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Honeywell introduces new robotic technology to help warehouses boost productivity, reduce injuries

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Honeywell introduces new robotic technology to help warehouses boost productivity, reduce injuries. Image: Honeywell
Honeywell introduces new robotic technology to help warehouses boost productivity, reduce injuries. Image: Honeywell
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Honeywell announced its latest innovation in robotic technology designed to help warehouses and distribution centers automate the manual process of unloading pallets, reducing the operational risks of potential injuries and labor shortages.

Driven by sophisticated machine learning and advances in perception and gripping technologies, Honeywell’s Smart Flexible Depalletizer minimizes the need for manual labor to break down pallet loads – roles that carry risk of injury to labor, experience high turnover and are currently difficult to staff. A typical medium- to large-sized distribution center unpacks up to several thousand pallets per day, with the probability of errors, injuries and worker fatigue increasing during each shift.
“Even when manual operations are running smoothly without injuries, the physical, repetitive task of unloading pallets is variable and limited by human constraints,” said Dr. Thomas Evans, Chief Technology Officer of Honeywell Robotics. “Our Smart Flexible Depalletizer helps improve throughput by operating consistently without interruption over multiple shifts with minimal human interaction. With the labor constraints warehouses and distribution centers are seeing in filling these manual roles, this solution can be an ideal fit to help keep up with daily order volumes.”

The depalletizer’s articulated robotic arm is guided by advanced vision and perception technologies, which allow cases to be picked from a single- or mixed-SKU pallet on a fixed or mobile location. The latest computer vision technology identifies the exact location of every case on the pallet, while perception software automatically recognizes a wide variety of packaging. This technology allows for seamless handling of a continuous flow of pallets in any sequence without requiring any pre-programming or operator intervention.

The advanced machine learning and motion planning optimizes the movements of the robotic arm to ensure maximum picking speed and efficiency. The control logic also senses the weight of each item as the robot lifts it and automatically updates its gripping response to transfer each product securely and effectively. The more the solution picks, the more it learns and continues to improve in quickly and efficiently unloading pallets.

“Reliable depalletizing rates are of growing importance as consumer preferences continue to accelerate the rate of packing and the increasing product mix warehouses and distribution centers handle every day,” said Evans. “These major technology improvements are driving fully automated solutions capable of meeting or exceeding the throughput of manual operations. Not only do these solutions offer significant benefits to modern distribution centers and other fulfillment operations, the business case for their utilization is also increasingly attractive.”

A recent Honeywell study revealed more than half of companies are more willing to invest in automation because of the pandemic and its lasting effects. The same study showed companies see increased speed of tasks, greater productivity and increased employee utilization and productivity as the top three potential benefits from automation.

The robot can work in conjunction with pallet conveyance autonomous mobile robots, enabling continuous operation of the system while providing the flexibility to stage pallets and empty stacks virtually anywhere the robot is capable of traveling.

The Smart Flexible Depalletizer will be showcased at this year’s PACK EXPO International trade show in Las Vegas at booth C-4436.

From concept and integration, Honeywell Intelligrated draws on its expanding portfolio and deep industry expertise to help warehousing, distribution and fulfillment companies optimize and manage their processes. The business offers integrated end-to-end automation systems, warehouse automation software and lifecycle support services regardless of the manufacturer to improve throughput and keep workers safe.

Honeywell Safety and Productivity Solutions provides products, software and connected solutions that improve productivity, workplace safety and asset performance for our customers across the globe. We deliver on this promise through industry-leading mobile devices, software, cloud technology and automation solutions, the broadest range of personal protective equipment and gas detection technology, and custom-engineered sensors, switches and controls.

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Maritime

APM Terminals and ZPMC enter into strategic alliance

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APM Terminals and ZPMC enter into strategic alliance. Image: APM Terminals
APM Terminals and ZPMC enter into strategic alliance. Image: APM Terminals
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A memorandum of understanding between the companies will change equipment purchasing from a purely transactional process to a more strategic collaboration with strong focus on automation.

With automation being one of the key components of APM Terminals’ strategy of “Safer, Better, Bigger”, it is critical for the company to have access to adequate, state-of-the-art automated equipment for its diverse terminal portfolio. However, the common industry practice of transactional customer-supplier relationships has proven less effective in complex automation deployments that require a more integrated approach between APM Terminals and the supplier.

Therefore, APM Terminals is implementing a strategic alliancing framework, initiated with the signing of an Alliance Memorandum of Understanding with port equipment manufacturer ZPMC (Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company Limited). The focus of this memorandum is the joint development and deployment of a wide range of automated solutions, including automated container handling equipment.

