Virtual optimization is the future of logistics
Recent years have turned out to be a difficult period for many sectors of the economy. Although each industry has its problems, the common denominator for all entrepreneurs is meeting the expectations of their partners and customers while optimizing costs, which are still growing. As it turns out, technology comes to the rescue once again and thanks to the use of the computing potential of processors and virtual reality, logistics has a chance to implement quick and effective changes in its functioning.
Currently, one of the most important trends in industry general as well as broadly understood transport and logistics industry, has become the need to automate processes. For this purpose, autonomous robots and software to synchronize their work are implemented. However, a growing problem is the increase in the price of individual components or machines and the increasing waiting time for their delivery to the warehouse. Today, the average implementation period for, for example, the simplest automatic forklifts is over a year, while not so long ago it was only a quarter. Unfortunately, this does not mean that this equipment is cheaper - quite the opposite: we pay more for the same as before, receiving additionally extended waiting time for the delivery of technology to our warehouse. What's more, the expectations of customers ordering transport and deliveries are increasingly focused on an individual approach to their needs, which paradoxically does not help logistic companies.
-- I think that the Polish market is specific. In the West, companies have already matured to the fact that some standardization is needed to automate processes. In Poland, we are currently at a stage where customers want process automation, but their expectations are often in conflict with this automation. As a result, it turns out that we have to break a simple process into sub-processes in order to prepare individually set solutions and parameters for each recipient. This is at odds with automation. If most customers actually relied on strong standardization, it would certainly support optimization on the part of an operator like us - explains Karol Pawlicki, Director of Warehouse Operations at Raben Logistics Polska.
FLEXIM is gaining popularity
In the face of this challenge, solutions based on digital simulation of warehouse processes are becoming more and more popular, thanks to which it is easy to check individual areas of the company's operation to find places where operation can be changed or improved. Raben Logistics Polska has started to use applications such as FLEXIM, which allow the creation of models of virtual warehouses with the possibility of verification and analysis of settings in such a way as to select the optimal ones at a given time. This is an extremely useful tool when planning infrastructure expansion or wanting to build a new warehouse. Then, before the physical implementation of the real facility and a major financial investment, we have the opportunity to fully verify the possibilities that such a project will guarantee us, and which parameters it will not be able to bear. The virtual project shows bottlenecks, which helps in the proper planning of workstations and hardware facilities. This technology has a huge advantage over the classic "table" mapping of infralogistic processes.
- It is different when looking at numbers and tables in spreadsheets, and completely different when looking at a 3D mapped warehouse or a selected area where these processes are carried out. Everything is seen from a different perspective with a bird's eye view, when we can better understand the system and how it works. Thanks to technology, you can immediately see if something needs to be corrected. If we assume, for example, the wrong speed of an autonomous forklift, Excel will still just show a number. On the other hand, in the simulation model we will see that the truck is driving too fast or not in the way it should - explains Kamila Kluska, Logistics Project Manager at Raben Logistics Polska.
Digital twins are becoming more and more popular
Currently, the method of creating a "digital twin" of a given magazine is also very fashionable. It is a model that is a full representation of the real system and works with it on an ongoing basis, receiving data, for example from WMS, processes it and shows how this system should behave, or how it will change when we modify selected parameters. It is possible to transfer the currently functioning warehouse to virtual reality to test, for example, a different arrangement of goods on the racks or a change in the unpacking zone at the unloading ramp. This creates space for virtual play of various scenarios, layouts or process diagrams with full visualization of effects. FLEXIM cuts off all discussions among the "old guard" of employees, e.g. those used to the learned and known for 30 years way of operation, showing reliable data on how a specific change and standardization will translate into the functioning of the entire warehouse.
A new way of communicating with the client
The program allows not only virtual measurements of process efficiency, but also a thorough estimation of the cost of changes or investments necessary to improve operation. What's more - it allows you to easily calculate and visualize changes in throughput, delivery speed or increase in storage capacity, and calculate exactly how much savings it will bring to the customer. It is also a useful tool for the operator himself, because the profitability of a given order can be analyzed with great accuracy, e.g. before joining a multi-million tender.
- The possibilities of visualization are enormous. Of course, it depends on how much time we want to spend on specific animations. We can make the operators move very naturally, or wear beautiful boxes with the client's logo, control the forklift in different ways, etc. It's a matter of how much time we have to develop such a project, because usually the whole thing has to be created quickly - sums up Kamila Kluska.
The technology of virtual process mapping is not only the future of logistics, but also an opportunity to obtain a new, higher quality of deliveries for each of us.
Raben Logistics Polska sp. z o.o.
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