Imagine the following scenario: You order urgently needed goods, the arrival of which the supplier promises you in a few hours. In fact, your parcel goes on its journey immediately. But what happens? Although the van is ready for use and loaded, it remains stuck on the usual route in the evening commuter traffic. He reaches the distribution centre near you just in time, but it is understaffed due to illness. Capacity and time pressure prevail on site. Much too late your parcel lands in the local postal transport and arrives at you by messenger – but unfortunately only on the next day instead of a few hours later.
Imagine a different scenario now: Your parcel goes on its journey immediately. The delivery van reaches the distribution centre quickly and easily, despite the high volume of traffic. A smart data system has anticipated mobility bottlenecks and calculated an optimal route. The delivery van moves autonomously in a coordinated traffic order, which also steers other vehicles trouble-free. Arriving at the distribution centre, your parcel is forwarded immediately. Automated processes cushion the effects of understaffing. Finally, a drone makes its way to you and delivers the required parcel – just two hours after ordering, as promised.
New concepts for the urban future
It is obvious: scenario two is far more efficient than scenario one. And it is likely to become reality soon. Because logistics companies are already working intensively on it. Not just out of a thirst for research, but also out of necessity in view of social megatrends. What is meant here is increasing urbanization, the densification of already overcrowded cities, and at the same time increasing end customer demands for maximum mobility and flexibility. This expectation demands performance improvements across the entire supply chain. Accordingly, city logistics is in a state of upheaval. Christian Baur, CEO of Swisslog Logistics Automation: “Intelligent concepts and technologies in terms of mobility, networking, big and smart data are needed to enable the further development of cities into smart cities”.
Intelligent mobility through smart networking
The future belongs to autonomously operating, intelligently networked systems. They make cities “smart”, future-proof and worth living in. Multifunctional hardware is combined with sophisticated software and above all provides one thing: route optimisation. On the road and in the warehouse. The basis is provided everywhere by analysed and skilfully configured, useful data. With them, mobility enters a new age. Into an age in which traffic is synchronized smoothly, in which autonomous vehicles can reach their destination autonomously, in which drones can travel the last mile without barriers, and in which robots play an increasingly important role.
Relieving for a better quality of life
Is this a development that we as humans must be afraid of? Will the robot replace us in the future? No. The idea is completely different: Digital, machine-supported services are there to help people, to relieve them and to provide them with a better quality of life. “Smart Cities” should at best become congestion-free and quieter than today, yet still offer an attractive range of work, culture, education and consumption. Admittedly, this goal is ambitious, but therefore not unattainable. Already today there are many clever concepts that go in the right direction. These include e-mobility and free floating car sharing, to name just two approaches: “DriveNow” from BMW and “car2go” from Daimler are examples of individual transport “without a car”. Here it is possible to rent freely parked vehicles in the city area if required and every minute.
Forward-looking and flexible
In the area of production and warehouse logistics – we remember the distribution center where your important package was handled – digitization is “smart” when it “anticipates” events and acts accordingly: Why not proactively produce more umbrellas when the weather forecast announces a precipitation period? Why not automate heavy and stupid work in order to give the logistics employee “brainpower” to perform health-saving tasks. “ACPaQ“, “Automated Case Packing” and “ItemPiQ” for individual item picking are fully automated solutions from the Swisslog portfolio, in which robots can load mixed pallets or order-related add-ons: around the clock, 365 days a year and practically error-free. Intelligent software such as “SynQ” from Swisslog works in the background of a smart intralogistics process, controlling material flows according to requirements, seamlessly monitoring systems and providing important information for maintenance and repair. All under the sign of speed, safety, economy and comfort.
Great challenges and even greater opportunities
Smart Cities are breathing structures full of dynamism and experimentation. They represent a major challenge for logistics companies, but offer even greater opportunities. Innovative spirit is encouraged, as is the willingness to network and cooperate. Contemporary and future transport systems can complement each other perfectly. Modern traffic management concepts and effective load optimisations conserve resources, save costs and space. Intelligent warehouses hold goods ready in real time. They exist as a large distribution centre in the periphery as well as a small depot in the centre. Sustainable logistics for cities worth living in.
Source header picture: iStock/Wenjie Dong