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Intelligent Logistics Management Boosts Efficiency

10/1/2018


Intelligent Logistics Management Boosts Efficiency

For the purpose of effective management, cost reduction and fast delivery, logistics systems should integrate all information, automation and networking into system applications. Advantech provides all products and services needed to provide more transparent and intelligent management systems for the logistics supply chain.

By Sharlene Yu and Pictures from Fotolia
Interview with Van Lin, Director of Advantech iService Business Group.

     Logistics is now a huge business, both mature yet complex. According to a definition from the logistics management association: “Logistics is the physical distribution of objects, whereby it integrates multiple functional activities, including transportation, storage, load and discharge, packaging, distribution, processing and information. And through management processes, it creates value and satisfies the requirements of both customers and society.” Over the whole supply chain, there are many companies capable of providing raw materials, semi and finished products and services, and several operational requirements such as information flow and capital flow, which means logistics has become a multifaceted and complicated business. So, to achieve effective management, cost reduction and fast delivery, it is a necessary to integrate information, automation and networking into logistics, or even develop it further as an intelligent management component through the Internet of Things (IoT).

Vehicles are the Key Carriers

     Van Lin, the Director of Advantech iService Business Group, indicates that it is the most important and basic element of a logistics system to promote efficiency and reduce cost. Intelligent logistics management should make the most of information collected from multiple sources to achieve real-time and effective monitoring. This way, suppliers can provide faster services for customers with lower cost. What’s more, he further points out that, “Vehicles are the key carrier in any logistics system. Ships carry freight into the harbor, cranes are used for unloading containers, trucks are needed for carrying containers to storage, and forklift trucks are used for carrying goods from storage to 18-wheeler semi-trailer rigs for carrying goods between storage and retailers—different cargo points need different kinds of vehicles to carry goods.” 

     Advantech defines logistics as the information and control management systems that cover the whole process. From harbors to storage centers and retail points, Advantech provides a wide range of products and solutions to satisfy all these different application requirements. Van Lin explains that if we want the harbor cargo throughput to run smoothly, the gantry crane should use a rugged and stable vehicle mounted terminal (VMT). We also need a good dispatch and management system for the trucks in the harbor to collect information, such as loading times,harbor schedules, and container and storage locations in order to efficiently transport cargo from the harbor to the customer. After goods are put into storage, we then need to use forklift trucks with RFID and barcode scanners to accurately locate items from storage and pass on to assigned points or trucks for delivery to their final destination.

Rugged Vehicle Mount Systems are Essential 

     Because we need to monitor goods throughout the whole process, logistics systems for all vehicles should be highly stable. Van Lin explained that it is easy to manufacture a personal computer for consumers, but it is very hard to design a reliable vehicle mounted computer because the specifications are very strict. For example, a vehicle mounted computer should take battery endurance, wide temperature ranges, network transmission, shock and vibration, and humidity resistance into consideration. Professional software techniques and advanced hardware designs are needed to provide high-quality vehicle mount computers for these vehicles. Van Lin said that, “General products can only sustain shock and vibration of less than 10G, but the durability of our products can sustain vibrations of up to 20G. And of course, wide-temperature operation is always a basic requirement of Advantech’s products. Plus, all the screens of our touch computers use reinforced glass with high shock resistance. The water and dust proof capabilities of our products are designed according to the requirements of working in storms or other extreme environments.”

Roaming, Indoor Navigation and 3D Positioning

     For large storage facilities of thousands of square meters, Wi-Fi has a fatal shortcoming because it can only provide wireless transmission within 100-200 meters. As a moving forklift truck may frequently move between one hot spot and another, a vehicle mount system on the truck may often lose connection to the network. However, a roaming function provided by Advantech can provide an optimized switch operation to make the system always connect to the network. Likewise, general GPS cannot position a vehicle indoors, but Advantech provides an indoor navigation application for current high-end positioning systems, it can guide forklift trucks in the storage facility to correctly take goods from a rack by RFID and Wi-Fi hot spots. In another aspect of 3D positioning, forklift trucks can move to a stereoscopic rack with the height of several meters to easily find and take a designated pallet or container; storage centers for Heineken and BMW in Germany, and IKEA in Sweden are successful examples. Also, a truck with an Advantech vehicle mounted computer can serve as an autonomous vehicle; the Auto Guided Vehicle (AGV) can move along a designated route after receiving instructions from the system to take goods from a rack and then automatically move to another rack only by different color stripes on the floor without any rails. After all designated goods are taken from the racks, the vehicle will carry these goods to a truck.

One-stop Shopping with Expert Sales Advice

     In addition to all these vehicle mount systems for different types of vehicles, Advantech also provides corresponding rugged tablet computers or handheld devices for equipment that storage management personnel use to perform stocktaking or picking for couriers who send or receive goods. Van Lin stated that, “Regarding logistics storage applications, in addition to computer equipment and network devices, we provide a one-stop shopping service. That is to say, we not only provide our own products, but also provide our best suggestions about wiring, power distribution, software interfaces, network installation and barcode selections depending on the requirements of our customers. Partners in the Advantech ecosystem can also provide support services for the peripheral requirements for our customers.” 

     Van Lin says that Advantech can solve problems that customers do not even know they might have in the future. When thinking about the logic of project assessment in order to replace the old sales model that only introduces the project specifications to customers, Advantech shares professional knowledge accumulated from a large number of successful cases of vehicle mount applications to system integrators to help compensate for their shortcomings. Thus, they can provide better system planning to build advanced logistics systems for their end customers. Finally, we can achieve a win-win-win situation for end customers, system integrators and Advantech.