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Systems, processes, maintenance: holistic connectivity in the focus

WITRON Logistics Day: “The Digital Logistics Center”

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Photo: Witron

Parkstein, Germany. The fact that WITRON hit exactly the nerve of the market has been shown by the great number of visitors. More than 80 guests from retail, E-Commerce, spare parts distribution, manufacturing, as well as external service providers visited Parkstein in the Upper Palatinate (Germany) at the end of April to take a look at the future of intra-logistics during WITRON’s logistics day named “The Digital Logistics Center”.  The IT- and software-based exchange of systems and components within the entire supply chain - both horizontally and vertically - in real-time, new systems like OFP, AIO, and ATR, a FTS solution with swarm intelligence, as well as a sustainable system operation with Service 4.0: These are issues that will considerably influence the logistics environment today and tomorrow - and demand innovative solutions from service providers and operators at the same time.  

“Intra-logistics is in the midst of a digital transformation both within the logistics center and along all other stations in the supply chain”, says WITRON CEO, Helmut Prieschenk. “The consumers’ demands are changing ever faster. This is why processes have to be designed as flexible as possible allowing the operators of the logistics centers to react to the customers’ needs in real-time”. This requires a holistic horizontal and vertical network. “This is the base to achieve a global optimum along the supply chain”. Decisive at this point is the need of both: physics and information technology. “Despite the prioritization to the digital world, one thing is quite important: the physical nature of the systems is the prerequisite for a sustainable end-to-end integration”, explains Prieschenk. 

Digital Twin increases the quality within the entire project realization

“With our digital twin called “WiTwin”, we have created a tool that offers various benefits in all project phases - beginning with the design, the realization, through to ramp-up, and system operation”, explained Helmut Prieschenk. “With the 4.0 Suite, WITRON handles the integration of holistic processes into the distribution center and beyond that”. From the order addressed to the suppliers, through to selling to the end consumer taking into account possible returns. From receiving, over order picking, order consolidation, dispatch, route scheduling and transportation, peak days, machine utilization, and shift plans. Factors such as optimal system operation, service and maintenance cycles are considered, as well. “For the operator this means direct communication with the system and being able to take the best possible decisions in a pro-active manner”. 
The logistics systems presented in the course of the logistics day also work on the basis of an end-to-end network. Company founder, Walter Winkler, presented to the experts the latest innovations from WITRON’s think tank. When developing these systems, his motivation was based on concrete customer demands for making their logistics processes more cost-efficient, more flexible, and faster.  When asked by the audience why he had developed the new systems, the WITRON owner replied as pragmatically as usual, “because it is needed and there wasn’t anything comparable available”. 

OFP - Fresh food system applied for a patent

“With OFP (Optimal Fresh Picking), the general contractor WITRON has applied a solution for a patent that combines all applications of efficient fresh food logistics in one system”, initiated WITRON’s CEO, Martin Stich, the presentation of the new system for the fruit and vegetable environment. This is because both the store-friendly picking of full totes / cartons as well as the piece picking from totes into cartons is done automatically with the same technology: ergonomic, space-saving, and compact - with only a few conveyors. “The processes are permanently optimized based on a continuous communication between products, machines, operators, and the system, quite according to the philosophy of Smart Logistics 4.0”, Martin Stich explains the functionality of the solution. 

AIO sets new standards within E-Commerce logistics

Since the online business is subject to major fluctuations and changes almost daily, it requires solutions that can quickly react to the volatility of the markets. With the “All-in-One Order Fulfillment” concept (AIO), WITRON takes a decisive step: a solution that is suitable for all system sizes and industries, almost all business models, product structures and delivery channels, with short order cycle times, integrated returns handling, ergonomic, flexible, scalable, and as such highly cost-efficient. WITRON uses the benefits of practically proven functionalities for all products (small-volume, large-volume, fast movers, slow movers) and distribution channels (store delivery, E-Commerce, Omni-Channel). Processes, which are handled in two separated warehouse areas with conventional logistics technology and have to be consolidated in a complex manner, can now be handled in one integrated system with “All-in-One”, according to the event’s message. Thus, AIO is the ideal solution for ambitious start-ups and established retail giants. 

Fully automated repack processes - ATR

An ideal addition to the AIO system is the Automated Tote Repack system, which was also presented in live operation during the logistics day. ATR allows the fully automated removal of different products from a single-item receiving pallet and placing them into the storage totes in a volume-optimized manner and without the use of personnel. If required, the products are tilted, turned, and aligned in a mechanized manner. A gentle product handling prevents individual packages from falling.  Moreover, the scalable solutions can be adapted to the individual product sizes giving it high flexibility.

EMP - swarm intelligence within order picking

With the Efficient Mobile Picking system (EMP), the general contractor presented a holistic solution “consisting of intelligent logistics processes, fully integrated replenishment control, as well as “person-to-goods” order picking using WIBOTs. These autonomous picking mobiles are linked in the sense of swarm-intelligence and take over the lead in the picking process”, explained the system developer, Matthias Dunzer, in the course of a live demonstration. “The new system was developed for the logistics centers of food and online retailers, as well as parts distribution”, defined Dunzer the target group for the solution.

The next evolutionary step: WITRON as a service provider for logistics

“WITRON Warehouse Operation Service” is the competence expansion  that so far has been unique in the “mechanized” logistics world. “Thus, an automated distribution center is not only designed and realized by WITRON, and operated with maximum availability by an On Site service team. Now, WITRON will also be responsible for the entire warehouse operation as a service provider with its own staff”, informed Christian Dietl, CEO WITRON Service GmbH & Co. KG, to the guests. This is an attractive option when customers break into new grounds by changing their formerly manual warehouse operations into automated logistics processes”. “Thanks to our many years of experience, we know what matters and are able to offer our customers security and benefits right from the start. This service optimally complements the tools and possibilities of digitalization. The consequent use of all available data lead to transparency regarding the system and customer business and allows a targeted control and optimization of the entire economic system”, according to Dietl. WITRON not “only” takes over the service provider responsibility in terms of staff - it also uses Smart Logistics 4.0 methods to cover issues like self-control and self-optimization, trend analyses, predictive maintenance, real-time monitoring (remote or OnSite) and much more.

Digitalization offers many opportunities

“Whether it is logistics design, the development of new IT and mechanical solutions, or the efficient execution of service, maintenance, and system operation tasks. Digitalization offers a wide range of opportunities”, concluded WITRON CEO, Helmut Prieschenk, the credo of the one-day-event. Efficient tools and extensive know-how as a general contractor enable “Big Data” to become “Smart Data” resulting in “Practice in Excellence”, and thus to competitive advantages for the customer. “Whatever paths we take,  it has to pay off at the end of the day”. 

Lively exchange of information between the visitors

Many visitors took advantage of the logistics day to gather the WITRON news and exchange information about their daily business and strategies - in the end, the today’s logistics experts are faced with similar problems in their respective companies. Thus, the WITRON logistics day presented itself as a successful event in terms of gained knowledge and exchange of information.
 
Since there have been more requests for the logistics day than vacancies, additional events are already being planned for 2017.