VIL aims to make warehouse-to-production supply chains more efficient

27/09/2022 — minutes reading time
Copyright Mobile Industrial Robots

The supply of materials from warehouse to production facilities is a very common problem-area in the manufacturing industry. This is most certainly the case in production environments involving small volumes and a large degree of variation. Through its FlexIn²Log project, VIL aims to make that supply chain both more flexible and more efficient, with the primary focus on digitising data streams and stock management as well as on autonomous mobile robots.

'In the manufacturing industry, we have noted an increase in the demand for customer-specific manufacturing and smaller series with shorter lead times,' said Dirk Jocquet, FlexIn²Log project leader. 'This has proved to be a challenge, especially for small and medium sized enterprises. Solutions are mostly sought through improving production itself and not in making the supply chain leading to the production facilities more efficient and flexible – warehouse structures and internal logistics are often treated as a poor relation, while that is exactly where the most gains in efficiency can be achieved.'

In practice, it is very common for a production worker to go to the warehouse in person in order to retrieve the required materials, and they could easily take excessive materials – maybe even a week's supply – so that they do not have to repeat the journey constantly. That surplus stock can have a negative impact on the production environment.

The FlexIn²Log project is consequently aimed at digitising stock management in the warehouse and the logistical flow of goods between the warehouse and production facilities, and also at automating internal transport for carrying stock to the factory floor.

Three proofs of concept and one toolbox

These aims will culminate in two proofs of concept (POCs), one involving the digitisation of order picking in relation to production and the other involving the digitisation of production-warehouse data exchange. Then there will be a third POC for automating transport between the warehouse and manufacturing using AMRs (autonomous mobile robots).

VIL will also work together with the participants to create a toolbox that will allow for companies to evolve from the current scenario to the future intended outcome, which will help manufacturing companies to determine their ROI, the dos and don'ts, how tasks must be distributed between the operators and the AMRs, and any other matters.

The need is great

The record number of participating companies provides ample evidence that the need for such a project in the manufacturing industry is great, with no less than 33 manufacturing companies, logistics partners and IT companies already signed up. 'FlexIn²Log kicked off on 22 September but companies are still welcome to join,' said Jocquet. 'That includes logistics providers, AMR suppliers, creators of warehouse management system applications as well as ERP and other business management tools and warehouse automation integrators.'

The two-year project will be undertaken by the VIL team, together with Sirris, the platform for the Belgian technology industry, for the AMR integration aspect, with backing from the Flemish public body, Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO).

If you would like to be a part of the FlexIn²Log project, then please contact Dirk Jocquet at dirk.jocquet@vil.be