The many parts of the installation must be adapted to fit together right from the planning phase.
The interfaces are defined in the detail design. These extend from the exact determination of the openings in the concrete wall to the connection with the structural steelwork and the detailed documentation of the data exchange between ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software and WMS (Warehouse Management System).
These interfaces are taken into account during realization and made available for installation. Although they are already tested fragmentarily during individual testing, the subsequent system integration is the real test.
We distinguish between the technical system integration in the first and the logistics system integration in the second phase.
Technical System Integration
Coarsely subdivided the technology comprises:
- Drive technology,
- Control technology,
- Material flow control and
- Logistics software.
The logistics software or Warehouse Management System occurs only once in the object to be integrated. The underlying material flow control on the other hand can occur several times, depending on the complexity of the system.
Different conveying technologies require different software for material flow control. Hence the control technology is certainly present several times – likewise the drive technology.
Commissioning takes place bottom-up, individually for each technical conveying subunit: mechanics and the drive technology come first.
First of all the high bay storage and retrieval machine must be able to run alone through the aisle in inching mode while loading and unloading before being combined with the conveying technology. The same applies to robots, distribution trucks, AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), etc.
In the case of large surface conveying plants consisting of several control technology units, there is an intermediate phase. Once each unit is functioning alone, all units in this conveying system must be combined to operate as a larger unit.
Only when all plant equipment is at this technical level does commissioning of the material flow control commence – and with it the system integration. In most cases this represents a milestone in the process development and should be reached more or less simultaneously for all installation equipment.
After material flow is functioning, WMS is placed in operation. Each new level is contingent on the previous one functioning. We can only speak of “functioning” when all sequences have been thoroughly tested and errors have been corrected.
The same applies to the mechanical parts and all the software levels.
Clearly then, technical system integration does not just commence on the construction site but quite early on in design. Precisely defined interfaces and consistent specifications for corresponding installation equipment are the basic preconditions for this. In-house tests on the manufacturers’ premises are of similar importance.
This technical system integration is followed by the logistics system integration, because even the best distribution center requires the activities of the environment.
Logistics System Integration
- First comes the technology and the parts from the technical system integration: Swisslog as general contractor takes over this responsibility..
- The second part comprises the personnel who operate the system. Swisslog employees are experts in handling installations. Essentially this is a question of education and training. But of course the ergonomic design of the entire plant also plays a part.
- The third part concerns service and maintenance. Here too training is a basic requirement but there is an additional component to maintenance: in comparison to an operator, a service engineer is capable of shutting down or quickly reactivating not just one but several work stations. The service engineer thus has a multiple responsibilities compared to the operator.
- The fourth part is the customer’s host. It is not only the technical communication between two computers that takes place here but also the consistent management of the inventory: updating of master data for the articles, a common understanding of the handling of error sequences, etc.
- The fifth and final part is the planning. This is not only a preliminary phase of the project; the assumptions of the planners concerning certain structures run like a golden thread through the system – whether in regard to article spectrum, order collocation or the number and size of the individual orders.