in any direction and are fitted with barcode scanners to determine the appropriate action, or swarm robotics, such as the Kiva robots at Amazon, which move shelves with products to picking stations.
In this article, we will provide four examples of companies that are taking logistics and warehousing automation to new heights.
1. Robot warehouse enables deliveries within 2-3 hours
Euronics, international electronics retail and wholesale group and Estonia’s largest distributor of home appliances and electronics, has recently invested in the AutoStore automated warehouse solution. The robotic warehouse solution comprises two pick ports boasting accellerated picking speeds, a conveyor system, 28 robots, and 21,000 bins. The system incorporates a virtual reality-based remote support service including Hololens headsets, which enables shorter support response times, improved customer service, and reduced costs. The robots are capable of handling up to 600 boxes per hour, which enables the company to complete a customer order 4-8 times faster than before – within 20 seconds of a purchase – and ship it to the delivery address within 2-3 hours. Euronics logistics director Rivo Reinson explains that products that previously needed 2,000 square meters of warehouse space can now be stored and handled in only 600 square meters of warehouse space. Explaining the improvements made possible by the smart robotic warehouse, Reinson says: “Quick work in the warehouse allows us to get the goods to couriers for delivery to our customers even faster. Through the new system, we will also be able to carry out ten times more frequent checks on the stock of goods – this will allow us to provide customers with more accurate information on the availability of goods.”
2. Network of subterranean tunnels enables transportation by robotic cargo pods
People purchase more and more products, which makes it increasingly difficult to transport these goods to their destination without negatively affecting traffic, transit networks, and infrastructure. After half a decade of study, a Swiss consortium is now ready to start construction of the first section of a subterranean cargo transportation system named Cargo Sous Terrain. The underground system comprises a continuously operating network of tunnels – much like a factory conveyor belt. Driverless electric pods will automatically pick up and deliver goods from designated lifts and ramps, and transport these via induction rails between various cities and logistics centers across Switzerland. While more and more traditional logistics systems are continuously striving to increase their speed, the Cargo Sous Terrain is all about a steady, 30 km/h and round the clock flow of goods. Cargo Sous Terrain will operate on 100 per cent renewable energy, by means of proprietary wind turbines and solar panels, and be backed up by a baseload power supply. The first section of the subterranean transport network is estimated to be operational by 2031, and will cover a range of 70 kilometers – from the Härkingen-Niederbipp hub to Zurich. Cargo Sous Terrain estimates its system will eliminate the need to rely on the expansion of road and rail networks, and, instead, accomplish a 40 per cent reduction of heavy goods traffic flow on Swiss roads.
3. Biometrics-controlled, state-of-the-art automated self storage facility
Westfalia Technologies, Inc. developed RoboVault, an automated, state-of-the-art self storage facility in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The 14,000 m2 facility has some of the most affluent clients in the world and is said to be the most secure storage facility on earth, with some referring to it as the ‘Fort Knox of storage facilities’. The facility securely stores more than 450 containers or ‘vaults’ in a virtually impenetrable, museum-quality, climate-controlled robotic storage environment for high value objects. The project was designed and built to resist up to category 5 hurricanes, and is equipped with 14-day backup power generation. The building is explosive proof, and the glass inside the facility is shatter proof. Objects are stored at roughly 10-20 metres above sea level, providing their owners complete peace of mind. The ‘vaults’ are protected by 24/7 security video monitoring, keypad and biometric access, motion sensing, heat and heartbeat detection, climate control, smoke detection systems and sprinklers.
Once clients are registered, they drive into a private entry cabin where they access their vault by entering their PIN on a keypad. This prompts the system to collect the correct ‘vault’ and transport it to the user’s entry cabin. Then, an internal door to the storage system opens, after which the client can access it. Clients can also call ahead to have their vault ready and waiting upon their arrival. Once the client is done, he or she enters their PIN again, which sends the vault back to its storage. To keep the climate control at a constant level, the exterior door only opens once the interior door has closed, after which the client can drive away. RoboVault ensures secure storage without human involvement or the hassle of having to navigate hallways or elevators. Some interesting items that are stored or have been stored at RoboVault include Ferraris and Lamborghinis, Picasso paintings and other rare pieces of art, superyachts, antiques, jewellery, important documents, valuable wine collections, and even Mongolian dinosaur bones.
“Our expansion into the metaverse will not only enhance customer experience and operational efficiency, but also allow us to be more sustainable and resilient for the future. These are vital across all our global operations.”Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, DP World
4. Using the metaverse to enable full, end-to-end supply chain visibility
DP World, leading Dubai-based logistics provider and one of the world’s largest port operators, is creating DPMETAWORLD, a new platform that will offer advanced virtual solutions to real-world supply chain challenges, driving transparency and efficiency, and enabling DP to spearhead the acceleration of logistics digitalisation through yet unexploited capabilities of the metaverse. With DP’s operations spanning various logistics operations, 80 ports, and six continents, the firm is uniquely positioned to provide customers with full visibility and understanding of the entire supply chain. The way DP intends to do this is by exploring metaverse applications, such as using digital twins (3D virtual versions of real-world assets) to simulate terminal and warehousing operations, as well as vessel and container inspections. Another aspect is the replacement of real-world operations staff training with immersive alternatives within the metaverse. This can lead to significant time savings and reduces cost by an astounding 50 per cent, while simultaneously increasing safety and efficiency. Group chairman and CEO of DP World, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, explains: “We know that the industries of the future will not be industries of the hand, but of the mind. So we have to deploy industry-leading solutions and technology to embrace this shift. Our expansion into the metaverse will not only enhance customer experience and operational efficiency, but also allow us to be more sustainable and resilient for the future. These are vital across all our global operations.”
Companies worldwide are increasingly realising that the path to increased operational efficiency, end-to-end visibility and transparency, improved shipping processes, and customer satisfaction lies in the automation of logistics and warehousing workflows. In fact, to be able to cope with the increasing demands in global trade and rising customer expectations – the digital transformation of logistics and warehousing operations is critical. Companies that aggressively automate their logistics and warehousing operations will see their routine activities streamlined, the capabilities of particular systems expanded, and analytical practices enhanced. All of these will significantly boost their bottom line and yield further improvements that will stand the test of time.