The Future is
being made here
The application centre serves as a demonstration area for new technologies that support the cooperation between humans and technologies. The material flow typically found in a manufacturing company is depicted on site. The use of digital technologies can thus be experienced in an operational context. Five showcases – trade, maintenance, production logistics, transport and virtual training – illustrate specific application examples.
01 | Showcase
The new MotionMining process offers companies the opportunity to analyze and optimize manual work processes in the warehouse, for example when processing shipping orders. The shelf demonstrator in the application centre of the Innovationlab demonstrates how an employee’s movements are recorded automatically and anonymously when goods and articles are removed from a shelf. This process is made possible by mobile sensors, wearables and small radio transmitters known as beacons. The data is then evaluated by means of machine learning algorithms. – MotionMiners is a spin-off from Fraunhofer IML.
Autonomous drones for stocktaking
The doks.innovation drones, which are equipped with intelligent technology, can view areas from the air, particularly in high-bay facilities, and record stock precisely. The flying robots become an »artificial head«: cameras provide data on the optical condition of goods, and sensors measure the temperature or even scents. In the application centre at the Innovationlab, a drone can be observed as it flies through a warehouse alley. – The company doks.innovation is a spin-off from Fraunhofer IML.
Rolling transport drone
The »Bin:Go« drone is used to transport small, lightweight goods within companies – such as medicines in hospitals or small parts in factories. The ball drone is much more energy-efficient than pure flying drones because it only flies when it has to. Otherwise, it moves over floor-mounted rollers. Thanks to the protective housing with surrounding struts and internal rotors, »Bin:Go« can work safely with people in the same area. In the application centre at the Innovationlab you can see the prototype and experience a test flight on video. – »Bin:Go« is a development by Fraunhofer IML.
AR-based inventory in the retail trade
Daily stock control in the food retail trade is still a costly yet compulsory task today. With the smart combination of data glasses and scanner glove, employees can perform this work both faster and more ergonomically. An interface program enables glasses and gloves to communicate with each other and – more importantly – with the retailer’s ERP system. – The system was developed in a transfer project at the Innovationlab.
The innovative ergonomic workplace actively supports the employee at work and adapts to the respective work situation. It is used in the warehouse for goods in and goods out, articles being packed in cardboard boxes. – The solution was developed in a transfer project at the Innovationlab.
500 million Euro-pallets are circulating worldwide, more than 3 billion parcels are sent every year in Germany alone. The more parcels fit into a cardboard box and the more cardboard boxes fit onto a pallet, the more economical and ecological is the transport. The demonstrator in the application centre shows how Augmented Reality (AR) can help. – AR-supported palletizing is a development by Fraunhofer IML.
Digital packaging assistant
The more heterogeneous the articles are that have to be packed in a cardboard box, the more complex the task is: the digital packaging assistant »PAsst« intuitively guides the employee through the packaging process with an LED-based position display. – »PAsst« is a development by Fraunhofer IML.
Picking robot »TORU«
The autonomous picking robot »TORU« is designed to pick individual rectangular objects – such as shoeboxes or books – in e-commerce dispatch warehouses. Conventional picking robots can usually only pick up complete load carriers such as pallets or crates automatically. However, »TORU« has intelligent object recognition, can accurately pick up a cardboard box – no matter where it is located – and overcome obstacles independently on its own. How the picking robot moves in the warehouse can be seen in the application centre at the Innovationlab.
Container stacker »SAM«
With the Stack Access Machine (SAM), individual containers can be removed fully automatically from piled stacks. The highlight is the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) that builds its own warehouse from the containers by stacking them directly on top of each other on the floor of the warehouse. Less is more: a permanent infrastructure that includes racks for the containers and rails for the service vehicle becomes redundant because of »SAM«. – »SAM« was developed by Fraunhofer IML.
Climbing shuttle »Rackracer«
Moving away from heavy and rigid storage equipment towards small, multifunctional vehicles: The climbing shuttle »RackRacer« moves independently horizontally and diagonally in the rack – without a lift or additional rails. So-called caterpillar elements, which are supported on individual support points in the rack, make it possible. – The »RackRacer« was developed by Fraunhofer IML.
Autonomous transport vehicle »FLIP®«
Thanks to its grasshopper legs, the »Flexible Lifter for Intralogistics and Production«, FLIP, can pick up containers and stacks of containers directly from the ground in the warehouse. With this slim driverless transport vehicle – currently a prototype – items can be transported within the warehouse or between production and the warehouse even in particularly confined and tight spaces. – The »Flexible Lifter for Intralogistics and Production«, FLIP, is a development by Fraunhofer IML.
EXOSKELETON FOR MANUAL LOAD HANDLING
Exoskeletons are mechanical supporting structures which people wear on their body and which support them physically when they are lifting and carrying heavy loads. In the application centre at the Innovation Laboratory, visitors can put on one of these supportive systems and carry out a palletizing task. – The Innovation Laboratory is carrying out a variety of studies with exoskeletons.
AUTOMATIC WAREHOUSE MONITORING
The (lack of) transparency in warehouses is a major challenge for small and medium-sized companies. Today, the swarm system – short for smart warehouse modules – helps to monitor the warehouse permanently. For this purpose, smart camera modules are attached to existing shelving systems by means of magnets. Each movement and each occupancy in the warehouse can be registered almost in real time. – swarm is a development of Fraunhofer IML and a next step towards the »intelligent shelf«, the next major development of the Innovation Laboratory.
