Can we do things more efficiently? This is what the managers at ebm-papst’s logistics center in Hollenbach asked themselves. Every day, the forklift drivers there were making dozens of trips to take boxes from a packaging line to the delivery points 30 meters away. This was a repetitive task that also tied up a lot of personnel. “We wanted to make the processes more efficient and relieve the burden on our team,” says Markus Zink, Project Manager of the automated guided vehicle (AGV) system at ebm-papst. “After all, it’s difficult to find skilled workers.”
The logistics managers were looking for a solution and, together with Linde Material Handling, planned an AGV system in which three automated Linde high-lift trucks initially brought the boxes from a packaging line directly connected to production to the individual delivery points.
The result was impressive: instead of the 36 transport operations planned, the automated guided transport vehicles managed up to 50 transport operations per hour. As Zink explains: “We then expanded the system to include additional source/drain relationships, i.e. the route from the starting point to the destination. We were able to use existing stable processes in the shipping center, as well as our SAP-EWM interface, making it possible to operate the vehicles completely autonomously. The biggest challenge was to map the complexity of the material flows on an automated basis.”
The ebm-papst logistics hub.
At the 225-metre-long cross-dock hall there are 51 docking ramps. Around 100 trucks leave the company every day at the 30 goods issue ramps.
Around 2,500 pallets are shipped every day.
12 automated transport vehicles in use
The effort was worth it. A total of twelve AGVs now shuttle back and forth between three packaging lines, the consolidation area, the special pallet warehouse, and outgoing goods. They have their work cut out for them, transporting between 1,400 and 1,500 parcels a day: up to 100 per hour. “And that’s with almost 100 percent availability,” says Zink with satisfaction.
A lot of traffic in the logistics center
A sophisticated safety system keeps things running smoothly between all those involved. When the vehicles are in motion, they project two red signal strips to the side as well as an additional warning icon on the floor.
After some initial skepticism, employees at the Hollenbach logistics center have integrated the automated transport vehicles into their daily work routine. And since real team members need their own names, they were also christened right away. Mia, Lina, Emil and Co. are truly pulling their weight every day.