Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Puma and ITG partner on warehouse robot pilot

Steve Rogerson
August 1, 2017



Sports footwear company Puma has started a pilot of an intelligent warehouse in Germany with help from logistics company ITG, robotics technology start-up Magazino and software firm Gigaton.
 
In the Munich logistics centre that ITG operates for the Puma retail stores, an order-picking robot has been in use since May 2017. Puma initiated the pilot project after an encounter at a trade show with a robotics manufacturer and Munich-based start-up Magazino. The start-up's vision is to create the first intelligent and decision-making warehouse in the world.
 
To bring this to fruition, the devices must be tested in a practical application. ITG was open to the project from the start. The project team, with members from the participating companies, has been working on this implementation since the end of July 2016.
 
The Toru intelligent robot provides precise access to individual objects, not just standard loading units such as trays or boxes. The adaptive picker arms can grasp different shaped objects from a small paperback book to a shoe box or a heavy dictionary. Then, the robot can place the grasped object on its shelf and bring it directly to the shipping station.
 
The hardware with conveyor technology is based on proven elements. What's different about this system is the software, which networks the technology and the sensors.
 
Thanks to cameras, computer vision, numerous sensors and the use of artificial intelligence, the robot can perceive and interpret its environment and make decisions on that basis. This allows not only for permanent adjustments to the warehouse topology and the use of the robot in work environments alongside people, but also lets the system learn independently.
 
The cooperation between human and machine is ensured with numerous sensors on the robot. These sensors continuously record data about the environment. If Toru gets too close to someone, it reduces its speed and then stops. The system has been inspected by the German employers' liability insurance association to guarantee workplace safety.
 
The robot can be used outside of working hours, for the late shift or night shift for example. It doesn't even need the warehouse lighting, as it has integrated headlights and can light its own work environment. The robot can also be used in other departments without additional expense, as it automatically familiarises itself with them.
 
One of the goals of this pilot project is to test the robot in practical application. In this process, questions about behaviour with people in the work environment, stability and consistency in daily use, and the maturity of the technology in real world conditions should be answered. The partners would also like to see just how efficient the robot could be.
 
Different scenarios are presented for this purpose to gain insight on what the ideal environment for the technology looks like.
 
Live operation with Toru is expected to start in September, once the robot technology is linked with the Logos external warehouse management system from Gigaton, and the first positive tests and a brief familiarisation period are completed.