As part of an upcoming collaboration with Toyota Material Handling Europe (commonly referred to as TMHE) we had the opportunity to visit CeMAT Hannover during its two final days. At HiQ Ace we have a firm belief in the sharing of knowledge so we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about the logistics business and what drives and motivates it by sharing our primary insights with the rest of HiQ.
What is CeMAT?
CeMAT is the leading trade fair for intralogistics; essentially anything and everything that happens inside a factory or storage facility (so while loading and packing is part of CeMAT, shipping & transport solutions aren’t). The largest of these exhibitions takes place at the Hannover fairgrounds in Germany. CeMAT Hannover currently takes place biannually and premiered in 2005. The main display categories for the 2016 event were:
Packaging & Label&Print
Move & Lift
Store & Load
Management & Services
CeMAT overview hall 27. Photo: Deutsche Messe
A quick note on our partner TMHE
TMHE (Toyota Material Handling Europe), part of Toyota Material Handling Group, the largest manufacturer of material handling equipment in the world has it’s development and production site in Mjölby, Sweden. The strong connection to Sweden being that Toyota acquired BT in the year 2000.
HiQ started collaborating with TMHE through a series of workshops, helping TMHE to define their vision of the future of logistics. The first part of this collaboration resulted in several concepts, the strongest ones illustrated through user journeys.
Upon arriving at CeMAT you really are struck by how much more complex and large this industry is than what you normally consider it to be. The truth is, that with the steady rise of online shopping and the globalisation of the marketplace, logistics is more central to people than it has ever been. While most people see the delivery of items as transportation, the foundation of fast deliveries often lie in where, how and why an item is stored in a certain location, which is the basis of intralogistics.
Intralogistics is a sector that is playing a catchup game. The internet has redefined our expectations on how we should be able to go about our life in quite profound ways. Alot of the underlying structure that parts of this lifestyle change relies on hasn’t changed at the same rate, or in some cases hasn’t changed at all. This of course creates both friction and possibility, which is a great primer for innovation.
General Trends for 2016
Better order picking
One of the larger trends for CeMAT 2016 was systems to make life easier for the order picker. To clarify, the order picker is the guy who assembles all the different components that are part of an order, puts them in a box and either sends it to shipping or the other department that placed the order for those components.
There are several trends in how to communicate the order to be picked, one of the more common ones being pick-by-voice. With pick-by-voice the picker has a headset that vocally communicates the order to be picked. Another common system is pick-by-light where the correct section of the shelf will have a light that lights up to guide the picker.
The three traditional powerhouses all had solutions for this on display. Jungheinrich and STILL had solutions with smart trucks that either followed or could be controlled by the picker (described later on) essentially focusing on reducing the load for order picking in the traditional warehouse scenario.
Jungheinrich. Easy Pallet. Photo: Deutsche Messe
Toyota on the other hand was clearly looking outside the realm of tradition, possibly at some of the newer contenders in their SWARM concept where small autonomous picking platforms traveled between pickers forming trains while waiting for their assigned items before moving on to the next picker.
Another company that also focused on how to get the product to the picker is Magazino which displayed its offering of picking robots that could fetch items in a normal shelf storage environment, working alongside the pickers or assisting them with the harder to reach items. Magazino showed adaptations to pick items that were oddly shaped such as stuffed animals or balls as well.
Magazino. Photo: Deutsche Messe
Magazino. Photo: HiQ
As previously described, one of the more common order picking systems is the voice assisted picking, or Voice-Directed Warehousing (VDW). These are two way systems where automated voices give picking orders to pickers and pickers can respond with voice commands, this enables the pickers to keep their hands free at all times but does require reliable wearable systems.
Top System has studied order pickers and has developed a line of products to assist the everyday life of pickers. Their product line Lydia is a VDW system where they have taken the user into extra consideration. For those who dislike headsets due to aesthetic or encumbering reasons they have a voice vest solution where you have a harness that has speakers on both shoulders for a head-gear free solution.
Beyond VDW they have smart glasses for pick by vision and also devices like wrist mounted hand scanners, and displays (similar to smart watches) that all can be used to eliminate error. This is especially useful in environments that sometimes can be loud so audio in both directions might not be possible.
Other companies that are looking to wearables as a solution to everyday life for a picker are Picavi and Ubimax. Both companies have smart glasses, Picavis having a integrated solution with confirmation via buttons on a power pack and Ubimax going the route similar to Top system using scanners to assist the picker, scanning a pallet giving information on the contents.
Picavi. Photo: Deutsche Messe
Automation in traditional warehousing
Modern traditional warehouse. Photo: Wikipedia
Traditional warehousing entails shelving systems where trucks humans and others operate between these shelves, picking orders, storing parcels etc. These sites are what you would traditionally expect a warehouse to look like, and are what the majority of all the warehouses in the world currently look like.
The traditional sector adding IT, automation and robotics to its portfolio but it has the challenges of, well… tradition. In many cases both the playing field will be set with previous investments in material and shelving systems that are a huge investment to replace. Also there is a sense of negativity in phasing out existing employees from a workplace. That being said, automation and robotics are still coming strong in this sector, the focus though, is often more assistive than replacive.
