September 6, 2022
September 6, 2022
Do you have a handle on your intralogistics processes? Whether you could use a refresher on the term or are just now researching how it works, there is a lot to cover when addressing this discipline which impacts all elements of the warehouse environment.
Ranpak’s Director of Innovation for Automation, Saar Davidi, has over 16 years of experience managing warehouse and distribution center technology. We asked him to break down what intralogistics means and illustrate how he thinks about the processes that move goods and information through the warehouse environment.
“In simple terms, Intralogistics refers to the flow of material and information through a site,” Saar shares. “For example, within a distribution center, intralogistics involves optimizing the throughput of completed orders and capturing relevant, low-latency data on the production and material flows within the site.”
Allowing all processes to work better, capturing information, and then using it for the future are the core pillars that make up the discipline.
Like any investment, it’s important to consider how intralogistics improvements can lead to ROI. “Overall, it’s important to look at your total logistic costs and optimize your investments into the most high-impact areas,” Saar says. “Sometimes this means investing a little bit more in one department to save substantially more in a second department.”
With experience across each process in the warehouse, Saar has observed where initial investments can make the most difference and works that into his approach. “At Ranpak, our focus in the warehouse is on end-of-line. That said, we can still have an impact when it comes to optimizing processes further upstream such as picking. For example, using our machinery, boxes can be erected automatically and placed to receive picked items directly at the beginning of the line. When they progress along the packing line, our machines automatically reduce box height to the highest point of filling and seal the cartons, all while collecting data that allows further optimization of box sizes to the products being shipped. By picking straight into the cartons that are then fed through our machines, we have streamlined and eliminated a step from the distribution center—picking into totes and then moving those totes to have their contents placed within the carton.”
Usually, deciding when to look at intralogistics optimization is determined by throughput milestones. When it becomes overly challenging to maintain required throughput it is time to make improvements to the distribution center. Then, the site will be designed to the forecasted turnover of the next several years.
When asked about the relevance of seasonal peaks in production, like those around the holiday season, Saar points out that scalability of solutions will be a factor. “The flexibility of automation can be very useful for this because sites are designed around average peak turnover volumes. During periods of outsized demand, such as Black Friday, automation provides the ability to scale up production without needing to design the site for higher-than-average demand.”
What compels businesses of all sizes to pursue automation beyond raw output is the ability to gain control of their data. “Typically, businesses that are ready to take the initial steps into intralogistics optimization through automation will do so because of the software and data improvements that can be achieved. They are tired of relying on paper and Excel spreadsheets and experiencing manual mistakes in stock control. Instead, employees will be able to scan products and have that data be logged automatically by their systems.”
Over years managing integration projects across all areas of the warehouse, Saar has observed that the first places many Operations leaders will look when they think about automation may not be the most efficient.
“When I speak at events, I like to address where perceptions lie around automation. Most businesses when they explore automation want to go into beginning of line, because of the interest factor created by the shuttle systems and various robots that can store and retrieve items across the floor. However, it’s usually easier to scale up picking than outbound packing. You can use techniques like multi-order picking or wave picking, but once you get to the packing process, each order is for one person, and you can no longer mix picked items. This is where the largest bottlenecks are created. In addition, these areas are where you will see faster ROI. With end-of-line automation, customer service is also improved because of the consistency of the final packing process which can often vary in a manual packing scenario.”