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f+h Intralogistics 4/2014

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f+h Intralogistics 4/2014

Market and technology

Market and technology China – a market for industrial automation? Li Li, Lothar Schulze As a result of the launched transition from low-income economy to high-tech nation, the aim of the Chinese economy is to advance the degree of industrial automation. This uncovers vast opportunities for manufacturers and integrators of automated material handling systems, considering the degree of competition with national manufacturers drops as a consequence of an increasing degree of automation. However, has the Chinese market already developed a demand for automated material handling systems or are logistics automation and integration providers a step ahead in offering such systems? Prof. Dr.-Ing. Li Li, PhD, specialized in technical logistics, Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences/Germany Prof. Dr.-Ing. Lothar Schulze is head of the specialist department responsible for planning and controlling warehousing as well as transport systems (PSLT) at the Leibniz University of Hanover/Germany Companies in China have been facing continuously increasing labor costs for years. As a result, the gross wages have increased by an average of more than ten percent over the past ten years. The minimum wage (as specified by the government) has increased even more. In 2013 alone, the average rise across all Chinese provinces amounted to 18 percent. This development is double the blow on companies as the minimum wage is also used as a component to calculate the ancillary wage costs. However, a significant lack of well trained workers in production and a high degree of employee fluctuation are characterizing for China‘s industrial hubs. The lack in employer loyalty often poses unforeseen problems to employers and frequently, European companies with facilities in China are rudely reminded of this lack of loyalty among their workforce. It is not always possible to provide planning safety for production and logistics. 12 f+h Intralogistics 4/2014

Market and technology Simultaneously, a large part of the Chinese population has become wealthier. As a result, the young, Chinese population is often no longer prepared to work in physically challenging workplaces. Consequently, cheap labor is no longer the central argument in favor of China. China is coming under increasing pressure by competition from low-income economies. Many companies that previously manufactured labor-intensive, simple products in China are now moving on to the new lowincome economies, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines or Vietnam. In the medium term, the cheap labor model will become outdated. In China, the transition from mass producing simple products to manufacturing challenging products is in full flow. Reproducible qualities must be achieved while maintaining a high level of productivity. The former low-income economy is on the way to becoming a high-income company, regardless of the resulting consequences for companies. The country and its companies must now face these challenges. One way of maintaining China‘s competitive status is for companies to do everything possible and drive forward industrial automation and the use of robotics. Transition with automation The questions raised by the required transitions have many different answers. One basic method is to automate physical processes, i. e. also production and logistics processes. Certain requirements must be met to successfully implement automation processes. An important precondition is to provide a sufficient number of specialist personnel and sustainably safeguard the equipment is ready for operation. Comprehensive training for all involved employees goes hand in hand with automation processes. They must understand the processes and the automation concepts to exclude faults caused by incorrect operator behavior. Discipline, order, and cleanliness are the cornerstones of modern, automated plant and intralogistics systems. This also includes adhering to simple arrangement principles, such as the ban on placing loading units on pathways, in front of gates, or fire alarms. Technical faults cannot be completely excluded, not even in automated systems. Fast and sustainable troubleshooting is required About PSLT The Department Planning and Controlling of Warehouse and Transport Systems (PSLT) at Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University of Hanover/Germany is dedicated to academic as well as practically oriented research. In this process, specialist personnel collaborates closely with the University of Applied Sciences Ostwestfalen/Lippe/ Germany as well as with partners from industry, trade, and the service sector. Planning and optimizing material flow and logistics systems lie at the core of the department. to make ample use of systems. Preventative and correct maintenance as per machine manufacturer specifications is paramount. This is the only way of ensuring a sustainable and high degree of plant availability. Automation is aimed at reducing costs and increasing performance. Tasks that humans had previously done are now taken over by machines. Costs not only include the original manufacturing costs, but also costs caused by waste and damage to buildings and machine infrastructure. Additionally, automation contributes to cutting labor-related stress on employees and it reduces accident risks. Automation represents a giant leap on the way to creating „plants without industrial trucks“, an objective the automotive industry has declared a strategic goal. Perfectly planned and implemented process automation is crucial in preventing any kind of waste and providing process data to allow to draw conclusions on the use of resources. Requirements for successful automation Successful automation is based on a closed, detailed, and fully developed concept. In this process, all client interests must be reflected in the tender. As a rule, automation concepts affect several specialist disciplines. Engineering, electrical engineering, control technology, and IT must work hand in hand. Any interfaces to other structures and operators must have been fully developed. The safety concept is paramount. Preventative measures must be taken to exclude the risk of injury or material damage. Additionally, we recommend companies request redundancy concepts from their suppliers. Events and conditions must be defined for which suppliers must specify methods to safeguard system operation (if applicable at a lower output rate) in the event of a lack of certain elements. The scope of automation and level of shared information must be defined in concepts. In this process, not only the technical options are essential, the potentially available degree of workforce experience and expertise is also vital. In most cases, the simplest requirements are the hardest to implement. This also applies to logistics. Any in-house or externally supplied pallets or containers must be suitable for automation. They must comply with certain tolerance limits and must not show any damage which could impair their functionality. It is vital to comply with the overhang tolerance limits with regard to loaded pallets. In any other case, the automated system will discharge an excessive amount of „not OK“ loading units which will then require a particular level of attention. 01 Robots in automatic production

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