This sector has a lot of companies catering to it, from the giants, to smaller companies that might only offer one product for one specific task (such as RAVAS that focuses on load sensors for the forks in a lift).
Three of the traditional big players; Toyota, Jungheinrich and STILL, companies established as the main actors in the intralogistics sector and traditionally the main competitors to each other were present at CeMAT with Linde seemingly being the one absent. These companies were all lined up in the outside area where the largest booths could be built and yes, their presence is massive compared to everything else.
The booths in this section are more like a mix between a downtown cafe/bar and a giant hotel lobby. The common sense of denominators in the presence being that they all had one or more cafés with food and drinks available to visitors, a larger area showcasing their trucks of course, and some kind of section dealing with future tech as well.
Toyota. Photo: HiQ
Common for all of these large scale competitors is that they offer more than just the trucks themselves. Often this means that they offer comprehensive service packages, on-site repairs, some sort of warehouse management system and such to differentiate themselves from the companies that try to follow in their footsteps or focus mainly on offering cheap, more simple trucks.
Apart from the surreal High-School musical show that played every hour with dancers and band members being lifted around on boxes by trucks while singing pop & rock music with it’s lyrics changed around to include the company name, STILL also showed off some interesting concepts.
STILL. Photo: Deutsche Messe
iGO Neo (Neo from here on) is probably the most mature example of an automated truck meant to assist a human that we saw there. Essentially it is a pallet truck with a system that allows it to identify a human and track that human. The press of a button on the side of Neo allows it to follow its “master” around while the master picks out orders or does other similar things before returning to the truck and driving off in it. Neo also demonstrated capacity to differentiate between its master and other people, avoid collisions and route around objects blocking part of its path. This was one of the live demos that actually seemed to consistently work. Neo was STILLs main attraction and did generate quite some buzz
STILL. iGo neo. Photo: HiQ
STILL had a large lineup of ergonomic controls on display. There seemed to be a handle or a control for every possible application that could be optioned for the truck you ordered. Some were close to joysticks and steering wheels while others had more uncommon grip based solutions with buttons and pressure points at the fingertips of your hands location.
Future truck concept
The other main display there was an autonomous hybrid truck concept. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that this was far from a finished product and more a concept in general. The truck was a large cube with headlight “eyes” where the front consisted of retractable forks and a large display with battery and such. Every now and then the top of the cube would grow to become a drivers cabin, likely to show that it would be able to operate autonomously or traditionally.
STILL. Photo: HiQ
Heading up the middle of the large player alley was Jungheinrich. Jungheinrich featured an order picking assist truck as well but it seemed to be more of an addon to a regular pallet truck and they were always struggling to get it to work properly. This solution involved some kind of AR glasses that never seemed to be working and a wrist mounted controller but the gist of it seemed to be that you could see the items to be picked in the glasses, then push a button on the wrist controller to make the truck drive forward and then pick the item.
Jungheinrich. Photo: HiQ
Apart from their unfortunate AR truck demo they had some more successful concepts on display:
Technical AR Vision
This display used an iPad that you could aim at the truck to look at the internal parts of the truck. In the demo you could see the engine inside the truck in 3D so it followed the perspective and angle you viewed it in. The sales rep spoke about this solution in the future would also display active statistics about the specimen you were looking at. So far the visualisation was done but the practical applications were still in the works.
Jungheinrich. Photo: HiQ
Seemingly everyone had a pair of VR glasses at CeMAT. VR seemed to be the new drone. Jungheinrich had one of the better applications of VR on site though as it had a demo of some of their future concepts built in VR. You could drive new trucks in a cockpit environment and see how they integrated with their warehouse management system.
12x1 meter Touch table
Jungheinrich also featured one of the very very few touch tables that actually worked as intended. This wasn’t a product per se but more a demo of their different products. All in all it was impressive in itself and seemed to be a backlit projector driven table that was very long and accepted very many simultaneous touches.
Toyota at the far right of the huge alley had both the largest booth and a fairly different approach to their presence there. The first thing you noticed was that their booth was similarly to an apple store flooded by toyota employees mostly dressed in suits with red ties. This lended a kind of upscale feel to the whole booth which probably was accentuated by the café with servers and the fountains. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the Toyota display since this was our partner and they wanted us to go explore the other parts of CeMAT for inspiration but in short terms, they had the following on display.
Toyota. Photo: HiQ
Toyota. Photo: HiQ
Self driving trucks
Once you were inside the first thing you were met with was a large display with 3 self-driving trucks moving pallets according to a pattern. This was driven by Toyota’s I_Site system and an example of automated logistics in a traditional environment.
Toyota. Photo: Deutsche Messe
Directly on the other side was a display showing the LEAN procedures and the assembly of Toyota trucks.
Out front there was a large plastic Igloo where toyota displayed their I_Site system which is their fleet management system where you can see and follow the status of your fleet from a web based control panel.
