The robot AGV has knocked on the door of the warehouse, and not as a passing guest, but as a new and welcome tenant. Automated Guided Vehicles - self-driving vehicles that perform handling tasks - represent a groundbreaking innovation for the world of intralogistics.
The innovation forms part of the wider one of Industry 4.0, which consists of connectivity and the Internet of Things, temperature, presence and movement sensors, RFID readers, and software that collects and analyses data to improve processes and perform predictive maintenance. These technologies are transforming production, but also other aspects of the supply chain.
There are various types of AGVs suitable for handling different quantities and types of goods, all of which share some abilities that translate into advantages.
Autonomy guaranteed by software and sensors
The ability to move independently (thanks to a range of technologies: electrical, optical, magnetic, GPS, etc.) makes the presence of a driver superfluous. Vehicles equipped with software can be programmed to perform precise operations, while cameras and sensors allow machines to perceive the surrounding environment.
The strength of machines
In intralogistics, as in many other fields (such as construction), the strength of machines far exceeds that of humans. The weight-bearing capacity of robot AGVs can vary greatly, but is in all cases superior to that of a team of people and often also to that of the classic forklift truck. The most powerful models can handle loads weighing several tons.
Lithium batteries, which can be charged quickly, increase the productivity of AGVs and reduce downtime. It can be said, then, that the level of performance of a machine does not improve or suffer according to physical condition, tiredness, hunger or commitment, but remains constant.
Safety for workers and goods
Intrinsically safe design, bumpers, brakes, and sensors that detect the presence of obstacles all help to reduce the risk of accidents (collisions with other vehicles or people, falling of goods, etc.).
Precision without distraction
Mechanical arms designed according to the goods to be handled (bales of raw material, pallets, paper rolls, etc.) and sensors allow for precise and repeatable movements, not subject to variability or human error.
The speed of a tireless robot
It is certainly easier for a vehicle to travel long distances, from one warehouse to another or between very large warehouse departments, or to shuttle between the picking area and the logistics delivery area. The performance of a robot AGV does not depend on subjective factors, on tiredness, or on the bulk of the shifted goods.
The flexibility of a fleet
If a company wishes to expand its production department or warehouse, it can increase the fleet of Automated Guided Vehicles in a gradual and flexible manner without risk of interference or the need to train new personnel.
Taken individually and of course as a whole, these features demonstrate why robot AGVs are a powerful tool in terms of productivity, efficiency and savings. A single self-driving vehicle can do the work of one or more people in less time. Programming makes it possible to precisely define routes and actions for the robot, but the advantages of AGVs are maximised in the case of use for repetitive processes in the warehouse and/or on a large scale.
The future of human-robot collaboration
Will we be saying goodbye to workers in the warehouse, then? Not exactly. Robots can improve and transform intralogistics processes, as well as cost and productivity models. But they don't have to be seen as earth-shattering. Their technology is scalable: you can start with one or two, and then increase the fleet when you best see fit. Moreover, since AGVs are essentially "workers", it is them that have to adapt to existing workflows, and not the other way around. Rather than disappear, warehouse staff will be able to devote themselves to activities of greater added value: supervision, management, planning, maintenance and shipment control (thereby increasing the precision of operations and the correctness of deliveries).
Relieved of heavy work, the staff can dedicate more time and energy to tasks of responsibility. It is therefore true that there will be "less human intervention", but not from a purely numerical point of view: the more the warehouse is automated and managed by software, the more its processes interact without the need for a person to solve problems, perform maintenance, move objects or assign tasks to colleagues. Human intervention is reduced because the problems are reduced.
Industry 4.0 therefore allows robots and people to coexist by sharing tasks and responsibilities. But there is no doubt, in any case, that a 4.0 warehouse requires fewer new staff, since if the load increases it is possible to assign more hours of work to an AGV or add to the fleet. There is a faster return on investment in machines due to cutting of personnel costs, not to mention better productivity and efficiency. In short, AGVs must not be seen as something of which to be afraid: they can be used in warehouses without causing confusion or threatening the existing dynamics, and indeed with the promise of numerous benefits. In this article we focused on one aspect - reduced human intervention - but we will also talk about the other advantages in our eBook "Forklifts VS AGV systems: what is best for the warehouse?"