DIGITAL ASSISTANT FOR LOAD SECURING
Load securing, especially of heavy loads, is one of the most responsible tasks of employees in port logistics. Support is provided by a digital assistant for load securing. AR HoloLens informs employees how to properly secure steel coils weighing several tons in a freight container, for example. – The solution was developed at Fraunhofer IML within the research project »InnoPortAR« of the Federal Ministry of Transport.
AI-BASED DOCUMENT CLASSIFICATION
Today, documents such as orders, order confirmation and invoices can be easily digitized by Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The solution »DOKLASS« now makes the classification of documents even more efficient by means of artificial intelligence. This example shows how small and medium-sized companies in particular can benefit from artificial intelligence. – »DOKLASS« was developed as part of »Digital in NRW«.
02 | Showcase
Malfunctions in roller or belt conveyor systems can not only paralyze the entire operation in the warehouse but can also have drastic effects on downstream transport. So-called assistance systems can help warehouse staff solve maintenance tasks and fix machine malfunctions without the need for an external expert. – The solution is part of the Maintenance showcase at the Innovationlab application centre.
Predictive Maintenance is a contribution to the profitability in companies. Intelligent systems recognize faults in machines before they actually occur. By means of a model, the researchers in the application center of the Innovation Laboratory illustrate essential processes in the strategic maintenance and involve the observer in the decision-making process. – Predictive Maintenance is a component of the showcase »Maintenance« in the application center of the Innovation Laboratory.
SMART MANAGEMENT OF HOSPITAL BEDS
Today, nursing personnel, medical engineers and cleaning staff still have to agree on the cleaning and preparation of hospital beds, in a time-consuming manner via telephone or e-mail. With the new Smart Bed, these processes can be made significantly more efficient. A smart label digitally supports processes in control, maintenance and cleaning. As a result, a new human-technology interaction develops between the people involved in the process and the hospital bed in line with the Industry 4.0 principles. –Smart Bed is a development from the eponymous transfer project of the Innovation Laboratory.
03 | Showcase
The demands of work for employees in assembly are increasing due to the large number of product variants manufactured today: employees no longer have to take just two or three instructions into account, but dozens. However, support from a camera assistance system makes it easier for the employee to manufacture customer-specific products or to process complex series. – The assistance system was developed by Fraunhofer IML.
Collaborative Gripper Arm
The automated production of individual pieces – with the so-called »batch size 1« – is a major challenge for industry today. The application centre at the Innovationlab shows how intelligent technologies can make production more efficient and flexible, for example by using the collaborative »Saywer« gripper arm. Industrial robots that work together with humans are gaining ground in logistics, but »Saywer« has a special feature: it can be configured by humans without time-consuming programming. – The solution is part of the »Assembly« showcase in the application center at the Innovationlab.
04 | Showcase
Dynamic dispatching and scheduling with Smart Devices
Digital technologies help to deliver substantial optimization potential when transporting goods. The advantages of dynamic dispatching, which can adapt to the actual conditions, are playfully illustrated in miniature in the Innovationlab’s application centre. This shows that communication between both the manufacturer and the logistics centre with the truck driver is particularly significant when it comes to dynamic dispatching. – The solution is part of the »Transport« showcase in the Innovationlab’s application centre.
Supplier-neutral pick-up rack
Nowadays, every fifth German citizen does online shopping several times a week. The idea behind the vendor-neutral pick-up shelf is that parcels from different parcel service providers can be deposited here. This means that a recipient of several parcels only has to go to one location to pick up what they have ordered. The prototype of this shelf is a successful example of interaction between humans and technology. – The solution was developed within the Innovationlab’s Talent Workshop for Students.
DECISION SUPPORT FOR THE ACCEPTANCE OF LAST MILE CONCEPTS
The last mile determines the profitability of the entire logistics chain. Delivering smaller quantities of goods is cost-intensive and leads to a worsening of the traffic situation and environmental pollution. Based on the projection of a virtual urban area with a small puck and interactive control panels, the demonstrator in the application center makes it possible to test various delivery scenarios on the last mile that are well-acceptable for cities and to reproduce logistical difficulties and effects in a playful manner.
05 | Showcase
VR-based employee training in the warehouse
Nowadays, logistics centres have to react flexibly to changes in the market, products and new services. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to provide employees with the knowledge they need quickly and without disrupting daily operations. This is made possible by means of employee training using virtual reality (VR). Such a learning environment in virtual reality is part of the training, continuing education and planning space for logisticians in the Innovationlab’s application centre. – The software is a development by Fraunhofer IML.
06 | Social
CHATBOT-SUPPORTED HUMAN -TECHNOLOGY INTERACTION
Human language instead of programming language: the Social Networked Industry Bot enables natural communication between people and technology. Using the software-based dialogue system, employees can chat with intelligent vehicles or load carriers and query their whereabouts or status messages. The objects report back via smart devices and can no longer be distinguished from people in their communication behavior. – The Social Networked Industry Bot is a development of the Innovation Laboratory.