This month, Audi announced it has begun testing Driverless Transport Systems at its Ingolstadt plant, an innovative logistics development intended to improve overall performance and productivity of operations.
The German carmaker revealed that with the use of these autonomous systems, also referred to as carries, it would be able to save both time and space in warehouses. Essentially, these carries will significantly enhance the way facilities are managed by increasing speed and accuracy of traditional processes, such as workers manually tracking, retrieving and transporting items.
"Autonomous goods conveyance is another pioneering development towards the factory of the future," Audi Head of Logistics concept Development Axel Bley said in the statement. "By means of intelligent connectivity, we achieve additional efficiency and flexibility, while easing the work of our employees."
Driverless transport systems transform logistics operations
According to the source, the logistics employees, who have referred to this concept as the "supermarket of the future," will no longer need to manually retrieve materials from shelves because the parts will be delivered to them automatically through the DTS.
Not only can the carries transport and change materials at picking stations within a matter of seconds, but they are also able to locate and lift items from shelves, with a maximum weight hold of 600 kilograms. The Volkswagen brand explained that, once the autonomous devices deliver parts to the central station, employees will read monitors to determine what goes where. As a result, warehouse workers don't have to spend as much time at picking bays or moving the large amounts of materials.
These transport systems use 25 percent less space than previous approaches to commissioning have allowed, such as person-to-goods, since shelves can be arranged closer together. Audi also revealed that the DTS are operated and managed through a fleet-management system, Wi-Fi connectivity and Quality Response code tracking, with component updates seamlessly integrated.
Benefits of goods-to-person technology
Traditionally, logistics teams have used paper-based picking systems, which have evolved to automated storage and retrieval systems, or AS/RS. Though these solutions may be a sufficient and more affordable approach to operations, in the long run, businesses will likely benefit from investing in DTS.
In addition to saving space, time and manual labor efforts, goods-to-person systems are beneficial because they can be customized, allowing them to be used across virtually all segments, channels and industries.
"No one technology can do it all; we're seeing more hybrid systems with different types of goods-to-person automation in a single facility," Bill Leber, Swisslog Logistics director of business development and marketing, told Modern Materials Handling. "You can match each technology to different inventory profiles and handling characteristics to create the right total solution."
The source also added that, as more people hear about the use of these installations, the less dangerous they consider the investment to be.
As advanced technological developments and the Internet of Things redefine what logistics and supply chain operations are capable of, it is likely that many companies are going to start turning to robotic technologies to enhance performances.