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Quite a few industrial companies have already converted their production to customized order production of batch size 1. This in turn places stricter demands on supply chain management. It now has to be much more flexible in ensuring that the right material is in the right place at the right time. This is only possible in digitized Industry 4.0 environments, where machines and systems or modular production cells autonomously communicate what they need.

In order to assess the specific challenges intralogistics will likely face, the VDMA has cooperated with the Fraunhofer IML to develop a technology roadmap up to 2025. Sascha Schmel, Managing Director of the professional association for materials handling and intralogistics , already revealed the three most important trends in the video interview : sensors, data science and M2M (machine-to-machine communication). The VDMA will present the detailed results on April 23, starting at 3 pm during the Hannover Messe trade fair: in Forum Logistics 4.0 in Hall 19 at the CeMAT. The VDMA event program for Hanover, ranging from digital twins and blockchain technology to IIoT platforms and artificial intelligence, is already online.

Schmel himself identifies the three areas of automation , flexibilization and electrification as essential developments in supply chain management. On the one hand, there is “the continuation of automation towards autonomization” and, on the other hand, increasingly flexible contract manufacturing - “here we see trends ranging from centrally controlled systems to decentrally controlled modules”. The third area exhibits “a certain similarity to electromobility”: “The industrial sector, of course, is also making an effort to reduce peak loads,” says Schmel. In the case of “electrically operated industrial trucks, it is now possible to implement other charging methods - grid-oriented charging methods. And by scaling up, for example with a large fleet, you can actually conceive of new business models or significantly reduce costs for operators by intelligently charging a fleet one vehicle after the other, rather than all them simultaneously and relatively uncontrolled.”

Sascha Schmel is on the whole quite satisfied with the state of the Industry 4.0 readiness of German industry. Although there is still some room for improvement in the supply chain , the benefits of digitized value and supply chains are undeniable for 95% of companies, according to a recent study by DHL . It’s authors identified robotics (63%) as the key innovation technology, followed by driverless transport systems (40%). The proANT 016 AGV , which finds its way around changing production environments almost independently, shows that such solutions are already starting to be adopted by SMEs.

The VDMA professional association is closely monitoring these developments in order to be in a position to point out feasible technology paths at an early stage. One reason for this is the fact that digitized supply chains also have obvious disruptive potential: they enable new business models, while calling new market entrants onto the scene.