For many airline passengers, a visit to a duty-free store is an integral part of their trip. And here they can expect to find shelves filled with spirits, cosmetics or confectionery. To achieve this, the flow of goods must function smoothly. This is a particular challenge for operators, because every logistics concept in the security area of an airport must comply with strict regulations.
First automated guided vehicle system at an airport
For the efficient supply of goods, the operators need an automated solution and decided to introduce the world's first automated guided vehicle system at an airport in the duty free area. Gebr. Heinemann commissioned ek robotics GmbH from Rosengarten near Hamburg with the implementation. With 60 years of experience, the company specializes in automated material flow and storage systems and is the world's leading manufacturer and system integrator of automated guided vehicles (AGVs). The experts at ek robotics develop intelligent and efficient solutions with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that are individually designed to meet customer requirements.
Ronald Kretschmer, CSO at ek robotics, describes the special challenges of this project: "At Oslo Airport, the pallets have to cover a distance by elevators over several floors and through long narrow corridors. This takes place in different security areas of the airport. So it must be ensured that the goods cannot be tampered with while being transported by the AGV." To work out the ideal transport concept and determine the optimum number of transport robots, Gebr. Heinemann commissioned the AGV specialist to carry out a 3D simulation. In this process, a model of the premises is created in which the process flows are represented and played through in different variants in order to arrive at the best solution. In this way, unexpected challenges, planning risks or bottlenecks can be identified at an early stage. In this way, the automatic transport system could be tailored precisely to the spatial conditions and maximum productivity.
Innovative sensor light grid protects goods
On the basis of the simulation created in advance, those responsible decided on the required number of automated guided vehicles, which transport the flow of goods automatically and as needed to the departure area on the route worked out by ek robotics. For this purpose, the specialist from Rosengarten automated series industrial trucks from well-known manufacturers. These were supplemented by laterally mounted traverses and equipped with a system for automated control by laser navigation. The goods are transported on pallets from the goods receiving area of the airport to the drop-off points. To pick up the pallets, sensors transmit a signal to the vehicles, which automatically make their way to the stores with the desired products. The transport control system from ek robotics maintains constant contact with the vehicles at every point along the route. A unique feature is the safety system with which the AGVs (Automated Guides Vehicles) have been equipped. "The pallets that the transport robots move are protected by an innovative sensor solution. This spans a light grid around the goods and immediately detects any access during transport through the supply aisles. In this case, a message is sent and the transport robot moves to a checkpoint so that security staff can initiate the necessary measures," explains Ronald Kretschmer.
Customized service plan, short response time
Another component of the project was a customized service concept that guarantees duty free store operators short response times in the event of service, including rapid supply of spare and wear parts. Via the hotline, the AGV market leader is available to the user from Oslo around the clock, seven days a week. If necessary, the specialists from Rosengarten are first called in via remote maintenance and decide whether they can help via remote solution or whether a service technician is required on site. For this, ek robotics uses a local partner who is on site within two to a maximum of four hours, depending on the time of day, to provide relief. "It paid off that we involved and qualified this partner in the project at a very early stage. Initial use cases prove that our functional chain. In the event of service, it functions smoothly in coordination with the customer and the local partner," confirms Marco Bemmlotte, CCO at ek robotics.
As they look back, Ronald Kretschmer and Marco Bemmlotte agree that the cooperative partnership between the various partners made a significant contribution to the success of the challenging transport robotics project. Client Marco Rebohm, former Director Global Logistics at Gebr. Heinemann, also draws a positive conclusion: "The AGV, which we developed together with our project partner ek robotics under integrated consideration of all relevant processes and requirements, ensures efficient and reliable transports in a structurally very restrictive and highly dynamic environment. At the same time, it ensures the tamper-proof transport of goods in the security area required by law through innovative scanner technology."
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