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By adding a sensor, a load carrier can become an intelligent asset that has the ability to produce data. There are several sensor technologies available but more important than the technology are the benefits that can be unlocked.
Asset management The single greatest benefit from intelligent load carriers is improved fleet management – making sure the units are in the right place at the right time. By using the right technology, manual counting is no longer necessary, and an up-to-date picture of load carrier locations and quantities can be generated. Ad hoc transportation of empty units is minimized, cycle time is improved and asset losses are minimized. Adding intelligence also improves the ROI for load carriers.
Improved sorting efficiency More sophisticated solutions can be built on the asset management foundation to further improve process efficiency. Sorting management and optimization is a key factor for all parcel operators. While parcel volumes are increasing, operators are forced to invent ways to maximize the use of existing sorting capacity or consider investing in new equipment.
Existing capacity is often used for two purposes: creating directional loads and collecting tracking data. If part of the capacity is used only to create tracking events, capacity could be freed up to create directional loads using intelligent load carriers. Parcels are linked ‘logically’ to intelligent load carriers, which can be tracked and traced almost in real time through the entire parcel network. At a cost of just a few cents per parcel, tracking events are automatically generated without affecting sorting capacity or needing manual labor. Investment in intelligent load carriers can reduce the need to invest in new sorting capacity, or at least delay it.
Better and faster customer service Accurate tracking data and alerts when mistakes happen improve customer service and the customer experience. Customers can be proactively contacted if delivery problems occur. This proactive approach saves money compared with the normal situation where the customer is the initiator. Detecting missorts through intelligent load carriers is more effective than dealing with mistakes one by one.
Optimizing transportation When tracking intelligent load carriers is extended into transportation vehicles, the efficiency of transportation can be further improved. The exact number and identity of all load carriers and parcels on a vehicle is known. Comparison between the theoretical load capacity and real load reveals true transportation efficiency. Even small improvements in transportation efficiency equals massive savings.
Future-proof solutions Processes, procedures and businesses can be developed and improved using accurate information and data. Typically, data has mainly been collected from a limited number of processes where parcels and load carriers have been identified manually or by automation. Intelligent load carriers extend data collection to the entire process, generating much richer data that can be analyzed and turned into efficiency improvements and shorter throughput times and can prevent process errors. Data collected today can also be used to identify improvements for the future.
Flexible automation will become more widely used in the future. Integration between automation and humans will become essential. Intelligent load carriers will bridge the gap between AGVs and other flexible automation solutions that do not require fixed structures.
To summarize, investment in intelligent load carriers will easily be paid back by better asset management and much greater process efficiency. At the same time, a foundation is created for better customer service and more optimized transportation.