How Robots are Upgrading the Supply Chain Industry
Warehouse robots and AI-powered systems are helping distribution centers meet demands in a fast-paced world.
When you place an order online today – whether it’s for a new pair of sneakers to be delivered to your doorstep, or inventory for your brick-and-mortar store – you expect faster-than-ever delivery.
For teams at distribution centers, fulfilling those demands means getting merchandise out the door quicker and more efficiently than ever.
More and more, companies with warehouses are looking to innovations like robotics and systems powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning amid a changing and aging workforce and evolving customer demands.
In a 2021 survey of 50 retailers conducted by the Retail Industry Leaders Association and McKinsey & Company, 80% of respondents said they plan to concentrate their 2022 supply chain spending on addressing e-commerce fulfillment, and 64% of retailers surveyed said that automating warehouse roles was a priority.
Here’s a look at some of the latest innovations in automation revolutionizing the supply chain industry.
Mobile robots that sense their surroundings
One of the fastest-growing automation solutions for distribution centers happens to be one of the smallest in size.
Enter autonomous mobile robots – AMRs for short – which can be set up and learn their surroundings in short amounts of time, often in just a few hours. These self-navigating robots can respond to changes without human intervention. For example, the robot can detect if their original path in a warehouse is being blocked and will find a different route on its own.
In distribution centers, AMRs can be used to move pallets or carts through the space. Picking times can be reduced by nearly 50% when mobile robots take over transport tasks alone.
Robots that handle labor-intensive tasks
One of the most repetitive, injury-prone tasks in distribution centers is loading and unloading pallets of goods. Robots designed to take on that specific task can help alleviate those roles from employees.
An example is the smart flexible depalletizer, a robot that uses computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence and gripping technology to load and unload pallets automatically and without any pre-programming.
Traditionally, workers in e-commerce distribution centers hand-pick and return inventory. The future is automated storage and retrieval systems that utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to achieve accurate orders without manual intervention. Compared to manual picking methods, the automated storage and retrieval systems can deliver between a 30% and 40% increase in throughput.
From warehouses to storefronts, retail companies are using technology to upgrade every aspect of the shopping experience.
The most common conveyor belt issues and how to prevent them
Like any type of machinery, conveyor belt systems will eventually experience issues from time to time. Regardless of how well-maintained conveyor belt parts are, it’s normal to face problems, especially given that conveyor belts are one of the most used pieces of equipment across many industries.
While some problems are bound to happen, there are ways to prevent common issues and extend the life of your conveyor belt parts. Below are some of the most common conveyor belt problems and ways to prevent them.
Material accidentally sliding, rolling, or spilling over is inevitable, especially for productions that move a lot of loose or heavy products. However, if your conveyor system is experiencing an increase in spillage incidents, it could be an issue with areas that are causing excess shaking or rattling.
To prevent material spillage, be sure to keep your conveyor system well-maintained. Clean the conveyor belt and parts regularly and consider installing impact beds.
Excessive material spillage is the most common cause of seized rollers, which can halt production altogether. To prevent this downtime, we recommend installing Luff’s patented High Moisture Seal & Anti-Lock Shield. This polymer disc sits inside the end cap and remains stationary as the roller rotates around it, allowing the roller to turn freely, even with material built up between the roller end and the conveyor idler.
In addition to Luff’s High Moisture Seal & Anti-Lock Shield, you can prevent seized rollers by carefully inspecting them on a regular basis. This should be part of your regular maintenance routine.
Material blockage can happen due to wear and tear on the conveyor belt, sharp edges, and weak points in the system. When blockages happen, they can cause the conveyor belt to simply stop moving.
To avoid this issue, again be sure to keep a well-maintained system. Inspect your conveyor belt for any holes, weak points, and sharp edges that could potentially cause a blockage and have them repaired as soon as possible. Another solution to prevent material blockage is to install guide rollers which help reduce the chance of severe belt damage from sharp edges.
Mistracked conveyor belt
Mistracking happens when the belt moves too far to one side, which can lead to material spillage, material blockage, and cause premature wear on other conveyor belt parts. A mistracked conveyor can throw off the entire system The best way to prevent a mistracked conveyor is to have inspections and adjustments done on a regular basis. If you notice small signs of misalignment such as uneven belt wear, address them immediately before they become bigger problems.
To sum it up, some of the most seemingly small issues can turn into bigger problems that can halt operations. These common issues can be prevented and solved with simple conveyor belt parts and accessories.
Plastic load carriers from the automotive specialist
A trouble-free internal material flow is one of the essential factors for efficient production of components for the automotive industry. Errors and faults in transport and storage systems result in time-consuming and costly interruptions. The Craemer Group, internationally established supplier to the automotive industry, is one of the leading manufacturers with large-scale production of automotive modules made of metal and large-volume load carriers made of plastic.
The automotive expertise of the Germany-based Craemer Group founded in 1912 has contributed to the development and production of injection-moulded load carriers made of sturdy plastic. Versatile plastic pallets and pallet boxes from Craemer reliably reduce downtime in the automotive and supplier industries.
