Automation: Lenze inside
We’ve all seen the Intel Inside sticker on our laptops. We may not know a lot about how processors work, but we know that the one running the computer is from Intel.
Lenze, the German automation provider, might want to create a Lenze Inside sticker. You may not know a lot about what their drives and processors actually do, but you’ll find them inside automated materials handling equipment from the likes of Dematic, TGW, SSI Schaefer and Witron – whose system for auto parts manufacturer febi will be featured on the June cover.
While Lenze is best-known in Europe, they attended ProMat for the first time this past March and are making a concerted effort in North America. Earlier this week, I talked to Joachim Hanke, Lenze’s head of intralogistics, to get a view from Europe on what’s happening in automation. The most important trend could be that Henke is seeing an increased in interest in automation around the Globe. “In Europe, there is already a high level of automation because the cost of land and labor is so expensive,” he says. “In Asia, we’re seeing an interest in automation because so many people are moving to cities. You have to support that demand. And, North America, we think end users are really focused on reducing the cost of transporting a good, whether they’re shipping one unit or ten unit loads.”
Hanke outlined three trends that he believes are impacting automated materials handling.
Materials handling becomes intralogistics: I’ve been hearing the term intralogistics more often of late. Largely, I think it’s a European term, one that Hanke used to describe “the inhouse flow of materials, what I think you refer to as materials handling in North America.” But, after talking to Hanke, I think intralogistics represents more than just another way of saying materials handling. Rather, it reflects the discipline of materials flow when you move to highly-automated systems, which is one of those areas where Lenze plays. For instance, as more end users express interest in highly-automated systems, Lenze has created a team at its headquarters that captures solutions and best practices that can be rolled out in future systems, like blocks of functionality for the X and Y coordinates of an AS/RS system. The idea is that not everything is a custom solution. “This is the first time that we have tried to save the knowledge about new machines, trends and solutions,” Hanke says. “But it will help us to expand automated solutions to other regions and customers.”
Green logistics is taking hold in Europe: Hanke says that green logistics is one of the biggest trends he is seeing among his European customers. Last year, Lenze launched something it calls BlueGreen solutions. The idea is to use new software tools to properly dimension drives that match the demand of the motors and system; to convert electric energy with a high degree of efficiency with high efficiency motors, inverters and gearboxes and where possible to recover braking energy. But, to Lenze, green logistics goes beyond energy savings to also include space savings. “We’re looking at what can we do to support the machines and the building to bring a more competitive offering to our end users,” he says.
The quantity of one: In Europe, as in the US, Lenze is seeing an increased focus on e-commerce and catalog orders of a single line item. “We are focusing our solutions on how to support that cost-effective handling of a quantity of one,” Hanke says.