HOW WE IMPLEMENT TOMORROW'S LOGISTICS WITH DRIVERLESS TRANSPORT VEHICLES
The team at one of our Bremen locations is looking forward to meeting their new colleagues, who promise to be ultra-strong, hardworking and quiet. They are expected to deliver and collect goods tirelessly. Despite this (or maybe because of it), there will be some skepticism among the workforce at first. They want to see proof that the claims are justified. Will the new helpers really work so fast? Will they make mistakes? Will they work reliably every day, or are the dedicated, creative colleagues in Hall D in Bremen more productive after all? You've guessed it: We're talking about new members of our fleet in the form of driverless transport vehicles.
IS AUTONOMOUS DRIVING THE FUTURE OF LOGISTICS?
Autonomous driving on public roads is incredibly complicated. At driving school, we learn to drive with the assumption that road traffic is literally unpredictable. But it's different if we reduce the complexity of the environment to a large warehouse. Still a mammoth task, but already doable today.
When it comes to autonomous driving in logistics, the innovation process takes place in reverse because the innovation is already available. The question is: What are the profitable use cases?
Driverless transport vehicles face similar challenges to autonomous cars
In the development of autonomous vehicles, we are currently grappling with questions that directly affect the future of road transport in general as well as warehouse logistics. Manufacturers all agree that fully autonomous vehicles are ultimately safer than human-driven vehicles. But issues of liability remain. These problems will influence the timeframes of the development and official approval of driverless transport vehicles in the coming years.
DRIVERLESS TRANSPORT VEHICLES IN LOGISTICS: AUTOMIZATION OF WAREHOUSES
Already, many logistics companies use semi or fully automated transport vehicles. There are vehicles that move through warehouses on a colored guiding track. Automation is used at stations with transponders and QR codes, or using laser navigation. Today's automated transport vehicles can already interpret conventional environment features to travel a specified route.
Driverless transport vehicles, DTV for short, go one step further. They are autonomous vehicles with their own drive which can perform the tasks of various industrial trucks – entirely free of human control. The autonomous systems navigate flexibly around the hall, also in mixed traffic. This makes driverless transport vehicles an especially flexible form of automated transport vehicle.
The advantages of driverless transport vehicles:
- They can be integrated into existing warehousing processes, for example existing working areas, traffic paths and entire warehouse facilities.
- They can be combined with further technical components, for example a gripper arm or a robot. This extends the automation dimension, because it enables a driverless transport vehicle to e.g. perform assembly work during travel.
- Driverless transport vehicles vastly increase handling volumes: The systems have low downtimes and work 24/7.
- If the warehouse structure is altered, the driverless transport vehicle can be adjusted to the new layout at minimum effort. Other solutions would need e.g. new tracks or altered mechanical and digital infrastructure. In contrast, driverless transport vehicles learn their new environment – similar to the way a person first gets to know a new warehouse.
In Bremen, we implement two driverless transport vehicles in the shell construction area of industrial logistics
In the preservation plant (which improves the durability of construction materials) in Hall D in Bremen, employees using stackers manually deliver and dispose of construction materials at the packing stations. Next, our employees manually replace the load carriers into the storage spaces. Moving empty load carriers is also work, but it provides no benefit for the actual supply or disposal processes.
We need a lot of employees for these supply and disposal tasks. The work is relatively standardized, yet it still requires a high level of accuracy and care. The additional problem: The employment market in this area is pretty tight. Recruiting new workers takes increasing time and effort.
We tackle this problem with driverless transport vehicles. Following a successful 100-day project, we plan to permanently use two driverless transport vehicles. In the long term, we want to scale up the cost and quality advantages here and at other sites. The use of these vehicles will reduce the workload on existing employees. This means we will be able to further train employees freed up from the processes now taken over by driverless vehicles. Then they can take on more complex tasks.
Despite the upcoming challenges, we are confident that: Above all in the context of other applications in the Internet of Things in logistics, we are embarking on a revolution. Logistics 4.0 will enable us to use large warehouse complexes that largely function without human manual labor.