Forklift fleets are becoming safer and transport distances shorter.
Reading time: 10 minutes
Hectic activity in a logistics center. Forklift trucks are driving between warehouse shelves and storage areas, picking up the goods at exactly the right place, and then placing them right where they belong.
Chances for logistics
The forklift trucks also put on the brakes automatically in critical situations and warn their drivers of imminent collisions. For the workers at the wheel, this is not only a clear safety gain, but even more importantly a noticeable workload reduction. This also applies for the logistics managers, by the way. They now have new ways to design transport processes to be even safer, more reliable, and more efficient. What initially sounds like science fiction is already reality and part of the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT links products and processes, especially in the manufacturing and logistics world. But data is considered the basis for intelligent production and new business models, in logistics, for example. In order to create concrete benefits for customers, this data needs to be not only collected, but also stored, analyzed and made available again.
The Bosch IoT Cloud finally became the missing piece in the puzzle of Bosch’s IoT strategy in 2016. It includes a highly scalable infrastructure based on the Cloud Foundry and enables IoT developers to develop, test, deploy, and scale their solutions more quickly and easily. Today, like other IoT clouds, it forms the basis for solutions that will become the standard in the future.
Forklifts as a networked part of the logistics chain
But let’s go back to the forklift trucks and thus to an example of a new customer benefit that is made possible by networking. Zenoway is an application developed by the Bosch start-up ZenoTrack, which will also be available in the technology and software company’s IoT Cloud. It interlinks the forklift fleets with one another at a plant or warehouse and thus enables the position to be determined, for example. This means that every vehicle can be located at all times.
The cloud evaluates the data collected in real-time and send an alert if a situation gets dangerous. For instance, the drivers will be warned automatically if two forklift trucks are too close to each other. This can happen considering the hectic activity, so this is a precautionary measure that really pays off.
An important relief
Other automatic processes will also be possible in the future. A digital map of the warehouse will record the position of the forklifts and the location of all of the gates at the site. If the forklift trucks drive into another area of the hall or outside, the gates will open as if by magic and close again automatically. This is important relief for the driver compared to having to open and close the door manually. The company and the climate will also benefit from this solution because the heating and cooling requirements of the hall can be reduced. Networking goes even further, however. Slow zones are defined in particularly dangerous places like crossroads and doors. They are recognized by the forklift trucks, which then slow down automatically thanks to their positioning via the camera, laser, and GPS. This is once again a safety gain and a comfort plus for the driver. Thanks to this networking, the forklift truck also “knows” what kind of cargo it is carrying. For this reason, it automatically reduces its speed and thus vibrations in the case of particularly sensitive goods.
Turning the usual industrial processes upside down
In any case, the tracking of the cargo is also an important aspect of Zenoway during transport with the forklift truck. The system uses built-in sensors to continuously check whether the load has been damaged during transport or subjected to above-average loads. In case of irregularities, for example, the remaining logistics process can be adjusted immediately. For instance, the goods can be taken from the market and checked again.
It still requires a great deal of know-how to recognize what are really harmful influences and what are not. After all, a large share of the data recorded on such occurrences does not lead to any damages to the freight, the crossing of sleepers or rails, for example. However, matching the real-time driving data already recorded in the digital map from the IoT Cloud will make reliable classification possible in the future.
But this can be taken even one step further. After the goods have been placed where they belong, the freight no longer needs to be scanned again. After all, it is always in view with the Cloud. After a change of location, both the new location, the quantity and the product itself are automatically known. Traditional inventories, which used to take up a lot of time and personnel, can also be eliminated in the future. This means a huge savings in work that also saves considerable costs.
Shorter and more efficient routes
Many new ways of optimizing processes are emerging for the company with the Cloud. Because the routes of the forklift trucks can be matched with each other, this allows for shorter, more efficient, and especially more secure routes to be defined. Furthermore, the driving profiles of forklift trucks from other Last, but not least, manufacturers of forklift trucks also stand to benefit. They can make their customers additional offers and equip their vehicles with sensors and software from the start. Retrofitting would no longer be necessary if the forklift trucks were to one day become part of the networked intralogistics. As is the case everywhere else with Industry 4.0, flexibility is also the key here. By the way, the Zenoway solution is currently being introduced at the Bosch site of BSH Hausgeräte GmbH in Traunreut near Munich.
Data is considered the basis for intelligent production and new business models, in logistics, for example. IoT-Clouds are a key to efficiently use data.