Manual processes, too much system downtime and lots of potential for optimisation – in order to improve the performance of intralogistics systems and make them competitive under the heading of Industry 4.0, existing process and logistics systems have to be redefined and modernised. Using the volume light grid (VLG) from FRAMOS as part of retrofit initiatives enables intralogistics processes to be made more efficient through automation and optimisation of the system speed, storage facility utilisation and the minimisation of downtimes.
The term retrofit describes the refitting, refurbishment and retooling of systems and is used in intralogistics to fully exploit the potential of old systems. In many cases, modernisation and reorganisation represent a cost-effective alternative to making a new acquisition. Advancements in technology can be used to upgrade existing systems rather than decommissioning them or replacing them in their entirety. The main factor for success here is the upgrading of systems with automation technology.
A good solution example of how the operation of existing intralogistics systems can be automated and optimised with a simple plug & play extension is the volume light grid (VLG) from FRAMOS. The FRAMOS VLG is an image processing based solution for the extremely robust, geometric measurement of almost any objects and goods. Enabling three-dimensional measurements and volumes of piece goods to be recorded in real time, providing seamless integration and automated use of this information in the subsequent logistics processes. The FRAMOS VLG can be used in areas such as master data entry, fully automatic picking or (outgoing) quality control.
Master data entry involves the three-dimensional measurement of the products or goods passing through the conveyor system in real time. Whether partly transparent water bottles, shiny packaged objects or black packages – the robust measuring technology based on transmitted light measures objects across a wide range of industries almost entirely regardless of their optical properties, such as the degree of reflection or transmission. In contrast to traditional laser incident light technologies, the VLG is also able to reliably measure semi-transparent, matt-black or reflective objects – which is critical in areas such as retail or baggage logistics. The collected data are automatically passed to the product databases via a direct communication link with ERP systems and can then be used in the downstream logistics processes such as storage planning and optimisation.
For the purpose of fully automatic picking, the dimensions of the products or objects and their current orientation in the conveyor system are recorded. Based on this identification, suitable storage places can be allocated along the entire picking chain achieving an optimisation of the storage volume, e.g. for shuttle-based, high-bay warehouses, as well as automatic palletising. The dimensional check ensures that the product in question can be stored correctly and in the proper orientation. This approach is used in areas such as delivery-on-demand for supermarkets: Due to a lack of in-house storage facilities, supermarkets order very small quantities of the goods they need on a daily basis. These are individually composed by the logistics service provider, picked and placed together on a pallet, and dispatched to the supermarket. This service, which is made possible with fully automatic picking, offers real value added and is a powerful distinguishing features in a fiercely competitive logistics market.
This type of quality check provides additional assurance of the lower-level automated processes as well as correct storage and palletising. Products or piece goods can also be examined for deformations, bulges or protruding parts, a highly flexible evaluation algorithm performs a tolerance check and passes an OK / not OK result to the control unit in order to initiate the corresponding next step, e.g. sorting. Pick & Place applications, completeness checks and cargo handling can be effectively controlled with the FRAMOS VLG and entire logistics routes automated.
At the international shoe manufacturer Rieker, for example, the finished and picked shoe boxes are gathered into bundles by wrapping them in film, which can cause film protrusions. When checking the bundle dimensions with the FRAMOS VLG, it is necessary to identify the film protrusions and eliminate them from the target volume values in order to achieve correct data and subsequent processes. At the same time, the increase in logistics quality results in better system efficiency and use of resources.
The installation professional Würth also uses the FRAMOS VLG for its packaging logistics. Since its introduction and the checking of packages for correct dimensions, the conveyor systems have been operating with virtually no downtimes. Roland Schneider, head of operational technology, describes the process improvements enjoyed at Würth: ‘Installing the FRAMOS VLG has enabled us to increase our high quality requirements, as goods should only leave our logistics centre in a perfectly packed condition. The extremely robust measurement of dimensions provides us with a reliable basis on which to make decisions on all subsequent processing steps in our outgoing goods area. The new volume measuring system can also be used for all of the packet sizes transported from our West Dispatch Centre; even the difficult “box in tray” application is successfully measured.’
The FRAMOS VLG is the most robust volume measuring system on the market. As a true Plug & Play system it can be implemented easily and flexibly in any logistics facility and can be put into operation by the user without the need for any additional configuration or calibration. Add-ons such as bar code scanners, laser scanners, scales or cameras allow the system to be adapted to suit individual customer requirements. Sophisticated project conditions and customer requirements can also be implemented through the modular arrangement of hardware and software as well as a wide range of resolutions, speeds and dimensions. Seamless integration and the service-friendly and modular design with very short MTTR values make the VLG the perfect OEM product.
The goals of automation projects and retrofit initiatives, such as increasing the throughput volume, raising the output quality and enhanced process efficiency, can be implemented in no time at all. The existing infrastructure is used more efficiently and costs are recouped very quickly through reduced service costs and an increased throughput.