Swisslog designs, develops and delivers best-in-class intralogistics automation solutions that enable forward-thinking customers to provide the right products, to the right place, at the right time. Swisslog delivers everything companies need to optimize logistics – from planning through implementation and customer service. Its order fulfillment and inventory solutions enable companies to achieve the highest throughput at the lowest cost, efficiently handle large catalogs of SKUs and accurately meet customers’ delivery demands and specific requirements. Part of the KUKA Group, Swisslog is headquartered in Switzerland, and has customers in over 50 countries worldwide.
James Sharples, Managing Director at Swisslog, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
WLN – What are your best-known products and services?
As a company with such a long history and huge portfolio of solutions, it’s certainly a challenge to think back on our successes and pull out the most celebrated products. Our robotic solutions are currently leading the way, as businesses are looking for more efficient ways to pick and pack their products. AutoPiQ is a popular system for those looking for efficient small order fulfilment, whilst our ACPaQ system offers fully automated mixed pallet creation. Our CarryPick system is becoming increasingly popular too, as its flexibility means distribution centres can increase output simply by adding more robots.
WLN – Which market sectors and countries are your customers in? Which ones are growing fastest?
Over the years, we have developed a specialized knowledge in a range of industries, and have customers in over 50 countries around the world. The retail and e-commerce sectors remain high on the agenda, but the pharmaceutical, automotive and food & beverage industries make up a large portion of our customerbase too. While there are industries that currently demand more attention than others, we take pride in the fact that our solution portfolio has something fit for most applications.
WLN –Who are your major customers and what do you do for them?
Here in the UK, we work with companies like TJ Morris, trading as Home Bargains, and ASDA. For Home Bargains, our semiautomated monorail picking system, CaddyPick, was a perfect fit. The site is equipped with energy saving technology and we continue to support the business through a lifetime partnership.
ASDA selected our AutoStore solution to handle its products in a more space-efficient way at its Lutterworth IDC. A team of Swisslog engineers is permanently based at the IDC for system support and maintenance.
WLN – How do your products benefit your customers’ businesses?
The benefits of our automation products are endless. Aside from the obvious productivity boost, using robotics in an operation can also mean more accurate fulfilment of orders and a better use of the available space.
Logistics managers that are looking for a sleeker picking process without concerns arising over removing human interaction, we have solutions available today that combine the skills of robots and human operators. Our AutoPiQ system is the latest technology born from our collaboration with KUKA. Networked with an automated goods-to-person warehouse system, such as CycloneCarrier, AutoStore or CarryPick, AutoPiQ is able to assist human operators with picking tasks, allowing workers to focus more on value-added services.
WLN – Why should customers choose you as their main supplier in your area?
Swisslog solutions are future-proof, and can be tailored to your strategies to protect your investment. We have a whole portfolio of industry 4.0-ready products, which means automated facilities remain flexible and scalable.
Our robotics applications guarantee maximum speed, accuracy, and efficiency, while our comprehensive service portfolio and smart software solutions ensure reliable performance and 100% availability. Hand in hand with KUKA, we deliver one-of-a-kind solutions for the entire value creation chain.
WLN – What’s business been like in the past year? How have conditions changed over this period and how have you reacted?
Despite conditions changing globally, business at Swisslog has remained strong. Becoming a member of the KUKA Group has partially helped towards this, especially since our collaboration has seen us strengthen our product portfolio.
As concerns have grown over robots removing human interaction from distribution centres, hand in hand with KUKA we focused on developing ‘cobot’ solutions that help human workers focus on value-adding tasks.
WLN – What were the business highlights for you in the last 12 months?
The biggest business highlights for us this year are probably the introduction of our SynQ software, our breakthroughs in Industry 4.0, and the option to use virtual reality throughout our entire customer journey becoming available.
Shortly after the launch of SynQ, the next generation of our WM 6, a module of the software – Condition Monitoring – was awarded Best Product 2017 in the Software, Communication and IT category at the opening ceremony for LogiMAT. The solution collects data on machine conditions such as fluctuations, temperatures and position.
WLN – What’s been your most outstanding recent project?
We recently won our third major contract with dm-drogerie markt, Europe’s top-earning drugstore chain. Over the next two and a half years, Swisslog will build an innovative logistics center in the German state of Brandenburg.
WLN – How have you fine-tuned your offering in the last 12 months and why?
This year we have been particularly busy in developing our existing portfolio to improve processes and increase flexibility. We have introduced a host of improvements to our CarryPick solution, that have resulted in double digit increases in performance.
The changes include different rack designs to align with customers from different industries, and optimized pick and pack processes. A new multi-function gripper was also introduced to our ItemPiQ solution, which means that it can now be used in four unique ways for handling different products.
WLN – What recent enhancements have you made in customer service?
Earlier this year, we introduced an innovative solution in the service area – technicians can now support our customers with the aid of augmented reality glasses. Using the Microsoft HoloLens, service engineers in a centralised service centre can connect on Skype with on-site engineers and perform diagnostics and troubleshooting through the eyes of the on-site personnel. All our customers have 24/7 access to a global helpdesk too.
WLN -What new products have you brought out?
Our automated compact storage system PowerStore for pallets was launched across Europe after its continued success in facilities across North America. Now with increased compatibility for a wider range of pallets, the shuttle system is capable of boosting storage capacity by up to 60%.
In addition to this we debuted our fully automated mixed pallet creation solution, ACPaQ. The system is the latest development to emerge from Swisslog’s collaboration with KUKA, and we are looking forward to continuing to work closely with them on future projects.
WLN – What factors do you see affecting your business in the coming year? How will you turn these into opportunities?
The growing popularity of robotics solutions has put a sharp focus on specific logistics challenges, and we are looking forward to meeting this demand. We’re also excited about the increased interest in our Industry 4.0-ready solutions that use collected data to deliver accurate reports for our customers.
WLN – Are you planning to branch into any new areas, target new customers and take on more people?
We plan on continuing to expand our capabilities by branching out further into Iberian and French markets. Business development manager Edin del Mar is the latest to join our team in France under managing director of Swisslog WDS in France and the Benelux, Peter De Henau, and will play an integral part in expanding our presence in the country.
WLN – Are you investing in new premises and extra staff? What about staff development and training?
It is only with the hard work of Swisslog colleagues that our business has become what it is today. We take pride in showing our appreciation for this by investing in our employees through continuous support and encouraging development.
WLN – Are you involved in any major trade shows or other industry events over the next year?
We’re looking forward to a year packed full of events, and expect to be appearing at all major logistics shows across the globe – including LogiMAT among others. This year’s exhibitions were a success, showcasing a range of our dynamic warehouse automation solutions. We’re excited about continuing to demonstrate products from our portfolio next year.
WLN – And finally, if you had to sum up your company in a tweet what would it be?
Working closely with forward-thinking organisations, Swisslog leads in modern robotics solutions for intralogistics www.swisslog.com/en