Warehouse automation is the answer to the various problems associated with supply chains that need to be increasingly efficient and capable of handling many complex factors. E-commerce has made everything faster: from development and production to stock rotation and delivery. We need to be flexible and open to change, but also precise, because the customer has higher expectations than ever and is intolerant to error.
Then there are the costs of manual labour and maintaining the plants, which increase when the warehouse has to be expanded to take more stock. We now also commonly hear about connected objects, Big Data and analytics: these too are significant as they are the means for the transformation of many sectors (the agriculture and manufacturing industry, for example) and the flows of physical products are inextricably linked with data flows.
Logistics is not an island: the "4.0" transformation has also revolutionised this area, bringing automated tools for handling materials, robotics, sensors and data management and analysis software to the warehouses. Let us see, then, the main benefits of automation for warehouses.
10 advantages of warehouse automation +1
Some are immediate while others involve a longer return on investment. But the advantages of automation in warehouses all contribute in equal measure to improving the results of a business, allowing for lower costs and opening the way to new possibilities.
1. Speed and efficiency of operations
Automated shelving, shuttles, conveyor belts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) all help to significantly reduce the time required to perform material handling operations. The loading capacity of the machines is without doubt superior to that of a team of warehouse workers, while sensors, decision points and management software create a "logic" for the workflows.
2. Increased productivity (even 24/7)
Depending on production and logistics requirements, machines can be used for long shifts, even without interruption at night. The dead times are eliminated, and the long operations of storage, handling and preparation of the orders are shortened.
3. Increased flexibility
Automation makes it possible to add resources without modifying the operating model, and with greater ease than human resources that, instead, have be recruited, integrated into the existing team and perhaps also given training. It is therefore easier to cope with seasonal peaks or grow the business, because automated storage is both modular and scalable.
4. Lower overheads
The optimisation of storage capacity, made possible with vertical warehouses, ensures clear savings in terms of rent and the cost of heating and cooling of rooms. The space is multiplied without increasing the surface area.
5. Lower personnel costs (and higher professional skills)
A single machine can do the work of several people on its own, but it still needs to be managed, supervised and maintained. No longer required to perform the most strenuous and repetitive tasks, employees can carry out work of a higher grade.
6. Standardisation and compliance
The definition of standard workflows in accordance with sector policies is another of the most obvious advantages of automation. With regard to safety, shuttles and AGVs in particular relieve the company of many responsibilities and its employees of the need to perform dangerous operations. Furthermore, sensors can be used to monitor the quality of the articles and the conformity of the processes.
7. Increased safety of operations
As mentioned above, entrusting certain tasks to machines and not to people is a fundamental strategy for ensuring safety at the workplace. The instruments in automated warehouses also guarantee "safety by design": they are designed to include bumpers, sensors, audible and luminous alarms that avoid collisions and protect both the warehouse personnel and the goods.
8. Integrity and hygiene of the goods
Devices such as shuttles and AGVs have hooks and gripping systems designed specifically to take palletised or packaged goods to their destination. The robots for handling rolls of paper and tissue, in particular, not only prevent accidental falls and tearing but also ensure total hygiene of the products, as there is no possibility of bacterial contamination during handling.
9. Visibility of goods and data flows
With warehouse automation, the work of collecting and transmitting the data obtained by the sensors is combined with the analytical capabilities of special software programs. The analysis of data (of production, storage, rotations, sales, costs, etc.) is useful for different reasons: it can be used to request automatic transfer from production to the warehouse, to ensure constant temperature in an environment or, again, to identify any issues. The collection of data also permits tracking of the stored material in real time. Moreover, patterns and interdependencies can emerge that cannot be identified with simple "empirical" observation of daily activities.
