Automatic transport disposition: How to best utilize the potential of your internal logistics

by Luisa Walendy
Gabelstapler im Werk

Investments in the digitization of production facilities are increasing. This was revealed earlier this year in a study conducted by the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. According to the study, 91 percent of the industrial companies surveyed are already investing in digitized production and logistics. However, only six percent of these companies have fully digitized their processes. 98 percent of the participants in the study want to invest in new technologies such as cobots, digital twins, predictive maintenance of their machines and augmented reality solutions.

The aim is to streamline production processes. Lean production refers to an "integrated socio-technical system whose main objective is to eliminate waste by simultaneously reducing or minimizing supply, customer, and internal variations". Briefly, this rather complicated phrase means that a holistic production system is created, in which the processes are coordinated so that as little resources as possible are wasted. There are several design principles that can be put into practice. Any expenditure for which the customer is not willing to pay is considered wasteful. This includes everything that is not essential for the immediate benefit to the customer’s core processes and operations. The types of waste mentioned above include overproduction, waiting time or defective production.

However, in addition to the waste directly related to production, long distances and unnecessary transports are also considered to be types of waste. It becomes clear that, besides intelligent production, upstream processes also play an important role. Internal logistics, the basic requirement for on-schedule production, similarly affects the overall efficiency of production. Furthermore, the various means of transport, from forklift trucks to trailers, must be controlled in the production plant so that the material is ready in time for production to start.

Conventional forklift control systems lack intelligent optimization algorithms

Common forklift control systems can operate forklifts. However, the objective of lean production is no longer to simply control, but a combination of optimal production supply and minimum resource use. Therefore, companies need transport control systems with intelligent optimization algorithms.

The aim is to minimize the total distance travelled by forklift trucks and at the same time maximize punctuality. This is not an easy task. Available transport resources encounter spontaneous or regular transport orders that have different requirements in terms of time, destination, load, driver qualification and urgency. The resources, on the other hand, have characteristics such as loading capacity, speed and availability. A holistically optimized transport network can only be created when all of these factors are taken into account. This, in turn, can be adapted to the production processes in such a way that an integrated optimized production system is created.

Simple forklift control systems cannot clearly illustrate and report this overall situation in the factory. As a result, it is hardly possible to plan all routes over the entire situation, let alone the complete path of a single forklift truck over all existing orders.

Automatic scheduling in real-time thanks to intelligent algorithms

It may well be more sensible to initially accept longer journeys to the source location, if this results in an overall shorter travel distance for all forklifts. However, the entire order situation and all available resources must be taken into account. For optimal planning, it is best if the system postpones the scheduling decision until the last moment and decides in real-time to allow for short-term changes, such as a newly created transport task.

The overall driving times of forklifts can be reduced more significantly with the same transport volume and the same schedule adherence than with processes without intelligent optimization. By combining resources in a system, it is no longer necessary to have transport capacities available for each individual area, but only for one factory (or a similar unit) as a whole. As the maximum necessary capacities of the individual areas are no longer added, the total capacity to be maintained is reduced. Both effects are added up together, so that companies can greatly reduce their forklift fleet.

Conclusion

Many companies are already convinced that a digital factory leads to more efficiency, and want lean processes in their production plants. Above all, the main reasons for this are lower costs due to automation and integrated planning. This is where intelligent transport control comes into play and forms the basis for smooth and on-schedule production. Awareness of a digital factory is already here. Now it's time to put it into action.

How do you plan the internal transports in your production?



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About the author

  • Luisa Walendy

    Luisa Walendy started working for INFORM in 2015 and is interested in all topics related to manufacturing logistics and production planning.

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