ProMat 2009 Focuses on Speed, Automation, & Efficiency for Success

ProMat 2009 Demonstrates Speed, Automation, & Efficiency for Success

By Bill Lydon - Contributing Editor
McCormick Place in Chicago from January 12 – 15, 2009
Vendors displaying at the ProMat 2009 show focused on speed, automation, and efficiency to be successful in a tough economic environment. ProMat 2009 was physically smaller than 2007 but relatively busy considering the state of the economy. Attendance was projected to be 35,000 with 750 exhibitors.   By contrast ProMat 2007 had approximately 35,000 attendees with 736 booths and NA 2008 in Cleveland had approximately 20,000 with 527 booths. The conference featured over 100 educational sessions. 
State of the Material Handling Industry
John Nofsinger, CEO of the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), provide a view of what's ahead for the industry and users of the material handling and logistics equipment and technology in his Wednesday keynote presentation.
Mr. Nofsinger emphasized that "material handling and logistics, when thought of as a process, remains at the core of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal activities—and, indeed at the supply chain." Nofsinger said the state of the $156 billion material handling and logistics industry is healthy and currently employs an estimated 700,000 workers in the United States alone.   Nofsinger noted that by looking at the industry on a rate of change basis and comparing to various leading indexes, the market outlook for the material handling and logistics industry is facing a contraction in 2008 to 2010.
According to Nofsinger, "As far as new orders, MHIA's is forecasting a decline of new orders in 2009 in the 18.0% to 20.0% range recovering late in 2010."
According to Nofsinger, MHIA is predicting shipments to contract 15.0% in 2009 and 3.0% in 2010. Overall domestic Demand (shipments plus imports less exports) is expected to contract about 15.0% in 2009. After a period of significant expansion, exports are forecasted to decline in 2009 and 2010 as demand in the global economy contracts.
A Wealth of Information
After ProMat 2009 closes there is a wealth of information is available online to download free PDF documents from selected educational seminar presentations and free on-demand webcasts of the same are coming soon!  More Information
Interesting Products
Smart Powered Rollers!
After seeing the number of vendors using Motor Driven Rollers (MDR), it is apparent that the adoption rate is high and there is great acceptance in the industry. Advantages are lower maintenance, lower energy, and improved control by using zones. So what is the next step?
Holjeron introduced the first ‘smart’ powered roller at ProMat 2009. The Microroller3 has built-in intelligence in a 24 volt dc powered roller. The Microroller3 provides detailed information directly from the powered roller, including part number, serial number, operating life parameters, fault and warning conditions, hours of operation and many more part-specific and diagnostic level details. With this data stored in the non-volatile memory within the roller itself, control systems can accurately assess the health of every component in the conveyor system for preventative and preemptive maintenance.
Zonelink3 family of conveyor controls
Holjeron demonstrated the new Zonelink3 family of conveyor controls that includes single, dual and four zone controllers for Zero Pressure Accumulation (ZPA) for Microroller3 24 VDC powered roller conveyors and pneumatically controlled conventional conveyors. Models include versions for stand-alone ZPA as well as Ethernet/IP enabled units for connection to and control by supervisory control systems. The ZoneLink3 family also includes accessory modules for infeed, outfeed and slug release control, as well as generic I/O blocks for controlling or interfacing to inline equipment. The new family incorporates the latest technology to reduce energy consumption by 35%. All variations include plug-and-play connections for power, motors and sensors.
Mobile Computers
Mobile computers have become a critical link to seamlessly link people and systems to increase productivity.
LXE Inc.
LXE Inc. introduced the new VX8 and VX9 Windows XP-based rugged mobile computers that are wireless enabled with 10.4” and 12.1” touch-screen displays designed for vehicle-mounted use in tough environments. I met with Richard Adams, Director, Strategy & Marketing and Doug Brown Director of Product Management to discuss the product. The primary reason to introduce an XP mobile computer is to simplify software configuration and ongoing software maintenance. “The VX8 and VX9 enable organizations to run more advanced applications, but still leverage existing computer support resources.” An XP PC can be remotely administered and kept up to date using standard Microsoft tools, saving a significant amount of time and money.
LXE VX8       
Datalogic R Series™ Mobile Computers
Datalogic Mobile R Series™ line of rugged Vehicle Mounted Computers feature an aluminum outer case with fan-less design.  This system can withstand the vibration and shocks experienced on-board rigid suspension vehicles, as well as the exclusive 2-tail touch screen technology and mounting which endures direct display abuse. Units meet IP65, IP66, and IP67 to resists dust, rain and harsh cleaners. A heater option is available for freezing temperature applications. These units are suitable for use in warehouse/distribution centre environments or manufacturing shop floor/work-in-process applications.   The R Series™ is available in three different sizes to fit different mounting and space constraints and provide up to 25 external keys to allow direct data input. Mounting options include support for the vehicle mounted computer, hand-held readers and external keyboards. The R Series is based on Windows CE and X Scale processor.

