Automated warehouse management is becoming a key factor for companies to cope with increasing efficiency pressure and a shortage of skilled workers in equal measure. Dr. Kerstin Höfle, VP R&D and Product Management in Körber's Business Area Supply Chain, uses the example of "Layer Picker AMR" to explain how innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions from Körber contribute to this.
Dr. Höfle, what are the main challenges the supply chain industry is currently facing?
Dr. Kerstin Höfle: The topic of "efficient logistics in the supply chain" has taken on a whole new significance for the global economy in recent years – and not just as a result of wars and pandemics. Volume, cost and time pressures have risen significantly, partly as a result of the rapidly growing e-commerce and retail business. End customers want ever shorter delivery times - no longer within a day, but within a few hours if possible. This requires optimized logistics solutions. In addition, there are simply fewer and fewer skilled workers who want to work in this area. This presents companies with a choice: risk delivery bottlenecks or push automation? Or, to put it another way: companies can only deliver if they automate in a targeted manner. AI-based robotics solutions offer a double improvement here: they step in where we can't find suitable personnel. And they simultaneously increase efficiency and flexibility within warehouse logistics by a considerable amount.
Why is flexibility so crucial here?
Because conditions are constantly changing and demand often varies strongly. If you operate your logistics warehouse only with statically designed systems, you will have little flexibility to react during peak order and distribution periods – simple scalability is not a given. Intelligent robotics solutions provide a remedy here.
Körber has just introduced a new logistics solution: the Layer Picker AMR. How does it work - and what exactly does it improve?
A Layer Picker is a robotic system with a combined suction and clamping gripper that depalletizes and palletizes pallets in warehouses layer by layer. It unloads and loads the pallets – and thus reassembles them into so-called rainbow pallets. A Layer Picker ensures that from three pallets with only one item (for example, one pallet each of chocolate, red wine and ketchup), one pallet (or more) is picked containing exactly as much chocolate, red wine and ketchup as customers have ordered. Layer Pickers use suction and pressure and can pick and transfer 98 percent of grocery items without error. Previous Layer Picker solutions have used fixed rails and conveyors in the warehouse.
This is where Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) come in?
Exactly. In our fully integrated system, they add a highly flexible module to the Layer Picker as required, thus completely replacing rigid rail and conveyor technology with mobile robots. This allows us to offer our customers much more modular and flexible solutions – which also facilitate an entry into fully automated layer picking. The combined solution "Layer Picker + AMR" is very scalable and can virtually grow with increasing requirements. The overall performance of the system can be easily increased by adding further AMRs step by step. This is how we take intralogistics to its next level.
How high is the flexibility gain for customers?
In a typical warehouse architecture, the combination of Layer Picker and AMR can deliver up to 25% higher performance than classic Layer Picker solutions. For our partner companies in the core areas of Retail, Food & Beverage and Fast Moving Consumer Goods, this is a massive added value. At Körber, we offer the entire system integration between Layer Picker and AMR, software, and other automation technology from a single source – and thus a contemporary level of end-to-end quality. With the Layer Picker Gantry, the Layer Picker Hoist and the Layer Picker Flex, we also have different model versions and characteristics in our repertoire to guarantee customized solutions for a wide range of customer requirements.