Automatic Order Management in intralogistics: An app for efficient order processing

With the new Industrial Truck Guidance System as a solution of the SYNAOS Intralogistics Management Platform, youcan assist the operators of manually controlled transport vehicles using automated instructions for efficient order processing. Learn what makes this hybrid digitalization approach so special, for which businesses it's recommended and how little new technology you will need.

Author: Dr. Christoph Schinner

There are lots of practical tools that help you improve efficiency in intralogistics. But your store floor won't truly be running at the top of its game until everything is smoothly intertwined - from the deployment of transport vehicles all the way to optimal guidance of operators. Specifically when it comes to that, however, the digital transformation has been lacking so far.

Even though the conversion to automated or autonomous vehicles is foreseeable on the long term, human-driven ground conveyors (industrial trucks) will remain the most common transport resource in intralogistics for quite some time. Because of their wide-spread use, operator guidance is a central factor for optimally efficient operation. Even the smallest improvements can increase efficiency considerably.

This is why the SYNAOS Intralogistics Management Platform will enable you in the future to usher your operator management system into the networked age as well. In this post, I will introduce you to a specially designed automation solution for industrial trucks that we are currently developing. In return for a small investment and minimal installation expense, this will help you to guide operators systematically in the future: so that they always process the most important order at the moment, using the shortest possible route.

Why efficient operator management is a real stumbling block

In many places, action urgently needs to be taken to improve operator management. Often, the quality of such systems lies in stark contrast to the meticulously scheduled demand planning of industrial companies. The production resources that are required at each specific location, and therefore stocked in the warehouse, are often broken down precisely to the particular day and documented digitally. On the other hand, decisions about which operator will pick up the parts, from where and when to ensure on-time availability are still managed like in the olden days.

Instead of receiving their orders digitally in order of urgency, warehouse personnel often take them from a pile of papers at their own discretion. In the process, they don’t always make the optimal decision. They may unintentionally postpone a more urgent order and choose another that they believe can be handled more efficiently.

A process that relies so heavily on manual work results in a great deal of inefficient order handling. If things aren’t working, operators improvise based on their experience. Off the cuff and in the thick of things, it’s probably not even possible to determine whether a better solution actually exists. If they come to a dead end, at worst the operator will end the transport order with an empty trip back to the starting point instead of switching directly to another task. Often managers don’t even know what went wrong, or they only find out later on.

The result: Reliable transport planning is only possible to a limited extent with traditional order communication using paper without systematic order assignment. Transparency is low, the potential error rate is high. Efficiency looks different.

Guide operators optimally using an app

With the upcoming solution for Industrial Truck Guidance as a component of the SYNAOS Intralogistics Management Platform, we are pulling vehicle and operator management out of the blind spot of digitalization. This element of our software solution expands your merchandise management system with a special mobile user interface for your operators. The display assigns them a fixed transport order, informs them of the pickup and handover locations and assists them with specific instructions from the beginning to the end of the entire process.

In the process, our algorithms work in the background to determine which employees are ideally suited for material transport based on their location and vehicle specifications. In addition, the software identifies which order currently has the highest priority.

Our solution makes these decisions based on a novel hybrid approach. To do so, it combines information in two steps. First our algorithms determine the priority of orders based on the data communicated by your merchandise management system by means of a custom software interface. For this purpose, our analytical model takes established logistics control concepts into account. This guarantees not only that goods arrive precisely when they are needed (just-in-time): It also ensures that they come in the right sequence to be processed one after the other (just-in-sequence).

The last step is order placement, in essence based on the input provided by employees on an ongoing basis during their transport tasks. Every time the operator confirms the completion of a partial task after arriving at a location via display button or barcode scan, the software records the progress and derives position data that can be integrated into further planning.

The Industrial Truck Guidance System by SYNAOS also accounts for unforeseen exceptional cases. If something doesn’t go as expected and the current order cannot be completed, the software makes new plans. Then it simply determines the operator’s next order based on what is most logical in terms of place and time. Instead of returning with empty hands or loading areas, employees bring other required material with them on their way back.

Industrial Truck guidance system is quickly ready for operation and flexible in use

When designing our solution, a major focus was rapid, easy and cost-effective commissioning. With REST API, we depend on a well-established interface technology to guarantee smooth interaction with your merchandise management system. Our management software supports a wide selection of ground conveyors so that you can fully integrate your existing fleet.

Many common models that are already available in many companies are suitable for use as input and display devices of our app. These include WLAN-capable scanners such as the Zebra model, or separate barcode scanners that can be integrated into the network via Android smartphone. No additional sensor technology is required.

In this case, the procurement of new hardware is not necessary. Implementation is very easy thanks to the use of standard components and can be carried out with a short lead time. The intuitive operating concept for common devices creates optimal conditions for the highest possible degree of acceptance and facilitates immediate application in a production environment without extensive training. Because the solution does not require any extensive mapping of the company premises, you can harness the advantages of digitalization without data risk.

The digital age of vehicle and operator management has arrived

There’s no avoiding the automation of transport technology. But you don’t have to wait until the changeover to driverless transport systems just to perhaps gain some efficiency potential in the remote future. Instead, you can reap the benefits of networked intralogistics much earlier with your existing vehicle fleet and workforce.

With the Industrial Truck Guidance System we have created a cost-effective, flexible and intuitive solution that will raise your order management and your vehicle and operator management to the next level. It combines the intelligence of the latest analytical algorithms with the strengths of human operators of manually-driven ground conveyors.

This is ideal for companies that are still getting started with their digital conversion. Despite a minimal technical expense, you can accomplish your storing, relocation and picking orders much more efficiently than ever before. The first pilot partners are planned to enter the future of automatic operator guidance already in late 2022 when the new solution first becomes available for practical use on the shop floor. Will you join us?

Dr. Christoph Schinner
Dr. Christoph Schinner
Technical Analyst / Product Owner
This industrial engineer is a specialist for industrial trucks in logistics and manufacturing. At SYNAOS, he develops automated solutions that systematically improve the capacity utilization of fleets.
Dr. Christoph Schinner

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