Over recent months, the world has been facing an unprecedented crisis that is having a huge impact on everyone’s lives. While other sectors experienced a drop in sales, food and home essentials experienced impressive growth rates. Now, supply chains must adapt.

Shane Faulkner
Head of Sales in the UK at Swisslog

Swisslog, a global leader in warehouse automation, has released ‘off the shelf’ solutions to help business get back on track quickly and effectively following the challenges of the lockdown period. The firm’s Head of Sales in the UK, Shane Faulkner, shares the details.

What will the huge growth in e-commerce mean for the future of the supply chain?

As consumer behaviours are permanently affected by the pandemic, so are logistics processes. Challenges range from booming online orders, a decline in offline shoppers, and a reduced workforce in the warehouse. Some of the measures businesses have taken to reduce the impact on their logistics processes are; widening delivery windows, turning traditional stores into dark stores, directing inventory to busy locations, bypassing distribution centres, staggering shifts for safety, stopping operations for cleaning, lowering online order size, relaxing return windows, and capping purchases of high demand products.

Needs have changed, consumer priorities have changed, the way we shop has changed – now stores and their supporting supply chains must adapt to these changes too.

What are the biggest challenges Swisslog is facing at the moment?

Currently, our main focus at Swisslog is to provide our customers with the support they need while they face challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Some of our e-commerce and FMCG customers are experiencing an increase in online orders and a reduction in workers as they continue to operate with social distancing measures in place.

To support businesses with this challenge, we came up with the idea to develop a soft offer logistics model concept. It would be easily and quickly deployed within a running supply chain to improve the logistics capacity in terms of stock, performance, and by consequence, even the level of service to customers. Investment in automation could also be a way for a company to prepare for the future. We call these off the shelf automation solutions.

What products and services is Swisslog best known for?

Here in the UK, Swisslog is best known for our fast and ergonomic goods-to-person (GtP) picking technology. GtP single item picking delivers products to a static station, where pickers remove products and add them to a pallet or tote order. Based on efficiency boosts and storage density, Swisslog’s GtP solutions – CarryPick and AutoStore – offer accurate order fulfilment while minimizing travel for pickers.

The fundamental difference between the two systems is the density and the kind of goods and items that can be manipulated by the two systems in an automatic way. AutoStore is much more convenient in terms of density and can reach up to 2.1 net cubic meters of stored goods per square meter. CarryPick has one third of this potential capacity but comes out on top in terms of the flexibility in processing items. It can process “whatever, wherever” – pallets, small items, and hanging garments. AutoStore is limited to processing items with dimensions up to 600x400mm and to the weight limitation of 30kg.

What are the biggest trends in robotics and automation?

At Swisslog, we have been speaking with many of our customers about their challenges throughout the COVID-19 period. What we acknowledged from this activity is that overall, delivery of robotic and automation solutions needs to adapt to meet the requirements of the market.

Future automation projects should have a short ROI, an option to rent, and a fast time to market. They should also be simple to install, flexible, and relocatable. Above all else, new systems should accommodate social distancing for staff. CarryPick and AutoStore from the existing Swisslog portfolio can deliver these results. They can both provide a maximum payback period of 2-4 years, a very short time to market, and they can both be very installation friendly.

What is distinctive about Swisslog’s automated solutions?

There are three standard layouts each for the CarryPick and AutoStore technologies in our off the shelf automation solutions. For each of the systems there is a small, medium, and large configuration.

The small layout can perform 400 order lines per hour, the medium layout will allow 1,000 order lines per hour and the large configuration will have the capability to achieve 2,000 order lines per hour. By playing with the number of robots, ports, racks and bins, we can play with the standard configurations in a way that we can finetune them to specific needs.

Has the SynQ software proved popular?

Swisslog’s SynQ software has been making ground ever since its launch in 2017. It’s now available as the standard software on most of our solutions and has been successful among many of our customers.

Within our new off the shelf solution portfolio, SynQ controls both technologies. This provides our customers with the opportunity to deploy both systems in the same warehouse, controlled by the same platform. This plays a huge part in optimizing the overall supply chain and the processing of data, giving logistics processes a unique competitive advantage.

What has been the biggest news for Swisslog in 2020?

Despite the difficult circumstances we have faced throughout 2020 so far, Swisslog has celebrated many highlights. We have secured a broad portfolio of new orders from across the globe, and we have continued to reach project delivery milestones for several of our customers regardless of additional site safety measures.

But our biggest achievement so far is turning our offering into a solution to support businesses as they struggle with the challenges of the pandemic. Our productive facilities run all aspects of the business, from sales to realization to customer service. This is a fundamental aspect for a solid partner. It also means we can guarantee certain delivery times without worrying about travel bans, as we don’t fly people or materials out of China or Asia.

Is Swisslog providing ways of utilising warehouse automation while remaining energy efficient?

Swisslog continues to advance supply chain sustainability with energy efficient solutions and less wasteful resources. Through our GreenLog initiative, we provide our customers with the confidence that our solutions are designed with sustainability in mind.

In our off the shelf solution portfolio, both CarryPick and AutoStore provide sustainable qualities to our customers. CarryPick features energy-efficient robots and a modular design that can extend the life of an existing warehouse, eliminating the environmental impact of new construction. For AutoStore, each robot is extremely energy efficient, using just 0.1 kW of energy per hour. That means six robots use the same as a toaster!

Do you have any recent case studies where Swisslog has provided an automation solution?

Swisslog recently implemented an AutoStore solution for a leading online retailer. The solution, which includes 90 robots, 42,500 storage bins, and eight carousel pick stations, frees up the workforce to focus on customer interaction.

As for our off the shelf solutions, we have had a positive initial reaction from the market, and we hope to share some great news on the early adopters of the standard layouts soon. Anyone interested in learning more about the six preconfigured layouts and the cost related to each of these options is invited to fill out this simple form:


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