Elettric 80’s focus on the end of the line
The end of the line is usually thought of as a bad thing. At Elettric 80 Inc., the US arm of the Italian materials handling solution provider, its the focus of new materials handling solutions.
One of the most important trends I see these days in the materials handling industry is the move from products to solutions. Ten years ago, when I interviewed a warehouse manager or a systems integrator about a new project, they talked about the nuts and bolts of the equipment. Conveyor speeds, the throughput of a sortation system, the moves per hour of an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) or an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). It was much like talking to a car salesman about the horsepower and transmission in a new car.
I don’t know about you, but the last time I bought a new car I didn’t even bother to look under the hood. I’m not a mechanic. I took it for a test drive to see whether it had enough pickup on the hilly roads around where I live in New Hampshire. Horsepower, torque. I could care less.
Ditto materials handling systems. Today, warehouse managers and systems integrators tell me about what was going on in their business and how their new materials handling system solved their problems and is meeting their business needs. They’ve moved from a focus on the product to a focus on the solution.
That was driven home to me the other day during a conversation with Darrin Peuterbaugh, national account manager here in the US for Elettric 80 Inc.. “Technology today is like the engine in your car: you assume you have one,” says Peuterbaugh. “What’s important is the knowledge base of how to apply the technology, match it to a customer’s appliction, integrate it and then implement it as a solution.”
Prior to the conversation, I knew Elettric 80 as a provider of automatic guided vehicles. In fact, we are featuring an AGV installation they did for Del Monte in October. What I learned from Peuterbaugh is that the company’s heritage is in controls, software and robotic palletizing for European food, beverage, tissue and consumer packaged goods manufacturers. The focus was end of the line logistics – what happens to a case or package at the end of the manufacturing process. That’s different from most US-based providers of AGVs that cut their teeth in the automotive industry.
“We were founded in 1980 to supply controls and software and that was our history for the first ten years,” Peuterbaugh says. “We got into robotic integration, focusing on packaging and palletizing in consumer goods facilities because our customers asked for it. That was our focus for nearly 20 years.”
The company’s line of AGVs was developed out of a similar need. Elettric 80 developed a concept for end-of-the-line materials handling it calls Freeway. The idea was to create an automated robotic palletizing and stretch wrap solution closely coupled to the packaging line, but with minimal conveyor: AGVs transport pallets from the palletizer to the stretch wrapper and to the shipping dock. Software tracks the loads and links back to a warehouse control system. The combination of hardware and software create a solution.
Elettric 80 is leveraging its vertical experience to tailor the solution to consumer goods manufacturers. “Our vehicles were developed around the pallet platform, either a CHEP Euro pallet or a CHEP 48 x 40 platform,” says Peuterbaugh. “From an operational side, we’ve developed controls and recognition components around the needs and variability of the loads in the CPG industry. And, we’ve developed interfaces to the leading WMS and ERP providers in those industries, like SAP, RedPrairie and Manhattan.”
The next step: In Europe, Elettric 80 is moving from the end of the manufacturing line into the distribution center, which is what they did for Del Monte. They are also developing a voice-driven pick-to-pallet solution for carton picking to an AGV. The software will be tied to the warehouse control system that directs the AGVs and to the WMS and voice solution that directs the picker. When the picking is done, the AGV will automatically deliver the pallet to its next stop.
“We have our first order for this system in Europe, says Peuterbaugh. “It’s a matter of our customers pushing us to develop new solutions for them with our products.”
To read more look for our October cover story, which will feature a Del Monte distribution center using nearly 40 Elettric 80 AGVs to handle receiving, putaway and pallet picking in the DC.