Signed in October by APM Terminals CEO Morten Engelstoft and ZPMC Chairman and President Liu Chengyun in a virtual ceremony, the Memorandum of Understanding also includes an order for 18 Ship-to Shore (STS) Cranes and 9 Yard cranes across 6 terminals and the reservation of production slots for additional 25 STS cranes and 62 Yard cranes in the future.

“With this alliance, we are leveraging our 23 year-long relationship more effectively, in which APM Terminals demonstrates strong commitment towards ZPMC and in return receives prioritization of factory capacity, access to the best resources, active involvement in product development according to our needs and a commitment to maintain the relationship on long-term basis”, comments APM Terminals CEO Morten Engelstoft.

ZPMC’s automated equipment is already in operation in several of APM Terminals’ facilities, namely in Vado Ligure (Italy), Lazaro Cardenas (Mexico) and its latest automated terminal in Tangier, Morocco. Most recently, the company is also running a pilot with ZPMC’s Automated Straddle Carriers in its Aarhus (Denmark).

ZPMC Chairman and President, Mr Liu Chengyun highlighted the progress his company has already made in several domestic automation projects in China. “I hope these good experiences will now translate into even better results for APM Terminals, as we now embark on this strengthened collaboration based on innovation and co-development”, Mr Chengyun added.

As well as the automation focus of the Memorandum of Understanding, both parties expect the new framework to also spark closer collaboration in areas like safety, supply chain and decarbonisation.

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Logistics & Supply Chain

Zebra Technologies expands Fetch Robotics portfolio

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Zebra Technologies expands Fetch Robotics portfolio. Image: Fetch Robotics
Zebra Technologies expands Fetch Robotics portfolio. Image: Fetch Robotics
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Zebra Technologies Corporation, an innovator at the front line of business with solutions and partners that deliver a performance edge, introduced the industry’s most comprehensive picking solution to help businesses improve their fulfillment operations. The fulfillment solution consists of three new autonomous mobile robots – FlexShelf, FlexShelf Guide, and RollerTop Guide – and a new FetchCore fulfillment software package for order or batch picking. These new offerings further extend Zebra’s position as a leader in automating and digitizing critical workflows in warehouses, distribution and fulfillment centers as order volumes increase, labor pools get more competitive and customer expectations continue to rise.

FetchCore enterprise cloud software allows companies to quickly modify workflows on-demand for warehouse operations. It enables the dynamic orchestration of labor and robots by integrating with leading warehouse management systems (WMS) and warehouse execution systems (WES) to optimize order, batch, case, and pallet picking workflows. FetchCore’s new fulfillment software package incorporates warehouse annotation, wave management, a pick heatmap, advanced fulfillment analytics and forklift detection features. The warehouse annotation feature superimposes the physical pick locations in a facility logically into FetchCore eliminating the need for QR codes and enabling AMRs to automatically adjust to reslotting within a warehouse.

“Zebra’s fulfillment solution enables Manhattan Associates to combine an end-to-end, best-in-class fulfillment AMR solution with optimization capabilities inherent to our warehouse management system software,” said Jon Liberman, Vice President of Enterprise Mobility at Manhattan Associates, a PartnerConnect Premier Solutions partner. “We are excited to provide a solution that increases the efficiency of each picking and case pick to pallet operations especially while many of our customers are experiencing challenges with a competitive labor pool, supply shortages, and smaller delivery windows.”

Powered by the enhanced fulfillment software package in FetchCore, the three new AMRs expand upon Fetch’s existing case picking capabilities while providing several unique advantages over existing each picking AMRs in the market. Fetch AMR’s can deliver up to three times increased productivity in fulfillment operations while total throughput in a facility is increased as a result of these new AMRs operating up to 50% faster than other fulfillment AMRs.

Built on the proven Fetch Freight100 platform, the FlexShelf and FlexShelf Guide provide flexible configurations for bin sizing and spacing, which expands the types of items that can be picked using AMRs. Both AMRs also reduce worker training time and increase picking accuracy by incorporating put-to-light and pick-side lighting – a critical element during seasonal peak periods when order volumes and seasonal staff are at their highest levels. Attracting and retaining staff is easier as the solution can reduce the amount of time pickers spend walking by up to 60%, and features like ANSI RIA R15.08 compliance help keep them safe. An industry-first forklift detection feature enables AMRs to avoid forklift blind spots helping prevent damage to the AMRs. Businesses deploying the RollerTop Guide AMR can integrate each picking workflows with existing fixed conveyance, sortation and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS).

