How to optimise handling systems for warehouses

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For owners and builders of the machinery that keeps goods flowing in warehouses, the need for speed, flexibility, efficiency and reliability is now greater than ever. Paul Berry, Business Development Manager at Lenze, explains how to be smart when choosing components, technology platforms and providers to meet the challenge.

How to optimise handling systems for warehouses Here are some key factors driving warehouse businesses and their machine builders to expand and improve the automation of handling in intralogistics facilities, these include:

  • High and variable volumes – with steep seasonal peaks and a diverse, rapidly changing product mix
  • Tightening control and scrutiny of resources and costs – including space, energy, labour, capital equipment and operating expenses
  • Increased complexity, automation and need for co-ordination of equipment – from conveyors to robots and automated guided vehicles
  • Smarter, IIoT-influenced systems – with more sensors, higher data collection and processing capabilities, and wider communication
  • Conflicting space requirements – storage capacity versus equipment installation
  • Energy efficiency imperatives – to reduce costs and environmental footprint
  • Pressure to shorten development lead times – for rapid pursuit of market trends
  • Demand for simple operation and maintenance of machines – with standard components, responsive service and dependable support

Simplify with warehouse-focused technology

A drive and automation provider with strong experience in intralogistics will fully understand the differences in requirements between warehouse materials handling equipment and, say, packing and wrapping machines. Over-engineering with high-precision servo motor systems, for instance, is an unnecessary expense. Simpler approaches, using the increasing capabilities of conventional motors with modern inverter drives, or the Lenze Smart Motor can be much more cost-efficient.

For simplicity in driving conveyors, which require a fixed but adjustable speed with soft starts and stops, Lenze offers its Smart Motors range. These units combine motor, drive and gearbox together with specific integrated functions for materials handling, in a single adaptable package. Easy electronic pre-setting enables identical drives to perform at different speeds throughout the handling system. Drive and motor variants can be reduced by as much as 70 per cent, giving economies in purchasing, maintenance and spare parts stocking. Wiring is also simplified, as the electronic contactor, ramp settings and thermal protection are incorporated into the motor.

Choose ready-made development tools

Motion software accounts for much of a materials-handling machine’s cost. By using a technology partners fully developed, pre-configured and pre-tested software tools, instead of creating their own, builders can save time and money while avoiding errors and future compatibility issues. Easily programmed modules are already available for functions such as feeding, discharge, registration and SmartTrack product spacing.

Specialised materials-handling systems from Lenze include the storage and retrieval crane software tools within its FAST range. Their functionality enables: reduction in buffer-zone space requirements; safe retrieval when personnel are in adjacent aisles; faster direction changes; and less energy consumption. The result is higher productivity and lower costs.

Be ready for Industry 4.0

If warehouse operations and machine builders are to benefit fully from Industry 4.0 and IIoT advances in communication and analytics, these technologies must be built in – not bolted on. The right drive and automation provider will support amongst others applications based on OPC-UA and MQTT.

The provider’s data security technologies should permit confident sharing of machine information across wider networks. As well as enabling seamless integration with the warehouse operator’s systems, this gives scope for the machine builder to add value with services like remote monitoring and support or predictive maintenance.

Look for fast and dependable supply

Rapid component availability is vital to delivering machines against increasingly tight lead times, so a good drive and automation provider should have fast manufacturing and distribution capabilities. For businesses replicating handling systems and technologies across global networks, an international service and technical support set-up is also needed.

Seek all-the-way support

Lenze believes that the best outcomes for machine builders and their end-customers are achieved through lasting support from a drive and automation partner – from concept to ongoing service. It follows a five-step process:

  1. Developing ideas – seeking opportunities to maximise performance and minimise costs using the latest technologies
  2. Drafting concepts – taking a holistic view, optimising motion paths and designing for simplicity, safety and easy interfacing
  3. Implementing solutions focused on the customer’s needs, including energy efficiency, optimal product dimensioning and user-friendly software
  4. Manufacturing machines using fully compatible components and interfaces to reduce development times and costs
  5. Ensuring productivity – minimising downtime through international availability of expert technical support

This approach ensures that automated warehouse systems are fast, agile, efficient and, above all, constantly available for productive action.

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