The fourth industrial revolution has transformed the vocabulary of all business processes, including Intralogistics. Terms like automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have also become the norm for the supply chain industry. Aptly called Intralogistics 4.0 (I 4.0), this reformation in warehousing is greatly connected with the technology of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs). Since arculus contributes to this development with its own AMRs (arculees) and software, it is only fitting to take the discussion to Carlo Fitz, our managing director. This blog post uses his expertise and insights to unravel the promises, myths, and challenges surrounding I 4.0.
Unpacking Intralogistics 4.0
A tale of four revolutions
The Industrial Revolution has seen different phases, each more remarkable in terms of enhancing efficiency, speed, and productivity. Thanks to steam power, the first wave came in the 18th century, literally taking production from human hands to machines. The 19th century saw the second industrial revolution (Industry 2.0). Advanced by electrification, this stage gave way to mass production within the industry. Meanwhile, the third step, the digital revolution, resulted from the development of silicon microprocessors in the late 1970s and paved the way for increased automation. Finally, we have the latest period of innovation, called Industry 4.0 – distinguished from the previous stages through such advancements as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics.
I 4.0: from industry to logistics
Like many other industries, logistics has flourished alongside each industrial advancement, thus benefitting from faster and more efficient solutions to the demands and challenges of warehousing. This follows for Industry 4.0, which has made Intralogistics 4.0 possible.
Intralogistics 4.0 (or I 4.0) uses the latest developments of Industry 4.0 to optimise and streamline internal warehouse processes. Representing a new era in industrial operations, I 4.0 aims to cater to the demands and challenges of the modern supply chain. In the words of Carlo Fitz, Managing Director at arculus, “Intralogistics 4.0 is about integrating advanced digital technologies and data-driven approaches within intralogistics.”
Understanding the terms and techs
Since Intralogistics 4.0 derives inspiration from the concept of Industry 4.0, it relies on some key components and technologies of the latter. These include:
- Internet of Things (IoT): for ensuring connectivity of the devices in warehouse and logistics operations;
- Big data analytics: for extracting valuable insights from large, complex datasets within the intralogistics system;
- Automation and robotics: for improving speed, accuracy, and reliability of intralogistics processes;
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): for intelligence, adaptability, and automation of the internal warehousing procedures within warehouses and facilities;
- Cloud computing: to provide scalable, flexible, and connected infrastructure for various applications and services within warehouse and internal logistics operations;
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): to enhance visualisation, training, and human-machine interaction in warehouse and internal logistics operations.
Consequently, adding such state-of-the-art technologies to warehousing management can tap into the true potential of the intralogistics industry.
The potential of Intralogistics 4.0
As mentioned before, Intralogistics 4.0 (I 4.0) can substantially impact the modern industrial landscape. Carlo emphasises these five advantages:
- Enhanced efficiency: Through leveraging real-time data and automation, Intralogistics 4.0 optimises processes to reduce delays, errors, and manual intervention, resulting in increased operational efficiency and throughput;
- Cost savings: Improved efficiency, reduced waste, and better resource utilisation contribute to significant cost savings over time;
- Agility and adaptability: With data-driven insights, businesses can respond promptly to changes in demand, market trends, or disruptions in the supply chain;
- Competitive advantage: Implementing I 4.0 solutions can differentiate companies by enabling faster order fulfilment, higher accuracy, and improved customer satisfaction;
- Sustainability: Optimised operations result in less energy consumption and reduced environmental impact.
Since I 4.0 has so much to offer, it is only natural that companies working to shape the future of intralogistics should explore these new advancements. So it is no wonder that Jungheinrich, with its years of transforming the world of logistics, is at the forefront of the I 4.0 revolution.
Jungheinrich – the intralogistics pioneers
With its aim to provide efficient and sustainable intralogistics management, Jungheinrich explores and utilises the advancements of Industry 4.0. One way it does this, is through arculus. The aim is to offer effective assistance to customers on their supply chain journey. For that, arculus engineers, automates, and enhances the latest technologies to create warehousing solutions that are customised according to the logistical needs of our clients.
