The Jury's first choice: Automatic Guided Vehicles controlled by voice

Dematic wins the innovation prize awarded by the "Initiative Mittelstand"
The Jury's first choice: Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) controlled by voice

Offenbach (Germany), March 12, 2008. Dematic has won the innovation prize awarded by the "Initiative Mittelstand" (Small and Mid-Sized Business Initiative). The company received the award in the "Logistics" category for its "Logistics by Voice" concept. This concept integrates "Pick by Voice" into a driverless transport system. Pano Papamanoglou, the head of Dematic's Logistics IT, accepted the award on behalf of the entire company at the prize presentation held during the CeBIT 2008.

Unencumbered by conventional lists and manual order-picking trucks, order pickers can approximately double their picking rates with integrated Pick by Voice and automated collection vehicles, while at the same time noticeably reducing their error rates. The additional advantages include ergonomic handling and the automated transport of picked pallets on to dispatch. Each of these factors contributes to a quick return on investment.

The system is suitable for all those sectors of manufacturing and processing industry in which goods have to be transported within company premises after being "picked by voice". These include the metal industry, automotive and assembly systems, the plastics, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the manufacture and picking of leisure clothing, and the production of food, beverages and tobacco. And it can also be used advantageously in the wholesale and mail-order trades.

"Logistics by Voice" is particularly suitable for the food market. As is well known, in no other market is the competition so fierce. Margins are tightly calculated, and low logistics costs play a key role. The objective is to modernize logistics effectively. Conventional picking often involves many inefficient handling processes. Individual picking instructions are checked off long lists one by one. On-screen instructions have to be confirmed manually. And manually controlled collection trips over long routes to dispatch are also a major disadvantage. Pickers are occupied with time-consuming ancillary activities.

AGVs travel from one picking point to the next

High-tech in the daily routine: In Dematic's "Logistics by Voice" concept, each employee is equipped with a headset and a voice terminal. They receive their orders by radio, which leaves them with both hands free for work. An AGV travels with them from one picking point to the next. Once a pallet is full, it automatically travels to the transfer point at the end of the aisle. While this is happening, another AGV is already bringing a new, empty pallet from the store, so that the picker's actual job - picking - is not interrupted. Automatic guided vehicles carry the full pallets to dispatch. This technology increases the picker's picking rate by almost 100 percent.

One of the main features of this solution is a high degree of process automation. For example, the Dematic Voice Manager works in conjunction with conventional warehouse management systems (WMS). It translates orders in the WMS into verbal instructions for the pickers. Their acknowledgements then go back into the system as data statements. The Dematic material flow computer also controls the AGV collection vehicles and the label printing on the stretcher in dispatch.

Easy handling for employees

"Logistics by Voice" is highlighted by simple work steps. At the start of a shift, each picker takes a "Pick by Voice" Talkman with headset, and logs onto the system. His/her name and voice characteristics are stored.

The first AGV already starts moving during the log-on. The processing of each order then starts with a brief statement by the picker. The Voice Manager then states the location of the first pick. The system also states the number of packages to be picked. When a process has been completed, the picker confirms this to the system via his/her headset microphone, and then receives the next order.

Ready-for-dispatch, foil packaging

A full pallet is transported to the stretcher, where it is wrapped in foil, ready for dispatch. The system sends all the essential dispatch information to an integrated printer, which then prints this data onto a label attached to the finished pallet.

Customers using this system are reporting not only a doubling of the pick rate to some 400 packages per hour, but also a 60 percent lower error rate. Another of this solution's advantages is that the picking pallet can always be adjusted to the ergonomically optimum loading height for the picker. Pickers will be grateful for that!

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