USE robots where it makes sense and people to do higher-value tasks. That’s the philosophy behind the design of the entire logistics flow of ICM, a Scandinavian supplier of personal protective and technical equipment and work environment solutions.
RARUK Automation confirmed ICM shares this aim with many users of its MiR autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) in the UK and Ireland too.
The ICM high-tech warehouse, with its myriad of pallet transport operations running from 07:00-22:00 hours, is located in Odense in Denmark. Every year, tonnes of goods arrive at the logistics centre on a total of 31,000 pallets and ICM staff manage 100,000 orders, most of which are next-day deliveries. Space is limited, customers are impatient and competition is fierce. This means that time, personnel and space must be utilised optimally.
Thanks to an investment in three MiR1000 AMR robots, RARUK explained that three employees now save several hours each on daily activities. They no longer have to spend time manually moving pallets from a stacker to the aisles in the high-rise warehouse. Instead, they can place the pallets on special MiR racks, from which the AMRs collect the pallets and transport them to the aisles inside the high-rise warehouse. The MiR robots leave the pallets at the end of the aisles to be collected by high-reach trucks that place them in the relevant racks.
Jesper Lorenzen, warehouse assistant and responsible for goods reception at ICM A/S said, “The high-reach truck operators automatically report when they have taken a pallet from a rack, so I can just press a button on the tablet screen and send one more MiR robot on a mission. This way the robots ensure the high-reach trucks are always supplied with pallets.”
Using a map on a tablet in the truck, the truck operators can see at all times where the small robots are, and the AMRs make themselves noticeable using audio signals and lights in the busiest areas. This means there is a close collaboration between the trucks and the AMRs and in a company with constant internal traffic, communication between vehicles is vital to avoid different machines blocking each other’s path.
ICM has made a dedicated route for the AMRs, freeing space for other traffic in the logistics centre. Previously, space was cramped because of the many operations with manual stackers on the main traffic routes, which have now been replaced by the MiR robots. MiR’s fleet management software, MiR Fleet, also ensures tasks are optimally distributed between the AMRs, so it is the robot that can carry out the task in the shortest time chosen. It also makes sure that the three MiR1000 automatically move to a charging station and charge up between tasks, so downtime is optimised. RARUK added that, overall, the AMRs have saved approximately 40 hours a week at ICM.
Assessing, handling and prioritising the pallets and the contents is a complicated task that requires insight and experience because many parameters must be taken into consideration. Therefore, these tasks must be solved by people.
Jesper Lorenzen added, “The robots have saved time, which we can now use to optimise the warehouse and fine-tune flow. We have become used to the new technology and have learned to work in a completely different way. The more we apply it, the more time we save through automation using AMRs.”
Logistics at the high-rise warehouse are now said to be proceeding smoothly, using a modern mix of employees, AMRs and trucks. ICM’s setup consists of three AMRs, four manned high-reach trucks, 10 manual stackers and 26 employees.
Warehouse manager Brian Brandt said the AMRs have not only increased efficiency, they have also improved the working environment.
“It’s just so much fun working with AMRs,” he said. “Being able to move something from A to B without even touching it, that’s really cool. The design of the MiR robots is so simple and user-friendly that I could take a new colleague in from off the street, and they would also think they’re logical to use.”
Søren Jepsen, supply chain director at ICM A/S, explained that devising the optimal workflow for the entire flow of traffic and transport of goods in the logistics centre has been a learning process.
“Our warehouse uses the chaotic storage principle, managed by a warehouse management system. We must be geared to be able to drop everything in order to be able to deliver within 24 hours to our customers in Denmark. This means it’s about using our resources shrewdly. We’re investing in new technology in order to safeguard our staff and to attract new, talented people.”
At ICM, the management sees potential in automating more processes. Right now, it is the flow from the goods receiving area to the storage aisles but, in the long term, ICM will also automate transport from picking to the delivery of goods and get even more benefit from the robots.
See the AMRs in action here: https://youtu.be/FiuuodDh2Ig