Special plastic load carriers for customised applications
For more than 50 years Craemer has been developing and manufacturing durable pallets made of high-quality polyethylene (PE). Today, the extensive portfolio includes half pallets, Euro pallets and industrial pallets for a wide range of applications. One example from the company’s portfolio is the D1 plastic pallet with its 22-millimetre rim: It is specially designed for the automotive and supplier industry and ensures high load security when used with small load carriers (SLC) and clear packaging (blisters). Unlike wooden pallets, box elements can be transported precisely and safely, without strapping and fastening, thanks to the edge system.
Thanks to their 22-millimetre outer rims, the CS plastic pallets in Euro format and industrial sizes are also ideally suited for use with SLC. The ESD (electrostatic discharge) variants of the CS pallets are made of conductive material and protect sensitive components from uncontrolled electrostatic discharge. The CS pallet is optionally available with Palgrip® anti-slip runners.
The CR plastic pallets are ideal for heavy loads. They permit versatile solutions thanks to a load capacity of up to 1750 kilograms and an anti-slip coating on the deck which makes them ideal for high rack warehouses. On the other hand, Craemer H and TC pallets offer optimum hygiene conditions for sensitive processes. The H model is also available in a conductive version. The pallet portfolio for the automotive and supplier industry is complemented by the lightweight SL pallet in Euro format with an overall height of only 120 millimetres.
Safe transport and easier handling of commodities
For the automotive industry, particularly impact-resistant and splinter-proof pallet lids are an ideal complement to Craemer plastic pallets. They are available in Euro format and industrial sizes and are suitable for all common returnable containers (such as SLC). Thanks to their precise fit they close perfectly flush. Integrated strapping grooves and locks on the short sides of the lid optimise the load security of sensitive commodities. As conductive ESD variants, they also reliably protect electrostatically sensitive components from uncontrolled discharges.
Other products of the Craemer automotive range: CB pallet boxes. Thanks to the one-piece injection-moulded production and their sturdy construction, these large load carriers made from PE convince with their high resistance and long service life. They are available in Euro format and industrial sizes. In addition, they are UN-certified and thus approved for the transport and storage of hazardous goods. Precisely fitting lids are available as additional accessories. With its complete portfolio of load carriers and accessories, the Craemer Group supports safe transport and storage processes in the automotive industry.
Mondi partners with Heiber + Schröder to launch the new high-performance machine eComPack for automated packaging of its EnvelopeMailer for eCommerce
Heiber + Schröder’s mechanical engineering combined with Mondi’s packaging and paper expertise enables eCommerce companies to automate the erecting, filling and closing packaging process using the EnvelopeMailer solution he state-of-the-art eComPack doubles output per hour, responding to demand for the automation of paper-based packaging solutions in eCommerce operations
The state-of-the-art eComPack doubles output per hour, responding to demand for the automation of paper-based packaging solutions in eCommerce operations
The new machine perfectly complements Mondi’s universal and fully recyclable corrugated EnvelopeMailer for maximum performance
Mondi, a global leader in packaging and paper, has worked on an innovative collaboration with German machine producer Heiber + Schröder to create a high-speed automated packaging machine that meets the process, efficiency and safety requirements of eCommerce fulfilment operations. The new eComPack machine is designed for mid to large size eCommerce operations seeking efficiency and reliability. It can process up to 500 parcels per hour thanks to an automated erecting, filling and closing process.
The technological expertise of paper and board packaging automation expert Heiber + Schröder forms a perfect synergy with Mondi’s innovative packaging solutions. The resulting high-output eComPack can automatically process a wide scope of goods using one height-adaptable packaging design that is available in different sizes. The equipment stands out for its compact floor space requirement and simplicity in operation and maintenance.
In the rapidly growing world of eCommerce, the combination of an excellent paper-based product and an efficient and economic automated packaging machine is a key differentiator for our customers. The successful introduction of Mondi’s EnvelopeMailer solution increased manual packaging output by 8% compared to standard C-folder packaging. With eComPack, we are now enabling our customers to double their output and optimise packing operations in fulfilment centres handling high volumes,
Tarik Aniba, Sales & Marketing Director, Mondi Corrugated Solutions
The eCommerce market has grown significantly in recent years, accounting for approximately 20% of global retail sales in 2021¹. This means a wider variety of goods is being distributed, which increases packing complexity and requires versatile packaging solutions of different sizes and shapes. At the same time, with the rising cost of labour, the desire for packing machines in eCommerce is more prominent than ever before. To help customers tackle these challenges, eComPack provides a solution dedicated to the automated packaging of Mondi’s corrugated eCommerce solution EnvelopeMailer.
Made to safely fit single or multiple items and rectangular as well as irregular shapes up to 7 cm in height, the EnvelopeMailer’s flexibility in the fulfilment process, efficiency in handling, and economical use of material and space have made it an all-around new standard in the market since its launch in 2020.
André Garmer, Managing Director Heiber + Schröder, adds: “Together with Mondi we developed the machine in a very dynamic co-creation process. The result is a robust, user-friendly machine with top-class usability. Through clever and responsible creation, we were able to synchronise packaging design and machine functionality into a solution that offers tremendous potential if combined with the right packaging solution.”
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