All of these new AMRs can be purchased utilizing a capital or Robot as a Service (RaaS) model, depending upon customer preference. Deployments are fast and cost-effective because all Fetch AMRs operate on a facility’s existing Wi-Fi network with the option to use current handheld, voice and vision technologies capable of interfacing with FetchCore’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) in the cloud.

“In 2020, we introduced SmartSight as our first automation solution for front-of-store retail, and we welcomed Fetch and its broad portfolio of AMRs for material transport in logistics and manufacturing into the Zebra family just a few months ago,” said James Lawton, Vice President and General Manager of Robotics Automation, Zebra Technologies. “Our new comprehensive fulfillment solution brings together the best of both companies to help our retail, wholesale and third-party logistics (3PL) customers overcome the biggest challenges in their each and case picking workflows with automation that is truly intelligent.”

According to Zebra’s Warehousing Vision Study, 77% of respondents agree augmenting workers with technology is the best way to introduce automation in the warehouse. Given increasing consumer expectations driven by the on-demand economy along with a limited workforce, automated processes can help streamline tasks, create happier, more efficient workers, and help businesses stay competitive in a dynamic marketplace.

“AMRs that support manual picking operations in fulfillment centers are in incredibly high demand, as retailers and 3PLs struggle to keep up with their customers’ demands,” said Ash Sharma, senior research director at Interact Analysis. “Fetch Robotics, now part of Zebra Technologies, has responded to this demand by developing an integrated fulfillment solution so that retailers and 3PLs can now not only streamline each picking operations, but leverage the entire portfolio of Fetch AMRs to automate any manual workflow in fulfillment and distribution centers.”

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Air Freight

Lufthansa Cargo and WiseTech Global to launch eBooking connection

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Lufthansa Cargo and WiseTech Global to launch eBooking connection. Image: Lufthansa Cargo
Lufthansa Cargo and WiseTech Global to launch eBooking connection. Image: Lufthansa Cargo
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Lufthansa Cargo, one of the world’s leading companies in the transport of air freight, and WiseTech Global, a leading provider of logistics execution solutions, intend to launch a direct eBooking connection between their systems, enhancing the eBooking process for users of the CargoWise platform for logistics services globally.

With production trials having commenced, the integration will provide CargoWise customers with a simplified booking process within their own IT-systems, providing air cargo rates, flight availability and the booking confirmation in real-time. Through API connectivity, the connection will increase forwarder productivity, eliminate manual, error-prone data entry and rekeying between systems, provide increased visibility and reduce resources and costs.

Ashwin Bhat, Chief Commercial Officer at Lufthansa Cargo, said: “We are pleased to be collaborating with WiseTech Global on this eBooking connection. As the air cargo industry continues to experience a rapidly changing environment, the ability to connect directly to CargoWise means we are providing our customers with booking possibilities via their own systems. Not only will this eBooking connection benefit our customers with increased efficiencies and productivity, but it is also enabling and supporting the digitalization of the logistics ecosystem. We look forward to building our partnership with WiseTech Global to enhance value for our customers and further driving the digital transformation of the whole industry.”

Scott McCorquodale, Chief Automation Officer, Air Cargo at WiseTech Global, said, “The partnership between CargoWise and Lufthansa Cargo is a win for our respective customers and the industry in general. As we continue to secure global rollouts with the world’s largest freight forwarders, our eBooking functionality provides logistics operators with immediately available critical information including buy rates and flight availability, complemented by direct flight schedule feeds and increased shipment tracking visibility.

“Improving the efficiency in information flows around the industry is vital. A direct data interface for eBookings will be the start of our collaboration with Lufthansa with further functionality already in the planning, to bring additional benefits to our customers into the future.

“There is no question that continually investing in implementing the right technology will put airlines and forwarders in a position of strength in the future. In addition to being one of the major global players in air cargo capacity, Lufthansa Cargo is showing that it is leading the industry in technology adoption, and we support this partnership to enhance our air connectivity solutions.”

The linking between Lufthansa Cargo’s booking system and the CargoWise platform will be based on an API, which makes it easy for CargoWise users to book the air freight carrier’s offers in real time. Maximizing efficiencies will benefit all involved. API connections are one of the major drivers to connect all involved parties within the supply chain to make airfreight faster and more efficient and furthermore improves data quality.

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