Offering efficient transportation of material in warehouses, arculees, our Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) lead the cycle of logistical procedures. Carlo describes these products of ingenious robotics as “flexible, dynamic, and adaptable.” However, this is just one way in which I 4.0 is implemented.
Carlo believes, “To play to the full potential of I 4.0, we need to transform every step of warehouse management.” Therefore, we also offer cutting-edge software that executes intelligent and real-time decisions on-site, which is the essence of I 4.0.
While these Intralogistics 4.0 innovations offer automation and speed, safety is crucial for long-term implementation. Besides, safety always comes first at arculus. Carlo explains, “We cooperate with the Technischer Überwachungsverein (TÜV) regarding certification. This means we always use the highest standards regarding human safety while challenging how we develop and interpret norms and regulations.”
Getting the facts straight
With a revolutionary field like Intralogistics 4.0 comes great misconceptions, often with greater consequences. Carlo points out two such misunderstandings concerning I 4.0:
I 4.0 is just about replacing people with machines: Many people, sometimes including solution providers, believe that implementing I 4.0 is just about having one machine do the work of many humans. Unfortunately, assumptions like these may mean underplaying the value of the human element in offering innovation and enhancement. The truth is, a more practical application would only be possible through human intervention. Otherwise, relying solely on machines could result in poorly designed automation, inaccurate expectations, and a lower ROI than I 4.0 could deliver.
I 4.0 is just about adopting the latest features: Even when industries pay attention to updating the systems, they may focus too much on bringing the latest tech on board, and sometimes ignore other equally important aspects of I 4.0 integration. For example, the reliability and cost-efficiency of the systems are likely to be compromised if advanced tech is the sole priority. Again, this can sacrifice efficiency and productivity, undermining the true potential of I 4.0. Therefore, while driving innovation through technology is essential, the right balance between the latest features and robustness must be considered for around-the-clock operations.
To avoid falling prey to myths and inefficient practices, companies adopting Intralogistics 4.0 and AMR technologies should be careful. To maximise the benefits and minimise potential challenges of I 4.0, Carlo recommends the following:
- Conduct a thorough needs assessment: Understand your specific operational challenges, goals, and constraints. Identify areas where I 4.0 and AMR can make the most impact.
- Start small and scale up: Begin with a pilot project in a controlled environment to test and refine the technology. Once proven successful, gradually expand its application.
- Integrate with existing IT infrastructure: Awareness of the existing IT infrastructure is essential. The knowledge of the company’s capabilities and needs, helps create a better environment for a successful execution.
- Rethink processes: Automation and digitalisation not only means replacing manual actions. Re-designing existing methods to leverage the full potential of I 4.0 and AMRs is also pivotal.
- Listen to your workforce: The employees play a critical role in any successful implementation. Their concerns regarding automation and new technologies need to be anticipated and addressed. Effective management in this regard can help alleviate fears and resistance.
The future and challenges of Intralogistics 4.0
Despite its popularity and usefulness, I 4.0 still has a lot of room for improvement and advancement. According to Carlo, “The future development of Intralogistics 4.0 will be towards consolidation and finding ways to implement it on a big scale – thus, making standardisation crucial.”He also further emphasises the importance of having a uniform standard in intralogistics and talks about its challenges:
“Remember how videotape formats such as VHS and Betamax had created a demand for standardisation in the past? So whenever there are different approaches to a solution in the market, regularisation will be needed. Unfortunately for intralogistics, this road to creating protocols is a lot more complex than just devising a format. Of course, VDA5050 is the first step towards standardising Intralogistics 4.0. However, there is still a long way to go before we have protocols necessary to scale the potential of I 4.0 and ensure reliability while reducing costs across industries.”
Concerning the possibility of entering into Intralogistics 5.0, Carlo expresses confidence in the current phase instead:
“I think we have only scratched the surface of the full potential and opportunities Intralogistics 4.0 has to offer. While we are currently making progress, there is still much industrialisation to come. With that, I believe the next phase is still a topic for the distant future.”