Track material flow and improve OEE by 20 percent

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5 minutes Reading time
5 minutes Reading time

An IoT solution for intralogistics uses ultrawideband radio to locate materials and components. This makes it transparent where the desired material is located or what its delivery status is. More efficient logistics production processes are the result.

The challenge: Logistics processes are not very transparent, system breaks bring goods out of sight

At sensor specialist SICK, some production facilities are located at sites other than the production warehouse. The challenge: Employees in production cannot always transparently track where the desired material is or what its delivery status is. This lack of transparency in the procurement process has risks. Production processes are closely timed, so missing materials and components can easily lead to a production stop.

Production and intralogistics personnel need to know where parts are currently located and when they will arrive at the right place. To do this, it previously had to look on site to obtain the relevant information. The transparency of these processes was very low and the manual work resulted in higher personnel requirements and higher costs. Transparency is therefore a crucial prerequisite for increasing the efficiency and productivity of logistics and production processes.

This requires avoiding system breaks where objects leave a fixed assembly line or stationary conveyor belt. The onward transport takes place, for example, with industrial trucks. As a result, these objects are now “out of sight”, because there is no identification and localization on the way through internal halls and corridors. Transponder-based real-time localization fixes this lack of information.

The solution: Seamless tracking & tracing of materials between storage and production locations in real time

Sick has developed the SmaRTLog solution for this purpose. The localization system is suitable for industrial applications in partially automated and non-automated areas. The structured solution enables seamless tracking & tracing of materials between storage and production locations in real time.

Uniform localization with Ultrawideband

The technological basis for the radio-based tracking solution is the LOCU system from SICK. It uses the particularly robust local radio technology Ultrawideband (UWB). It specializes in near-range communication in the frequency band of 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz. It comes with a very high transmission rate and its sensing range can reach 20 to 50 meters.

Any asset with an applied LOCU tag can be detected by LOCU receiver antennas. The asset is uniquely identified, and localized with a localization accuracy of less than one meter. This is done in real time with up to 1,000 updates per second. The location and when, for example, industrial trucks, transport equipment and goods will arrive, can be tracked by LOCU with pinpoint accuracy and in real time.

The system is technology independent. On the hardware side, it enables the use of devices from different manufacturers. On the software side, the joint connection of technologies such as RFID, 5G or GPS is possible. As an overarching standard, omlox forms an ecosystem of open software and hardware.

Merge and evaluate localization data

The data from LOCU and, if required, other sensors, cameras, and identification technologies can be further processed in the Asset Analytics visualization and analysis platform from SICK. This platform clearly displays and analyzes position, status and other sensor data in real time.

For example, asset analytics enables the display of movement profiles, an analysis of transport and idle times, and the derivation of optimization potential in the logistics process. In addition, custom event management can be set up in this analysis tool. This can be used, for example, to automate booking processes in an enterprise resource planning system.

Connection to SAP Logistics Business Network

The global track & trace option for the SAP Logistics Business Network connects the localization system with a cross-system solution, creating an overall process overview with multiple process milestones. A dashboard monitors the status of all relevant picking orders, and the signals for goods receipt (GR) and goods issue (GI) are triggered automatically.

When the asset travels through the defined storage spaces, events are detected by the Tag LOC system and sent to the SAP Logistics Business Network to update the status in real time. When an asset is loaded onto the truck at the storage location or arrives at the production location, the system automatically triggers updates for goods issue and goods receipt.

The result: An integrated solution that increases overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by up to 20%.

SmaRTLog acts as a digital twin, combining SICK’s hardware and software with the data from the SAP system to create an integrated, scalable solution. With the solution, SICK was able to reduce the overall throughput time by 20 percent. This resulted in a 66 percent reduction in search times for missing materials – from 45 to 15 minutes.

One of the reasons for this was that the manual search effort for employees in logistics and production was reduced. In addition, manual bookings and scanning of inventory or production lines are no longer necessary. The data appears on intuitive dashboards so that employees can more quickly identify optimization potential in the process.

Fast and easy access to details about production processes also simplifies audits. The company achieves a higher quality standard, as defective materials are easily found and do not reach the next production step. SICK was able to save considerable process costs with the solution. The overall plant effect increased by ten to 20 percent after the solution was introduced.

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