Digitization, the internet of things and industry 4.0: These key words describe significant transformations and challenges that decision-makers across all industries are currently facing. In the areas of intralogistics and production, these changes are paving the way for smart factories and warehouses. In order for businesses to harness the optimization potential of these new possibilities, 4flow has developed a holistic, structured and proven framework.
With 4flow’s framework, a smart warehouse or factory is based on six key enablers. These enablers are connected across different smart layers. In addition to hardware and software solutions, the framework includes building infrastructure, staff capabilities and organizational structures as important key enablers. With these enablers, a customer’s individual requirements can be considered and included when developing a strategy for a smart factory or warehouse.
The smart layers show how the various system elements are interconnected. The layers defined in the model ensure that data collection, linking, processing and utilization are recognized in all processes and all integrated technology solutions.
Demonstrating the framework using an example
The interface between key enablers and interconnected smart layers is shown in the following example, which focuses on implementing automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
In this example, manual in-house transportation with tugger trains and forklifts is replaced by smart AGVs that continuously gather data (smart layer: data source). The transportation execution system (TES) is also a key enabler (flexible software).
Smart infrastructure allows data to be linked and shared between the AGVs and the TES (smart layer: network). 5G Wi-Fi and other communication frequencies enable data processing in real-time (smart layer: processing) and continuous communication with warehouse management or the manufacturing execution system. Using modular IT architecture, this data is then linked with standardized interfaces, objects and centralized data storage.
Future staff – so-called smart workers – will receive the relevant information for process management directly from the system onto their mobile devices (smart layer: application). This enables them to intervene in the system in a targeted way, if necessary. The sixth key enabler, organization model, considers changes in the structure and in the process organization as well as necessary staff qualifications.
This example shows the variety of interfaces and dimensions that are holistically structured, developed and evaluated in 4flow’s framework.
Advantages of a smart warehouse or smart factory
A smart warehouse or factory offers significant cost savings possibilities
- 30 to 40% reduction in inventory costs due to optimized reserve inventories and bullwhip effect avoidance
- 10 to 30% reduction in production costs due to increased overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), flexible staff and the use of smart wearables
- 10 to 30% reduction in supply chain costs due to automation and intelligent management software
- 20 to 30% reduction in maintenance costs due to optimized spare parts inventories, future-oriented maintenance as well as dynamic prioritization
In order to leverage these cost-savings possibilities, however, businesses require a target strategy for digitizing their factory or warehouse. Only this way can the appropriate digitization and technology solutions be selected for each customer’s individual requirements. Together with 4flow, businesses can determine a customized path to a smart warehouse or smart factory.
What 4flow offers:
- Holistic methods for designing a smart warehouse or a smart factory (target strategy, concept and use cases)
- Comprehensive expertise about digitization and automation solutions along the entire process chain
- Development of a customized target strategy based on an end-to-end-approach
- Identification of use cases for the smart warehouse or smart factory
- Quantification of potential and work effort
- Roadmap of all necessary steps to achieve a smart warehouse or smart factory
4flow works together with businesses to move from standalone solutions to a completely autonomous supply chain – the central nervous system of modern value creation – using customized roadmaps and technological strategic targets.
Increasing efficiency & optimizing processes
4flow creates transparency about process costs and system maturity and develops concrete measures for implementation that lead to measurable results from day one.
Warehouse & material flow planning
4flow works together with customers to reach this goal using proven, holistic methods for designing individualized layouts and advice for automation technologies that is independent of vendor interests.