Psion Teklogix Introduces the Industry’s Most Lightweight, Rugged Two-Inch Mobile Printers

Mobile printing is becoming more important and Psion introduced the 12-ounce PRINTABOUT2 mobile receipt and label printers with enhanced battery life. Psion claims this is the lightest two-inch mobile thermal printers in the industry while retaining all the features of larger, heavier mobile printers.

Wi-Fi Based Tracking
AeroScout displayed their Unified Asset Visibility (UAV) that uses Wi-Fi-based Active RFID, sensors, RTLS and other technologies to provide wireless asset tracking and monitoring.   AeroScout products leverage standard Wi-Fi networks that are already installed for voice and data to track and manage the location, condition and status of mobile assets and people.
AeroScout and Psion Teklogix announced the successful deployment of their solutions for asset management and inventory tracking at Glovis Alabama, a logistics and consolidation center for the Hyundai Automotive Group.   Glovis uses AeroScout’s Wi-Fi RFID Yard Management solution to track containers and yard service vehicles as they enter, travel through and exit the yard, and Psion Teklogix’s WORKABOUT PRO rugged mobile computers for pallet-level warehouse inventory tracking. The companies’ solutions are helping Glovis to increase staff productivity, optimize operations and expedite parts movement and delivery.
KUKA Robotics Demonstrates Innovative Automated De-Palletizing Solution
KUKA Robotics demonstrated de-palletizing using the KR 500 570-2 PA heavy duty robot with a payload up to 570kg and three different palletizing algorithms for mixed and unmixed palletizing.   The KR 500 570-2 PA uses a state-of-the art KUKA-designed servo-controlled layer gripper known for it's ability to remove entire layers from a pallet of virtually any material in a single cycle.   The Servo layer gripper motors are synchronized with the KR 500 570-2 PA allowing for a more time saving, cost efficient solution for palletizing when mixing different product layers on the same pallet. The KR 500 570-2 PA user friendly interface can communicate directly to a warehouse management system software and is suitable for building rainbow or starter pallets in distribution centers or feeding a layer descrambler for a downstream case buffer. This same system can also be integrated to perform slip sheet handling and empty pallet handling.
HK Systems HK75/X Family of Automated Storage and Retrieval Machines
HK Systems, Inc. demonstrated the HK75/x family of automated storage and retrieval machines providing a solution for applications requiring dense storage and high throughput for a diverse set of SKU's, cases, and/or totes. The HK75/x has the capability to readily transport both cases and totes with dimensions ranging from 8" to 24". With the ability to support a wide array of extractor mechanisms, the HK75/x creates a more efficient and more responsive supply chain, capable of fulfilling smaller order sizes at increased frequency.
Vitronic Machine Vision
Vitronic Machine Vision, Ltd. Showcased the VIPAC-SSI2 the latest energy-saving solution for vision applications   A next generation solution for the logistics’ industry, the VICAM parcel identification system reads hand-written and machine-written address information, identifies all barcodes, and specific customer codes. The camera system is easily integrated with automation software to fully direct the flow of goods in and out of distribution facilities. Using this barcode technology, distributors can greatly reduce manual errors that occur with standard barcode tracking systems thus reducing rising energy costs. Depending on package size and spacing VICAM’s throughput is up to 10,800 items an hour on conveyor speeds of 800 fpm. Even information hidden behind plastic film is identified by the camera-based identification system. Compared to traditional laser-based barcode identification systems, the VIPAC-SSI2 generates higher read rates at increased processing speeds while reducing energy consumption. 
During the show Vitronic awarded Dan Hanrahan, president of The Numina Group the VINTEC award for advancements in automating order and product picking validation through the combined use of barcode and vision technology for the order fulfillment and warehouse distribution industry. The VINTEC Award winner is selected by an international panel of VITRONIC engineers based on a proven demonstration of ongoing success in providing automation concepts, delivery and commitment to serving the needs of material handling and logistics process and a solid record of achievement.
