Many opportunities arise from the collaboration between the Italian LCS and the German Grenzebach. For an increasingly technological warehouse, they have initiated a collaboration whose product is a German AGV, driven by a software owned by the Italian company.
Only a year ago the partnership between the German Grenzebach and the Italian LCS began. This partnership has resulted in the availability on the Italian market of AGVs produced by the former, which move and perform their function efficiently thanks to a software owned by the latter. To show the fruit of this collaboration, at the beginning of May the exclusive “Intralogistics Innovation Day” was held at the headquarters of Grenzebach, Bavaria, a demonstration and discussion event that involved, as guests, companies such as Fontana Group, Henry Schein Krugg, ARTSANA, MP Filtri, Kuehne+Nagel, Stanley Black & Decker Italia, Barilla Alimentare, Pirelli, Ocap, Meno 20, Kardex Mlog, Demag, Sistema 5. Renato Luck, CEO of Grenzebach, did the honors and said he was very satisfied with this joint-venture, which will certainly deliver interesting results.
Grenzebach is a German company that produces machines for automatic internal handling. Founded in 1960 by Rudolf Grenzebach – still owned by the founder’s family today – it has 1,500 employees worldwide, 3,000 plants installed in 55 countries and produces in three different areas, Germany, the United States and China.
The Challanges of the Future
Simplifying to the minimum, in addition to showing live how the innovative robots operate and integrate with the existing ones, the occasion was useful to reflect, in a scattered order, on some of the most current and debated themes of the logistics sector.
The first: technology, although sophisticated, is easy to implement.
The second: the coexistence of man and machine is not only possible, but it is also constructive, because technological innovation does not disqualify man but, on the contrary, qualifies him.
Thirdly, the entry of safe vehicles that work with people and other trolleys into the warehouses does not change the existing structure and does not require investment in terms of infrastructure.
Fourthly and lastly, the costs of automation are not as prohibitive as one might think at first.
Thomas Martin, Vice President of Business Development & Marketing at LCS, returning from the German trip commented:
“For us it was an event of great satisfaction. Our customers are back in Italy “inspired” by this technology. They had the opportunity to see it in operation and this allowed them to imagine it and put it into their reality, so much so that someone is already submitting new ideas and new requests.”.
The reference is to a picking project in the automotive sector: “The customer in question – he went on – observing the AGVs at work, has finally found the solution to his discomfort. He realized that by adopting AGVs he could solve the problem of limited height spaces simply by moving the approach of the warehouse from the classic “man to goods” to the most innovative “goods to man“.
This means that, thanks to the use of AGVs, it is the (mobile) shelves that go towards the person, following a path determined by the software.
A significant aspect of the trip to Hamlar, the city where Grenzebach is located,” commented Martin, “was a visit to our partners’ headquarters. Visiting the factory, talking to the management and the technicians, our guests had the confirmation that this is a partnership between two solid companies, which produce reliable technology“.
As for the formal relations between the two companies, LCS is Grenzebach’s exclusive partner for the Italian market; the two companies have already faced some institutional moments together – Intralogistica Italia, A&T, Mecspe, Fiera Lamiera – and, as witnessed, they have found a good response from the market.
The AGV Under the Lens
In terms of technology, Grenzebach AGV is fully automatic, can work 24 hours a day (net of charging times) and can transport up to 1200 kilos of weight at a speed of 1.5 meters per second.
Its strong point is its low height: with only 340 millimetres, it can be easily positioned under existing trolleys, pallets and shelves, lifts them and transports them to a pre-established destination point, following the path determined by LCS software.
Two laser scanners mounted on board or a number of pre-set upstream references also help to direct it.
When you see it at work, it is immediately clear: the AGV does not obstruct the paths of man or even the rhythms of the warehouse, it adapts in complete safety. In other words, this solution is proof that AGV and man can live together without disturbing each other: the collaborative robot fears no obstacles, wastes no time, does not hinder, but relieves the staff of heavy and repetitive work.
