EIT Digital is launching "Autonomous Warehouse and Last Mile Delivery" (AWARD) a new innovation activity which aims to make movements of goods more efficient and effective.
The initiative, led by Dutch company Bright Cape, will focus on improving the current state of operations inside a warehouse. This will be achieved essentially by building a logistics platform leveraging on advanced planning and scheduling techniques to coordinate a fleet of autonomous vehicles for moving goods indoors.
"We will use automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to take packages from the inbound dock to the beginning of the aisles, and then from the beginning of the aisles to the outbound dock. They will be guided by using intelligent algorithms and machine learning," Bright Cape's activity leader Simone Vermeer says.
Automating aspects of warehouse operations by means of AGVs will be instrumental in reducing product losses due to misshipments and minimising equipment damage caused by conventional shipment tools. It will also help bring workplace's safety to the next level, by eliminating fork truck related accidents.
Finally, it will have a positive impact on costs too, reducing overtime and staff turnover.
To test the feasibility of the solution Bright Cape and its partners - which include the University of Trento, the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME), Fondazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) and Swedish research institute RISE SICS - are building down-scaled AGV robots and a simulated environment for the robots to operate in.
These will give precious insights into the challenges and obstacles to overcome and will further evolve into a fully operational working prototype to be trialed by an already identified customer.
But AWARD's ambitions extend well beyond warehouse docks, as the activity is intended to make last mile delivery possible and affordable in areas where traditional shipping solutions are too expensive.
"The idea is to use drones for last mile deliveries. Route optimisation of flying drones will allow for significant reductions in delivery times and a more accurate estimated time of arrival," Vermeer explains.
The success of the initiative is closely linked to the state-of-the-art quality of the algorithms developed for both internal and external deliveries, by the activity's academy and research partners, combined with the quality of the machinery parts provided.
This team effort - one of several groundbreaking initiatives promoted and supported by EIT Digital within the framework of its Digital Industry Action Line - will create attractive new opportunities for warehouse owners and employees.