On the way to a digital warehouse
Lufthansa Technik Logistik Services realizes digitalization projects
The logistics of the future: smart, efficient, digital and highly automated. Lufthansa Technik Logistik Services (LTLS) is no exception: As part of the digitalization strategy, LTLS has launched a targeted warehousing program to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0 by automating, digitalizing and interconnecting fundamental core processes. The pilot location for this program is Munich Airport, which is particularly suitable due to its strong growth and modern infrastructure as well as the fact that new aircraft types such as the Airbus A350 are stationed there. But the digital transformation is already gaining speed across the entire LTLS network.
AutoStore and Agilox
The automation of processes is one strategic focus: Many intra-company transports result in long walking distances for employees – a time-consuming, labor-intensive and costly process. Since 2015, LTLS has therefore been using the automated storage rack system AutoStore. This has allowed to increase the number of warehouse admissions and retrievals while reducing the required amount of warehouse space by more than 50 percent. Now LTLS is adding a new component: the automated guided vehicle Agilox. Unlike AutoStore, the goods themselves become mobile: The system brings them flexibly and directly to the employees' workplace and thus ensures further process automation. In December 2017, LTLS began introducing the Agilox system at the location in Munich, with the option to extend their use to other locations following successful evaluation.
Optical character recognition
And we are also paying close attention to data volumes: Our incoming goods department has to input a wide range of data from more 10,000 documents every day. The data transfer – that is, reading, checking and entering the data – takes a great deal of effort and is prone to errors. That is why the input screens will soon be filled in automatically rather than manually. For this purpose, we will use document analysis with optical character recognition (OCR), complemented by an intelligent content analysis on the basis of IBM Watson. The technical evaluation has taken place already. The new standard for Lufthansa Technik is thus defined and will be implemented by mid-2018.
Increased transparency in the spare parts warehouse
Another focal point is making optimal use of the available space, since this offers great savings potential: Large, bulky aircraft parts take up a lot of room and often have to be moved around so that the warehouses can be continuously compacted. At the same time, all storage rebookings must be entered manually in the administrative system. Thanks to the use of the localization platform GSE 4.0 (Ground Support Equipment) that we developed in-house, large stored components can be located automatically without the need for re-entry in the system. This reduces the administrative effort while increasing transparency in the warehouse. Once the pilot project in Munich has been completed successfully, we will assess whether this practice can be transferred to other LTLS locations as well.
The company's digitalization program also includes the use of digital assistants such as smart wearables. LTLS is currently testing Proglove's smart data glove, which features an integrated 2D scanner so that employees no longer have to hold a mobile scanner in their hand. This means their hands remain free, cumbersome data entry is eliminated and the efficiency during check-in and follow-up processes is increased. An enhanced glove featuring an integrated display is in the works, with pilot applications already scheduled for the first half of 2018.
However, core logistics processes are not only being digitalized in Munich. Other locations such as Frankfurt and Hamburg are also carrying out digitalization projects. To keep realizing new ideas at short intervals and with great speed, LTLS relies on agile project management. Implementing a Group-wide innovation culture at all hierarchical levels also plays an important role. Furthermore, LTLS relies on targeted cooperations with modern start-ups so that we can benefit from their ways of thinking and their unbureaucratic, flexible approaches.