In the first week of May 2011, intralogistics professionals from all over the world gathered in Hanover, Germany, where the most important intralogistics trade show is hosted every three years. At this trade show, the current industry trends become more clearly visible than anywhere else.
The run-up to the trade show already offered some clues about dominant topics. As usual, the exhibitors tried hard to gain some attention from the press by announcing spectacular innovations.
So here is what I consider to be the top 3 subjects at CeMAT 2011:
The trade show ran under the official tagline „Sustainability in Intralogistics“. This topic has already been in the spotlight so many times that some experts got tired of talking about it. Most likely though, the developments in the area of green logistics have only just begun to materialise and we can expect to see much more in the years ahead.
At CeMAT 2011, there were a couple of products and solutions on display with the promise of being profitable and environmentally friendly at the same time. In the end, every new development in green logistics has to live up to this double challenge.
When it comes to saving energy, internal transport in particular has plenty of room for improvement. But thanks to the newest forklift control systems, we can expect to see some real progress soon. Forklifts will be moving around on optimised routes, avoiding unnecessary detours and saving energy.
In addition, forklifts with hybrid engines are now available, a technology largely borrowed from automotive engineering. But forklift transportation isn’t the only beneficiary of green technologies. Over time, storage and conveying systems by and large will switch to more energy-efficient solutions.
Robotics and driverless transport systems
Unlike green logistics, which is basically an evolutionary development of existing technology, robotics is a technological milestone and a revolution. It will radically change the intralogistics of many companies.
The idea to assign various intralogistics tasks to robots certainly isn’t new. But now, technology has reached a point where robots and driverless systems are able to provide both high quality and high financial returns.
In the past, robots were mainly used for tasks in line with the abbreviation DDD – dirty, dull & dangerous. But nowadays, robots impress with tireless precision and will replace or at least support human workers in ever more complex functions.
Some of the solutions on display at CeMAT could be considered groundbreaking. These include robots able to pick over 2,000 products per hour or palletising and depalletising independently, without outside interference. Driverless transport systems, which handle internal transports autonomously, were also among this year’s top innovations.
Significant time savings and improved accuracy enable these systems to reach their break-even rather quickly. More and more companies therefore consider them as superior alternatives to conventional solutions.
Versatile packaging and order picking solutions
Thanks to the internet, lots of companies are now able to sell to different groups of customers. On the one hand, they are still selling to wholesalers and shops, on the other hand they approach their customers directly through an online shop. This is quite a challenge for a distribution centre.
Wholesalers and shops (B2B) usually place few, but large orders. Selling over the internet (B2C) means small orders for a larger number of customers, which requires a completely different order picking and packaging infrastructure. Versatile solutions, working well in both scenarios, are therefore required.
This specific problem was also addressed at CeMAT 2011. It seems there is a trend towards more flexible systems, which are able to adapt easily to the requirements of various industries or product categories.
The following months will show which of the innovations presented at CeMAT are able to prevail in the market and which aren’t. It is safe to say though that intralogistics is an industry in a state of flux and that the big players will continue to look for efficiency increasing solutions.
Which were the trends you were most interested in during CeMAT?