10. Predictive maintenance
The sensors on automatic vehicles or located at strategic points of the warehouse measure and monitor smooth running of operations. A decline in performance and anomalies alert to potential issues which can be averted with the predictive maintenance software provided.
And in addition to the advantages listed so far is one major plus: technological innovation and the transformation of operating models is a reflection of a mentality both bold and open to change, which certainly plays in favour of the corporate image.
How to make the most of automation
The main advantages of warehouse automation can be summarised as follows:
- for operations: flexibility, efficiency, accuracy, savings, predictive maintenance, compliance with industry standards and rules;
- for employees: improved safety and a better grade of work;
- for customer service: prompt and precise deliveries, and shorter order-delivery cycle;
- for strategies: monitoring of processes, tracking of patterns and data-based business intelligence.
Before considering the benefits for your warehouse, it is important to understand where to start. We are here to help you with our eBook, downloadable free of charge, which explains the 3 steps for transforming the warehouse with logistics automation!
On July 7th the A.Celli iDEAL® Master Tissue Machine was successfully started-up, beginning production for the Mexican customer Blue Tissue Sapi de C.V. The new turnkey plant, which includes the two-plies slitter A.Celli E-Wind® T100 rewinder, in addition to the tissue machine, integrates the existing Customer’s converting line.
The A.Celli iDEAL® was installed in the Apizaco plant, in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, with a great teamwork between the technicians of A.Celli Group and the Customer’s staff.
This is a single machine (2700 mm pope reel width) for the production of tissue rolls with a diameter of 2500 mm, working at 2000 mpm speed, ensuring a production of 110 t/d.
An advanced version of DCS has been installed, with a very brand new graphic interface.
The Tissue Machine is also equipped with the latest generation of steel A.Celli iDEAL® forged YD.
Apizaco, which means "place of thin water" in the native language náhuatl, therefore "place with a little river", is located at an altitude of 2,424 m and in a strategic position between the capital, Mexico City, and the port of Veracruz, on the east coast.
It is with great satisfaction that A.Celli Paper announces to have signed another contract with the Chinese customer for the purchase of a Paper Rewinder E-WIND® P-100, whose delivery is scheduled for the end of January 2020.
The new rewinder is destined to the Hangzhou City plant, Zhejiang province, an important district, known for the production of decorative and printing paper.
The rewinder has been designed for a speed of 2300 mpm, with the mother roll paper width of 3860 mm and will be dedicated to the production process of Special Decorative Paper, with a basis weight range between 50 and 120 gsm.
A further confirmation for A.Celli Paper technology, which is increasingly present on the Asian territory and capable to meet the needs of different customers, promptly answering to multiple production variables with flexibility and promptness.
A.Celli Paper is pleased to confirm its ongoing and valuable collaboration with the Chinese group Shanying Huazhong Paper Industry Co., Ltd., enshrined in the agreement for the supply of two latest generation E-WIND® P100 rewinders, for the mill located in Zhangzhoi City, in Fujian province, China.
The E-WIND® P100 Paper Rewinders, highly developed in terms of design, will have a paper width of 6660 mm and will guarantee a maximum production speed of 2500 mpm (operating speed).
They are combined with sophisticated technological innovations including:
- Innovative Slittomatic® double motor cutting unit positioning system;
- Web-in technology, the automatic system that maximises the management of positioning cutting units without the need to break the web, with considerable time and safety savings for operators;
- Jumbo roll parking station and shuttle (mobile trolley on rail) for their handling.
These two rewinders have been selected by the Chinese group to process medium board paper, with basis weight range from 80 up to 160 gsm.
Liansheng Paper had already purchased two other rewinders, with the same width, in 2016 and Shanying Group, of which the paper mill is part, bought two large-width paper rewinders (8 meters) from A.Celli last year.
An important new confirmation of a consolidated partnership between Shanying Group and A.Celli, which underlines the success of the paper rewinders A.Celli E-WIND®.
