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Intralogistics - Internal material flow in the industry

What is referred to as intralogistics?

According to the German Engineering Federation, the term means the organisation and execution of the internal movement of goods in industry, trade or public institutions. In the economic sector, it is an important part of logistics, which aims to improve performance and reduce costs.

Intralogistics is also an interdisciplinary concept, in which many processes and mechanisms engage with one another. Cargo, bulk materials and liquids are transported logistically. Conveyors, cranes, hoists, telematics, robots, vehicles and caterpillars, containers, robots and logistics software are often used here. There are also disciplines such as IT, controlling, communication, packaging, control and management.

Intralogistics in industry

The intralogistics for companies originated in the mid-20th century with the use of high-bay warehouses and automated goods distribution systems in order get the large amounts of inventory and logistics processes under control. Simple tasks such as transport, handling and storage were made into complex logistical processes, which were increasingly used for the EDP and IT.

Where is intralogistics still used?

Intralogistics is a key part of supply chain management and includes alone in Germany thousands of different manufacturers of different products and services, from forklift suppliers to software programming. They participate in this international growth market as a supplier to the major interfaces, the logistics nodes.

Which tasks and problems can be tackled using intralogistics?

Due to the globalised markets, many German companies have increasingly developed technical solutions and concepts in the automation of logistics in recent years to shorten processes and working hours. Since the beginning of Internet trade in the late 20th century, internal logistics is playing a very important role.

This growing automation in intralogistics is achieved primarily through a continually increasing performance and higher speeds of computers and controllers. First, the warehouse logistics EDP came into use in warehouse management. Anything that previously could still be managed through simple accounting, was now managed with growing storage and distribution channels for the standard task of computers and IT software - like virtual logistics.

Which disciplines include a software for intralogistics and warehouse logistics?

In recent years, more technologies and fields of application have joined the warehouse management systems of the 21st century.

These include:

  • Relational databases
  • Availability for mobile devices and applications
  • Modern and more efficient IT and operating systems
  • Progressive networking technology, e.g. in conveyor technology and transportation
  • Barcode-labels as well as the associated software and hardware such as printers and reading devices.
  • Stable storage systems with low default rates, e.g. due to external server or cloud storage solutions

Many providers have specialized because of this in single or compact products and services in the intralogistics.

The most common areas in modern warehouse management and logistics include:

  • Warehouses and buffers (pallets, storage containers, boxes, barrels, etc.)
  • Conveying and transportation or material flow (equipment for sorting, weighing, transport etc.)
  • Sorting and distribution (sorting-based systems and cross-docking solutions)
  • Full Case and split case commissioning (paperless commissioning systems and Pick-by-Voice)
  • Order management, optimization and order fulfilment for warehouse technology
  • Warehouse management and warehouse organization (including decision support and performance management)
  • SAP solutions

What are the benefits of good internal logistics?

Warehouse logistics offers its users a flexible degree of automation. This depends on the requirements profile as well as on the stock and the size, the logistical challenges and the variety of logistics nodes, i.e. the interfaces to sales, shipping, controlling etc.

In the case of a classical distribution centre, the receipt and issue of goods are always connected to the steps: storage, transport and processing of orders. With the current state of an object-oriented software and logistics technology, the flow rate of the processes has been significantly accelerated. Solutions can also be flexibly adjusted and expanded in a short period of time.

Which disadvantages does a poor intralogistics have?

The drawbacks are obvious. Since the intralogistics is a complex and meshed system, all components must perfectly coordinate and function with each other. Through the extensive use of IT systems, the systems must be constantly updated and protected against unauthorized access. Furthermore, the burden of all electronic and mechanical elements and work steps is very high. Consistent updates, maintenance and monitoring are therefore necessary.

What are the limitations of internal logistics or warehouse logistics?

Just like any other technology, the intralogistics also works to the extent that it can provide the current state of the art technology. Rooms or storage sites of the appropriate size are required for this as well as corresponding machines, transport and adequate software. And despite the fastest technical performance, the actual speed is always up to level where appropriate environment and sufficient staff is also available.

How can warehouse logistics be supported or improved with software?

Previously, work was manually controlled by intralogistics software, optimized and expanded, like a shelving system. Thereby a distinction is made between static shelving systems such as pallet, insertion and cantilever shelves and dynamic shelving systems such as flow and movable shelves and stage equipment. Both the stock and movement of goods within these systems run on the warehouse logistics software and computer.

The driver assistance systems have already found their way into the warehouse management. The intelligent control navigates the forklifts and other transport vehicles through transponders in the floor so that collisions can be prevented, the vehicles can be controlled and all operations can be optimized and documented. Here the latest sensor technology is also used, as we know from modern vehicle electronics.

From the classic warehouse management with pallets, forklifts, cranes and hoists as 20 years ago, there is a long way to go until intralogistics provides the industry and trade with an independent technology and networking of different processes.