Technological Advances in Intralogistics
Published on : Tuesday 08-11-2022
Internal logistics, if adopted correctly in strategy planning, can help organisations to reduce costs, says Jasbir Singh.
A commonly used expression for the material movement in business is ‘transportation and distribution functions’, which today are the essential elements for the success of organisations. Internal Logistics and External Logistics are the two major components coming under transportation and distribution for every industry. Logistics is the key to a successful business as it enables any firm to serve the end product to customers. Modern logistics software management has been phenomenal for worldwide fleet movements and cross-continent deliveries.
Internal logistics comprises the internal processes (movement of materials) within an organisation to be aligned and controlled for smooth operation. It is emphasizing on the processes, covers all the material movement of supplies and the support activities within the company known as internal logistics.
It includes all processes within manufacturing line the movement for making finished products:
i. Raw Material and semi-finished products
ii. Conveyor control
iii. Additives and in process mixing
iv. Equipment and drive control
v. Identification and time stamping
vi. Storage and warehousing systems, and
vii. Stock control.
Importance of control on internal logistics
Failure of necessary materials to reach the production line results in time delay that extends all the way down the line. If material doesn't reach at the right time, the production wouldn’t start till it reaches and, therefore, not distributed to the right place for machining/manufacturing. This leads to reduced efficiency of the plant process and affects the overall margins. Right internal logistics helps the company reach out to consumers by providing a product well in time and in excellent condition. It would be possible with a constant and synchronised flow of materials at every step of the manufacturing process. Without a controlled internal logistics process, the company fails to deliver the product in time even with the well-defined strategies, and compromise the overall growth of the company in the specific and proven market segment.
Internal logistics as strategy
Internal logistics, if adopted correctly in strategy planning, can help organisations to reduce costs and increase the quality of service offered to the consumer. Many premium and good companies use the principle of focused internal logistics strategy to improve their profits. Some of the benefits, which can be achieved by companies if produced with a guided internal logistics strategy:
i. Optimum use of labour force
ii. Improved agility within internal procedures
iii. Reduced manufacturing and maintenance costs
iv. Larger use of the available industrial facility
v. Reduction of any non-moving warehouse stocks, and
vi. Correct inter machine material flow.
For organisations that wish to achieve the goal for higher productivity, a good predisposition is required by applying the right strategy of improving internal logistics. By lagging behind on the control on internal logistics, companies are risking customer satisfaction. Internal logistics has gained a lot of importance in recent times as it is connected with the manufacturing to sales and directly connected to customer needs. It brings many benefits in the current highly competitive market and changing environment to connect the customer before it is demanded.
Intralogistics includes much more in an industrial facility than only a production link supplies to the functions as finished goods storage, movement within the warehouse or distribution centre, optimisation in storage and retrieval and fast flow of management information. The word intralogistics is derived from Logistic or supply chain from warehouse to customer or showroom in shortest period of time or fast delivery. It is the next level of logistics which is considered as fast movement of items while in the manufacturing or production stage; an efficient logistics system within the internal organisation's process from start to end, in order to maintain direct/indirect production activities within the company.
The company strategy to focus on intralogistics is to improve overall productivity through better/optimum use of manpower, equipment and integration of technology to manage. Companies ought to always wish to gain on the following parameters for the benefits in supply chain:
i. Efficient movement of material from input to output within the manufacturing
ii. Fast and safe storage within the unit store
iii. Quick and logical movement to strategic warehouses
iv. Fast delivery to the sale points
v. Efficient delivery to user as original like packed immediately after manufacturing
vi. Good, prompt and punctual delivery to customer
vii. Low-cost and efficient storage facility for delivery, and
viii. Good distribution network.
To gain competitive advantages, companies are now investing largely on digital technologies for efficient functioning of intralogistics, to optimise their production to delivery times.
The major benefits are to manage its good supply chain target to:
i. Reduce costs
ii. Increase sales
iii. Reduce/optimise inventory, and
iv. Lean storage and less idle time.
Companies who have a good technological platform to work and get fast data at finger tips can manage good control on intralogistics in the internal processes and can easily win customers’ trust in the long run.
Intralogistics system allows controlling the material movements in a structured way within the organisation, by measuring a product’s defined/specific time on each position, idle time, quantity produced in specific duration and place/time stamping while its movement through every machine.
The term Intralogistics 4.0 implies an overall change about handling of products because of the innovations trends that industrial revolution can bring to modify processes known to date within the past logistics processes.
In many of the processes, human beings are no longer capable of handling the upcoming logistics processes, which need very complex, repetitive, and sometimes dangerous/unsafe activities. These include:
i. Automated cargo
ii. Use of application based special robots
iii. Use of big data based decisions, and
iv. ERP based control.
The possibility of integrating the above attributes becomes more and more part of strategic management, as it helps to achieve a constant analysis of our logistic activity, by obtaining real-time data.
However, there are still challenges within the field of intralogistics, which may be summarised as follows.
Companies have to face deliveries to customers not within the national level but to anywhere in the world across boundaries.
It is difficult to control the flow of product movement and information. Companies want to optimise not only the cost of production but cost of delivery from point to point and remain competitive. There is a barrier in technological facilities available for delivery in other countries. Each country has their own logistic facility and approval process in custom, taxes, transient warehousing and delivery to the last mile.
Logistic supply chain is mostly a hired service for most of the companies for delivery to domestic or international warehouses for maintaining a good supply chain of the items. Some of the countries have superior technology and equipment and many have still to reach the minimum standards for fast clearance and efficient information/product movement. Intralogistics to become smarter companies make use of Internet of Things, advance digitisation in information and data availability, Industry 4.0 and so on to develop the supply chain to become stronger.
AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles) have brought the industrial revolution in warehouse management. Presently warehouses could sustain due to surge eCommerce markets with the AGVs to meet modern logistics and massive demand for fast storage/deliveries. These Automated Vehicles have reduced the overall delivery cost of on-demand businesses.
The next phase of evolution came in warehouse management by using advanced automation with more robust integrations of IoT (Internet of Things)-based technologies. Businesses demand more reliable embedded software developed for data transformations use with on-the-fly logistic pickup and deliveries.
API (Application Programming Interface) technologies are at the centre of everything to manage and control. Well established protocols for warehouse management used to authorise, validate, and facilitate data exchange between logistic movement and complicated and heterogeneous systems. Globally it has been seen that a large part of the logistics industry is encouraged by IT controlled plants for warehouse management systems.
Another big challenge for intralogistics is to improve the energy efficiency of warehouses. Smart devices are introduced in warehousing facilities, which measure the energy consumption in real-time and give output signals for the necessary adjustments.
Finally, we could say that the system allows controlling material movements within/external to the organisation, guaranteeing a product’s availability at specific time, quantity, and place during production to sale.
Jasbir Singh is an Automation Expert having long experience in Factory Automation, Line Automation, Implementation Strategist, Business Coach, Regular writer on automation, Artificial Intelligence, Robots/Cobots, Digital Technology, Network Communication, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Wireless Communication, Block Chain and use of advance digital technologies. He has established a long association with Business Houses/large production houses to improve factory automation in their production lines as well as productivity improvement in factories in India and overseas; and in advising and designing the units to transform into digital platforms by use of Artificial Intelligence. Email: email@example.com