The Chinese customer has confirmed its trust in the A.Celli Group, signing a new contract for the order of the E-WIND® P-100 paper rewinder, whose delivery is scheduled for July 2019.
The new rewinder is destined to the Shandong plant and will be installed downstream of the PM36 and PM37 paper lines; it has the design speed of 2500 mpm, with the mother roll width of 6660 mm and will be dedicated to the production process of Medium Liner Board paper. This product, having the weight range between 60 and 110 gsm, requires extremely precise control of the web tension and of the process stability. It is equipped with the Slittomatic Web-in automatic system, which allows the slitting units to be positioned without breaking the sheet, with considerable time savings.
The partnership between A.Celli and Shan Don Sun Honghe Paper Industry, about rewinders, dates back to the mid-2000s and was consolidated in 2014 with the supply of three E-WIND® P-100 rewinders, similar to the one sold recently in features and with the same paper format.
A Stream winder and Rapid rewinder have been installed with success!
A.Celli Nonwovens has proven once again to be a benchmark company in the global market of non-woven fabric with the installation of a winding and rewinding system for Spunlace products at the plants of Novita S.A. in Poland, and the commissioning of the system on February 7th.
Novita S.A. has operated on the non-woven fabrics market for over 40 years, offering high-quality hygiene, industrial, medical and home products created by applying the best technologies to its production processes of which A.Celli machines now form a part.
In detail, A.Celli supplied:
– a Stream winder of 3600 mm that handles reels up to 2500 mm in diameter, with basis weights from 25 to 100 gsm and designed specifically for carded products. It is highly reliable and requires minimum maintenance, and has a maximum operating speed of 350 m/min;
– a Rapid Rewinder of 3600 mm, calibrated for reels up to 1200 mm in diameter, with basis weights from 25 to 100 gsm and an operating speed of 800 m/min. It is equipped with the “DSS” (defect stop system) that monitors the reel and signals any defects to be removed. The system also has a second metal detector installed on the rewinder for the purpose of avoiding metallic contamination. An automatic shaft handling unit for management of the shafts and positioning of the cardboard cores was also supplied with the rewinder.
More and more affirmations for the A.Celli’s forged steel patented solution.
A.Celli Paper is pleased to announce the delivery of another iDEAL® Forged_YD new generation Yankee.
Particularly, we are talking about a valuable collaboration with the Mexican customer Grupo Corporativo Papelera, sealed with an agreement for the supply of a new generation iDEAL® Forged_YD – 16” Yankee Cylinder for the El Tepetloxto plant, in Mexico.
iDEAL® forged YD is the new production technology, conceived and patented by A.Celli Paper, which allows us to make cylinders with a seamless shell, starting from a single piece of steel that is shaped and worked with hot forging and rolling systems.
The result is a homogenized and high-quality manufacturing material structure.
A.Celli Paper iDEAL® forged YD: the future of Steel Yankee Dryers!
A.Celli Paper is pleased to confirm its ongoing and valuable collaboration with the Chinese group Shanying Huazhong Paper Industry Co., Ltd., enshrined in the agreement for the supply of two latest generation E-WIND® P100 rewinders, for the mill located in Jingzhou District, China.
They will be able to accommodate large reels on the unwinder, with diameters up to 3800 mm and weighing about 65 t.
In addition, they are combined with sophisticated technological innovations including:
- Web-in technology, the automatic system that maximises the management of positioning cutting units without the need to break the web;
- Built-in spool-parking.
The machines, with start-up scheduled for the third quarter of 2019, will allow the Chinese group to process high-quality flat-paper and test-liner paper of the lowest grammage (from 50 to 110 gsm).
This new investment by Shanying Huazhong Paper Industry is further confirmation of how technologically reliable and evolved Paper A.Celli E-WIND® Rewinders can prove to be, and now A.Celli Paper is considered a valuable and expert partner, able to constantly support its customers, building and cultivating important professional relationships.