Promat 2015 Review (Part 2) – The supply chain equipment and distribution exhibition

Promat is the largest expo for manufacturing and supply chain professionals in North America.

In our first review we here at Supply Chain Station took a quick look at some of the smaller vendors who were exhibiting at PROMAT 2015 and Automate 2015, and briefly reviewed 7 of the supply chain material handling solutions, software packages and products on show. In this second article we are going to be looking at some of the larger vendors, and seeing what they’ve brought along.  Let’s start off with what was on offer at the Dematic stand.

Dematic – Robotic piece-picking done automatically

Dematic demonstrated a range of hi-tech supply chain material handling solutions including:

  • Fully automated piece picking process
  • Light directed Put/Pack order consolidation
  • Very narrow aisle guided vehicle system
  • Deep lane pallet staging satellite shuttle
  • Software for sequence buffering

Dematic were also exhibiting their Rapid Pick XD automated high density solution picking system. This fully automated picking system (which is still in development) can handle somewhere between 750 and 1,200 individual picks per hour. At this stage this particular development is still in its design phase, and is not yet available in the commercial world; but in terms of true, full automation, it seems like it may have already arrived.

SSI Schaefer – 3D-Matrix Navette multi-shuttle system

SSI Schaefer presented their innovative approach to “goods to person” picking via use of their unique 3D-Matrix solution. Their conceptual solution comes by way of their pioneering “Navette” multi-shuttle system that is built into the steel framework of any racking system. It can navigate up to 8 storage levels, two of which can actually be in parallel.

An important feature of the design is the fact that each Navette has two load handling devices (LHDs). They are spaced apart by the same distance as that between one rack level and another, enabling the device to put away/pick two items simultaneously. Each LHD can accommodate two cartons, totes, or trays.

Another feature is that two Navettes can operate within the same aisle at the same time, as they detect and avoid each other. By installing as many Navettes per warehouse as required, the Navette 3D-Matrix solution is eminently scalable.

Daifuku/Wynright – X-Box picking robot

Daifuku/Wynright had a new vision-based case picking robot on display which essentially uses X-Box type 3D technology to be able to recognize and map environments that contain pallets and cartons of various shapes and sizes. These can then be loaded or unloaded into containers, trailers or warehouse environments depending on what sort of delivery system the robot is mounted onto.

Honeywell’s new Operational Acuity

Honeywell have launched a couple of analytical type applications under what they refer to as their “Operational Acuity” umbrella.

The first application is a type of labor management system that records the activities of the labor force, which it then collates, analyses and reports on. The implication is that you can get something like 80% of the management data you need about labor activities, with only 25% of the effort of collecting and analyzing that data manually.

The second application is by way of a forklift truck vehicle management system. Forklift trucks are fitted with sensors for recording speed, vibration etc, and cameras which constantly monitor the operators. If an accident or incident takes place, the data is then instantly transmitted in a Smartphone app to a supervisor who has immediate access to any data appertaining to the incident. This new system can be installed onto any forklift truck in just 15/20 minutes.

PINC Solutions – Drone/RFID application for Yard Management

PINC Solutions were promoting their new Yard Management application that uses drones to gather data. All vehicles within the yard are fitted with RFID tags. The Drones are then sent out into the yard to plot the positions etc of the tagged vehicles. It’s an easier way of collecting data about the movements and positions of vehicles operating or positioned in the yard confines.

It was not however made clear what regulations would apply to flying drones in this way, but it’s something that is drawing interest and is even being discussed for use in internal environments whereby drones would fly around collating inventory data from RFID tagged items of stock. Once again however, this is sure to have some significant Drone regulatory implications.

A new solution for Forklift truck driver training from ForkliftSimulator

An innovative forklift truck simulator, designed and manufactured by ForkliftSimulator was on display. Similar in theory to a flight simulator, it allows forklift drivers to sit in a dummy forklift truck complete with a full set controls which the test subject can manipulate to control all actions of the truck. The test subject dons a headset which displays an environment in which certain tasks can be performed, and certain activities and events take place. The environment can be fictional, or based on an actual, specific warehouse.

It’s a remarkably simple and yet effective way of training/re-training forklift operators, and could be a very useful tool in helping to improve forklift health and safety and reduce forklift accidents and injuries. The environment can be custom built in the simulator software, meaning that a new warehouse layout or system can be pretested for efficiency in a virtual world.

Looking forward to Promat 2016

Promat 2015 and Automate 2015 provided some great insights into the supply chain world. Warehousing, distribution, material handling innovations were plentiful, as were new supply chain management software solutions. We look forward with keen anticipation to next year’s shows.

Please offer any suggestions you can think of whereby a simulator could be used for the purposes of both training and/or improving health and safety in the supply chain workplace. Please send in your thoughts on feedback section below.

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