Trend technologies in internal logistics - a contradiction?

by Luisa Walendy
Gabelstapler im Werk

At the beginning of the year, reports on the latest trends take over news feeds around world, but there are also some sectors in which things are a little quieter. Buzzwords such as Blockchain or Artificial Intelligence simply do not play a major role in these sectors in practice; the gap between the use of these trend technologies and reality is still too big. One area where this gap is still wide open is internal logistics. Telephones and one’s own voice are often used more frequently in warehouses and production halls than smart devices and intelligent systems.

Small companies tend to shy away from digital processes - a counterexample

For the introduction of new technologies, it is initially important to include a status quo of digitalization in your own internal logistics to identify a realistic next step. Smaller manufacturing companies, in particular, usually assume that digitalization and the associated strategy only pay off when they have a high number of transports and a wide variety of means of transport.

One example shows that this is not always the case. Hermle AG, a German specialist for the production of milling machines and machining centers, optimizes its factory traffic with a transport control system. Although the manufacturer only uses two forklifts, they handle up to 3,000 transports a month, which are now also on time thanks to intelligent software.

The milling machines often have to be configured individually according to the customer. This can mean up to 2,300 individual materials per machine and a correspondingly complex production process. A reliable production supply is essential to not obstruct the very finely timed production process. The drivers, in particular, feel this in their daily work: They are the ones who have to keep a constant eye on all of the terminals and the spontaneously arising transport orders. Transparent processes make things easier for the drivers and, in the long term, allow for fewer empty runs with higher adherence to schedules.

A complex IT project is not always necessary

The main challenge for the company was to implement the project and its introduction without high investment costs and a long implementation phase through a complex server installation. A flexible and reactive system was required. The company opted for a cloud-based system. This made it possible to keep investment costs low and worthwhile even for companies with few transports.

In the case of Hermle AG, every employee in a department can now initiate transport orders with just a few clicks. The transport orders reach the drivers already prioritized at the terminals of their forklift truck. In this specific example, the introduction of the system means reducing workload by about 25 percent. Employees can now fully concentrate on their actual core task - transport - instead of spending hours searching for material and calling or phoning each other. Thanks to central data management, everyone involved always knows where each transport order is located as well as its priority level. An efficient allocation of transport orders leads to a lower proportion of empty runs and the overall adherence to delivery dates increases.

Closing thoughts

Many buzzwords and trends often do not yet play a role for internal logistics in companies. Change rarely occurs here and longstanding, but not necessarily best practices, often remain anchored in daily work despite inefficiency. Nevertheless, it is time to upgrade to digital, and therefore efficient, processes. Transparency of the entire transport situation in the company can only be ensured with the help of intelligent systems. The result in internal logistics is a better utilization of resources and fewer empty runs. Cloud-based solutions also offer smaller companies with few transports and means of transport an opportunity to optimize their factory traffic without high costs and a lengthy project. The example of Hermle has shown: The use of innovative technologies in internal logistics does not have to be a contradiction.

Would you like to know more about how Hermle AG has optimized its internal transports? Then please request the complete success story here.

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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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