Thanks to the customisation of the route, the AGV becomes a flexible and safe solution for all indoor environments, without the need for protection zones.
It also integrates easily into environments with typical warehouse structures such as machines, conveyors, elevators, robot cells and packaging systems, and so on.
In other words, the existing warehouse must not be disrupted. Once the machining or picking operation has been completed, the AGV simply returns the load carrier to its place: this increases productivity and safety, but also precision and space optimisation.
“No new infrastructure is required for the AGV to enter the warehouse,” explained Martin. AGVs adapt to the characteristics of the existing plant. A key aspect is the possibility of managing a real AGV fleet at the same time: LCS software coordinates the various system components and allows the simultaneous handling of several robots.
“The systems need to be supervised,” explained Martin, “and that’s where the qualified staff come in. The man is not put aside, but is integrated with the machine, increasing their skills”.
Having clarified the technical aspects, there are still two points on which to shed light.
The first concerns the choice of the solution to be adopted: how does the company concerned understand how many AGVs to purchase, how does it coordinate them and how does it integrate them into its structure (i.e. warehouse and personnel)? The second point concerns costs: what kind of investment does the adoption of AGV require?
LCS is an Italian company that proposes itself as a system integrator for the supply of turnkey automatic handling and storage systems. Founded by Gianfranco Silipigni, AD, in 1989 in Usmate Velate, today LCS is a structured group (LCS SpA, LCS Automation, LCS Management Services and 4Next Solutions) and also delivers airport systems for the handling of luggage and cargo, automation systems and robotic lines, projects for the automation of overhead travelling cranes for the transport and management of heavy loads. In Italy, LCS is already a ten-year partner of Kardex Mlog – a German company that produces stacker cranes and conveyors for pallets, containers and cartons – and Demag – a German company that produces overhead travelling cranes -.
A Tailor-Made Approach at Sustainable Costs
As for the first point, the manager of LCS explained:
Two laser scanners mounted on board help direct the AGV.
“Thanks to a first consulting phase, we develop fully automatic and tailor-made internal handling solutions, in line with the customer’s requests. We define ourselves as their partners: together we decide on the most suitable technology, we create the solution that best meets the specific needs and we implement a training phase for the operators, i.e. for those who will then have to manage the technology”.
As for costs, they don’t seem to be prohibitive. “At first glance, collaborative robots may seem like an extremely expensive technology,” Martin replied, “but if we look at the projects implemented to date, it turns out that the investment, in principle, pays for itself in one year, maximum three, depending on the solution”.
“Of course – he pointed out – each installation is a case in itself and must be evaluated in its individual aspects. In some cases, for example, more than costs, the zeroing of risks should be evaluated”. But is there a company for which AGVs are useless? “It is a solution designed for those companies that need high performance, fast shipping, which perhaps operate in ecommerce.
In the case of companies that make few movements or have a mixed service, where people also do other work in addition to moving loads – concluded the manager – we believe that this technology is not justified and therefore do not offer it to our customers”.
Oltre agli AGV L600, L1200S e LF1200S, la gamma di prodotto Grenzebach comprende diversi veicoli per la movimentazione interna.
The Forklift is a forklift that can automatically lift, transport and lower weights of up to 4 tonnes and with a lifting height of up to 5 metres.
The Tugger is a towing vehicle with automatic coupling for various types of trailer, ideal for repetitive automatic transport of goods on internal routes carrying 1 to 3 tonnes at a speed of 1.5 metres per second. The Mobile Robot MR10S is the combination of the L1200S model and a collaborative robot, it can handle weights of up to 10 kg on the wrist and reach a distance of 1.3 metres with extremely high positioning accuracy. In practice, it assists the operator by carrying out the most demanding tasks. The Customized range is completed by automatic guided vehicles customized for the transport of large and heavy components.
In pratica, assiste l’operatore, svolgendo le operazioni di lavoro più gravose. Completa la gamma Customized, il veicolo a guida automatica personalizzato per il trasporto di componenti di grandi dimensioni e di peso elevato.