Flexible automation of material flow processes

Automated vehicles are nothing new in the world of intralogistics. Today, however, ever increasing digital management of business processes brings new impetus to the trend towards automation. Automated systems can be seamlessly integrated into IT processes and raise efficiency to a higher power. However, integrated, end-to-end systems are not always a viable option for all production and logistics scenarios. Depending on the application, autonomous material handling vehicles offer significantly greater flexibility. Another decisive factor is added in the case of MATIC vehicles from Linde Robotics: As it can be implemented without a permanently installed infrastructure, the technology is particularly flexible and ideal for a wide range of applications.

 

The main reasons for this are that the vehicles do not rely on inductive guide wires embedded in floors or laser reflectors for orientation – for instance when they pick up loads at the end of a roller conveyor and transport them to a storage location. Instead, vehicle orientation is enabled by an innovative geoguidance and positioning system installed in the facility. The guidance system of Linde Robotics equipment communicates with the sensor of the roller conveyor and sends another vehicle on its way as soon as a new pallet is ready for pick-up. Essentially, it is also possible to network the control software and, in turn, the material handling vehicles, with warehouse management and ERP systems. The ‘Internet of Things’ – autonomous communication between machines and between machine systems and IT without system bridges – is then already a reality.

Flexible and systematic implementation

Altogether, this technology offers significant cost saving potentials. This applies particularly when certain handling processes are frequently repeated and always take the same routes. One particular strength of the solution is its enormous flexibility. This is enabled by combining standard equipment from Linde Material Handling with technologies from the robotics specialist Balyo to create highly functional vehicles for autonomous deployment. This also makes it possible to implement automated solutions step-by-step in any warehousing or production environment. On the one hand, this applies to each individual vehicle, as the switch from automated to manual handling is exceptionally fast and simple. On the other hand, mixed operations with autonomous and conventional vehicles in the same warehouse environment is also conceivable. Safety is ensured at all times by high-precision route monitoring with a safety scanner and camera.

The flexibility of the Linde solution brings significant advantages especially in scenarios where the working environment is frequently reconfigured. Processes in today’s manufacturing facilities are subject to continuous reconfiguration of systems and procedures to allow the production of new or alternative products. With MATIC equipment from Linde, automated solutions for material handling and distribution can be adapted to new situations whenever required and with a minimum of time and effort.

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Safe and precise orientation by geoguidance

The technology is based on a method similar to radar location: While the vehicle travels through the working environment, an on-board laser system scans and measures all dimensions of the workplace and the locations of existing structures such as racks, shelving, walls and supporting pillars. The laser-mapped image of the workplace is converted into a two-dimensional reference map on which routes and pick and drop locations can be defined. Should changes to the working environment become necessary, the entire workplace can be rescanned to update the reference information stored in the control system within a single working day.

With this technology, permanently installed infrastructures – for example with reflectors or rails – are no longer required: The safety laser scans and registers all obstacles. The robot vehicles react immediately and, for example, stop when a worker or vehicle blocks or crosses their path and only start again when the way ahead is clear.

Safety is the overriding priority for the entire range of MATIC products from Linde – also, and above all, in mixed deployment scenarios with automated and manually operated vehicles. For instance, in addition to safety scanners, a computer module with a 7-inch LCD monitor and a 3D camera, the comprehensive route monitoring system also features vehicle-mounted warning flashers, horns and BlueSpot safety lights.

Five advantages at a glance

Connected: The bandwidth ranges from operations without system connection to extensive levels of connectivity with operating systems, machines and plants.
Safe: The comprehensive range of equipment such as scanners and cameras guarantees operational safety in both autonomous and mixed handling scenarios.
Simple: Based on LIDAR technology, the innovative geoguidance concept requires no sophisticated or complex infrastructures. 
Flexible: Routes and reference points can be adapted rapidly to cater for changes in workplace conditions.
Transparent: The system delivers valuable data that can be employed for the precise optimisation of logistics procedures and workflows.

The entire product spectrum in focus

Today, Linde Robotics already offers a wide range of automated models ‘driven by Balyo’: high and low lift trucks, towing tractors and soon the K-MATIC line. Vehicles from this range are already successfully deployed not only by customers from the chemical and automotive industries, but also in smaller enterprises and for the automation of individual process steps. Linde’s target for the future is to offer automated versions of all important product lines.

Linde P-MATIC

P-MATIC – Tow Tractor

  • Load train applications
  • Loads transport
  • Kitting
  • Waste management
  • Feeding production lines
Linde T-MATIC

T-MATIC – Pallet Truck

  • Long distance load transfers
  • Block stacking loads in marshalling areas
  • Transferring long loads
Linde L-MATIC

L-MATIC – Stacker

  • Load train applications
  • Loads transport
  • Kitting
  • Waste management
  • Feeding production lines
Linde PL-MATIC AC

L-MATIC AC – Counterbalanced Stacker

  • Load train applications
  • Loads transport
  • Kitting
  • Waste management
  • Feeding production lines
System supplier Wolf invests in Linde robotics equipment

Every year, the Marketing Department and the Management Board of Wolf GmbH, a systems supplier for heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and solar technology based in Mainburg, Lower Bavaria, develop a motto that aims to give employees orientation and motivation. “Courage to embrace change”, the message for 2016, could not be more appropriate with regard to the purchase of the company’s first robotic industrial truck.

Read more about the operation of industrial trucks at Wolf GmbH.

User report here

Automated navigation in very narrow aisles

Very narrow aisles, high lifting heights and storage bays that are difficult to see into make narrow aisle warehouses a more challenging environment for industrial trucks than any other. The Linde warehouse navigation system opens up exceptional opportunities in this setting. Handling processes are performed faster and more transparently while the number of errors is simultaneously reduced. For this purpose the system is always connected to the warehouse management system (WMS) – the perfect entry into Industry 4.0 logistics.

The necessary constructional measures for this technology can be quickly implemented. Small RFID tags are inserted in the warehouse floor at regular distances using simple drill holes. When trucks drive over them, a receiver in the vehicle reads the data in the tag, enabling it to determine its position in the storage aisle. Alternatively, barcode stickers can be positioned on the racks, which are then scanned by the vehicle.

How does the navigation system work?

WMS is always the starting point for transporting goods using automated navigation: the central system transmits the required destination coordinates and handling information to the receiver in the vehicle over a Wi-Fi network. On its way to the destination, the vehicle continuously compares its current position with the specified parameters and calculates the best combination of traction and lift movements.

What are the advantages?

  • Fast: After wirelessly receiving an order, the vehicle goes to the specified storage space by the fastest possible route and with the lowest possible energy input. This results in time savings of up to 25% and a significant increase in handling capacity.
  • Error-free: The system supports the driver with a display that shows the exact pallet position for an article. The driver only has to operate the driving and lifting controls. This makes storing a pallet in the wrong bay impossible.

Increased safety for very narrow aisle storage

The Linde Material Handling Aisle Safety Assistant is an additional system that complements the warehouse navigation system, but is also offered as a stand-alone solution. It functions like modern assistance systems in cars: the industrial truck is stopped or slowed down automatically (without the driver having to intervene) near obstacles like floor thresholds, walls and supporting beams. It is also possible, for example, to limit the height of the cabin to the required loading height in an area of the warehouse in order to prevent damage.

The system combines several data sources

The vehicle position in a very narrow aisle is determined using RFID transponders; at the same time, the vehicle’s integrated lift height measuring system provides information about the current height. This information is compared with a stored warehouse map in the vehicle system. This results in very precise 3D navigation.

Automated navigation in very narrow aisles

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