© Huazh Intralogistics Technology

Autonomous shut­tles for the ware­house

Huazh Intral­o­gis­tics Tech­nology Co. Ltd. develops systems for auto­mated ware­house logis­tics. Speed is the most impor­tant factor for the company, based in Nanjing, China.

Endless lines of shelves, meter-high rows, conveyor belts, spiral chutes, and above all: goods as far as the eye can see. The prospect of someone having to find some­thing in this labyrinth, having to wander through the aisles, all the while imag­ining customers drum­ming their fingers impa­tiently on the table, is unthink­able. Huazh Intral­o­gis­tics Technology’s solu­tions for ware­houses and distri­b­u­tion centers ensure that this night­mare does not become a reality.

The pace in these places is now too fast for humans to achieve on their own. A pace that is not possible without automa­tion. Huazh is driving it forward. Its exper­tise is based on five core areas: ware­house logis­tics plan­ning, ware­house infor­ma­tion systems, conveyor systems, auto­mated systems for storing and retrieving piece goods and small items, and semi-auto­matic and fully auto­matic picking systems. At the heart of the system are the shut­tles, which whiz through the ware­house on rails and inde­pen­dently pick up and unload goods. The company, which is an offshoot of the Univer­sity of Nanjing, has been devel­oping them for almost 20 years.

Huazh started devel­oping shut­tles for ware­houses almost 20 years ago. To main­tain its pole posi­tion, the company now relies on drive systems from ebm-papst. (Photo | Huazh Intral­o­gis­tics Tech­nology)

Compact speed­ster

“This area is very promising and has grown rapidly in recent years,” says Liu Feng. The R&D team leader at Huazh is respon­sible for the shut­tles. “The key features of the shut­tles are their small size and high speed — which saves lots of space and speeds up the picking and unloading of goods,” says Feng.

The key features of the shut­tles are their small size and high speed.

Liu Feng, R&D team leader at Huazh

To improve the latest gener­a­tion of shut­tles, which looks just like a red sports car, Huazh decided to switch from AC to DC motors and enlisted the support of ­ebm-papst. “We chose ebm-papst due to its high-quality prod­ucts and excel­lent local service,” says Feng. For various shuttle designs from Huazh, ebm-papst supplies the complete drive systems: brush­less internal rotor motors from the ECI series, trans­mis­sion, encoder, and elec­tronics. ebm-papst supplies both the hard­ware and the soft­ware. The drive systems make the shuttle move forward on the rails, move the tele­scopic arm that grips the boxes of goods, and lift the boxes.

Agile team

For the system to be perfectly matched to the appli­ca­tion, you need a team that works well together. ebm-papst service engi­neer Donny Tang took care of the imple­men­ta­tion on site and spent a lot of time in the Huazh test lab making all the neces­sary adjust­ments. But Feng also actively exchanged ideas with ebm-papst sales repre­sen­ta­tive Tyrese Wu and team leader Mike Tang. His summary: “We held together and worked as a team.”

The greatest chal­lenge with the shuttle project was, of course, the speed. Huazh gives itself only four to six weeks to deliver shut­tles to its customers after receipt of the order. This also has an impact on its partner. ebm-papst talked to its own suppliers, set up new logis­tics concepts, and brought its internal Supply Chain Improve­ment team on board. As Feng acknowl­edges, “ebm-papst responds quickly, enables a rapid exchange of infor­ma­tion, and provides a buffer stock of compo­nents.” 


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