Toyota. Photo: HiQ
The future exhibition, was invite only and unfortunately no photos taken here but displayed some of the more interesting tech at CeMAT. Here Toyota displayed:
Swarm technology concept where an order picker stood on a control platform and independent parcel drones would follow the parcel pickers until they received the parcel they needed for the order before moving on to the next order picker for the next parcel (not a live demo)
Pallet drone Remote controlled (Playstation controller!) pallet drone that due to its small size has greater maneuverability and a interface with the controller that is already known by most younger employees.
Remote vision First stage concept where you could switch locations and remotely control and see a truck outside the display. This would allow for truck operators to manage trucks they weren’t currently physically connected to.
Smart table A 42(?) inch touch table showing a warehouse where you could follow trucks and parcels, see utilization, heatmaps and pallet placement. It also allowed to see quite a bit of information for the objects.
Fully automated facilities
Fully atuomated storage facility. Photo: Wikipedia
Some of the more interesting displays are companies that we categorized as divergents. These are companies coming into the intralogistics sector from other backgrounds, that aren’t concerned with the traditional sense of intralogistics but offer radical new solutions to intralogistics. A lot of those revolve around fully automated rack systems where humans are never meant to exist in other purposes than to repair the existing system. Being radically different to any traditional site, this currently limits the customers to those who can make the investment required for such a change or those who are looking to save physical space even at a high cost.
This sector has grown to represent what currently is the largest divide in intralogistics. Traditional vs. Fully automated warehouses. While full automation also has alot of limitations in what can be stored and how, a lot of the early issues have been worked out and these companies are definately growing to become solid contenders for the customers wallets. A few of the more interesting featured companies in this sector are:
For the fully automated systems KNAPP seems to be a household name for innovation. While quite a few companies offer shuttle systems with shuttles that move along shelves and are able to fetch pallets KNAPP instead went all out in using all the space possible in their systems. This of course eliminates the humans from accessing the storage facility but instead uses machinery to fetch the correct items and deliver them to the order picker. This is achieved using a combination of techniques and the newer solutions provide better flexibility for a wider variety of possible products.
KNAPP had a fully functional demo environment running at CeMAT, which demonstrates the speed and ease to set up a complex picking system.
KNAPP. Photo: HiQ
Auto Store had quite a different approach to the automated storage solution. They had a grid system of tracks where small robots could move along this grid and lift or drop plastic bins that were stacked on each other. If an item was needed from a bin lower down in the stack, several of the robots would collaborate to lift the upper bins out of the way. This system of course doesn’t work with pallets but it does work well for smaller parcels.
Auto Store. Photo: HiQ
A side note on reliance
One thing that we discovered, and something that demonstrates that many companies in logistics still have a journey to make before they inevitably become software companies first and logistics second (which is what Industry 4.0 essentially will mean for them) is third party reliance. After wandering around, looking at a lot of solutions by different companies we noticed one constant. Pretty much everyone that is presenting solutions with automation uses sensors from SICK. This reliance on SICK is what normalizes much of the innovation presented at CeMAT as the majority of products are based on the same API.
SICK is a company that makes sensors. In logistics they offer a wide array of sensor solutions, everything from laser sensors for guidance to RFID readers that can identify parcels. Aot of it amazing stuff that works very well. SICK builds closed systems where you can send certain data and receive replies from the sensor. The interesting thing is that essentially everyone uses SICK sensors, meaning that what SICK allows for, in several cases is the enabler or limiter for innovation in automation.
SICK. Photo: HiQ
Analysis and closing thoughts
Intralogistics is an area on the verge of great change. Our connected society is changing the expectations for this sector and adaption is happening, at the moment in several directions ranging from traditional storage, hybrid storage with shuttle solutions and fully automated solutions. Automatic picking using robots is a growing trend, allowing for interesting new ideas in storage such as Auto Store and Magazinos solutions.
Humans are looking at change in within intralogistics regardless if they want it or not. Many fear that they will be replaced by machinery, but it is possible that they will migrate into different roles, managing and working in unison with robots and automatic systems. This might also be beneficial to the general ergonomics of the business as well as the heavy lifting will lessen.
In the future Industry 4.0 will mean that the human will be a complement to the machine, instead of the other way around. We are not there yet though as there is a clear difference between automation and autonomy and so far humans are still needed to guide the machines and offer the flexibility needed for a site to function.
Toyota & Inspiration
One of our tasks here was to search for inspiration for our client Toyota. At CeMAT we got a valuable insight in the current state of what’s new in the Intralogistics sector. There are a lot of exciting things happening in this sector as well. I believe that Totoya has been looking beyond their own sector and looking at ideas for how to utilize some of the strengths of the fully automated systems, especially in regards to quality of life for pickers. But in the majority of areas Toyota is in the lead, or on par with others. So where do you look to find inspiration if everyone else is looking at you?
I believe that we are back to the question of what’s next in Industry 4.0 which is the transition of logistics companies to software companies in logistics. I believe that there is great value for Toyota to broaden its horizons and look beyond its own sector for true inspiration.
David Stenbeck & Evelina Olsson
HiQ Ace Norrköping