Numina Automates Manual Shipping Manifesting
The Numina Group, demonstrated its new X-Press PAL Labeling System that automates manual shipping manifesting operations. It provides an ROI of 6 to 9 months for facilities with as little as 700 parcels a day by automating manifesting and parcel labeling typically performed manually at carrier supplied workstations. X-Press PAL uses the latest design in modular 24VDC conveyor and is a complete hardware and software solution with integral barcode scanning, weighing, carton dimensioning, print and apply labeling and manifesting. The system labels and manifest parcel shipments at 14 cartons a minute all within just ten feet of space. An optional upgrade version, called X-Press PAL Plus, provides Numina Groups’ exclusive label applicator with a duplex thermal label printer that simultaneously prints the shipping label on the top side and the packing slip on the back side of a single label. Numina Group provides a free one day site analysis and design service to assist a warehouse or distribution company in building the business justification model for automating the operation. A Lease to Buy Program is also available to pay for the system through the positive cash savings generated.
LPG Sensor viaSonic
viaSonic demonstrated its FLT forklift LPG level monitoring sensors, already successful in Europe. The viaSonic sensor accurately measures the LPG fuel level in forklift fuel cylinders, avoiding fuel outages and thereby saving time and money for forklift owners. The sensor works externally through the wall of the LPG fuel cylinders and is thus completely independent of the cylinder and fuel supply system. 
It is particularly important to have an accurate reading of the fuel level just before the LPG cylinder is empty. The objective is to maximize the consumption of the LPG in the cylinder without suddenly and unexpectedly running out of fuel. With the viaSonic sensor there is only about 3% fuel left, when the fuel gauge shows empty. Part of the remaining LPG is then used en-route to the LPG cylinder storage area.
Intelligrated Long Carton Logic for Conveyors
Intelligrated’s conveyor control software now enables cartons, totes and products to be accumulated and conveyed properly even if they are longer than the zones established by the MDR conveyor system. Prior to this software development, if product was longer than the zone on the MDR conveyor, it would most likely cause a jam at the photo eye because the product was spanning two zones. That would require someone to physically remove the product, causing a major disruption in operations and resulting in downtime and lost productivity. Intelligrated's long carton logic technology solves this problem by automatically adjusting the size of the zone to accommodate products that are longer than the zones established by the conveyor system.  The software allows the system to handle a wider variety of product, and subsequently increase operation efficiency.
FKI Logistex Case Conveyor Solutions (LCCS)
FKI Logistex demonstrated its new Logistex Case Conveyor Solutions (LCCS) product family - a modular system that can be tailored for a wide range of markets and applications, such as apparel, automotive, consumer goods, postal and parcel distribution, food, beverage, pharmaceutical and retail.  Tim Kraus, Product Manager Conveyor Systems explained that FKI spent over a year doing surveys and customer visits to determine how to create modular systems that meet customer requirements and eliminate or minimize custom engineering.
Logistex Case Conveyor Solutions feature the latest energy-saving technologies, including all-electric design and run-on-demand technology, and offer a variety of conveyor components and options for accumulation, transportation, diverting, metering, merging and sorting.
A patent-pending band cartridge system on the Logistex RT200 Right-Angle Transfer conveyor allows maintenance technicians to replace a damaged band in seconds instead of minutes. An innovative "lift and turn" wheel assembly on the Logistex DV200 Diverter includes only two moving parts — both of which are easy to replace — reducing diverter conveyor maintenance. In addition, the ZC200 Zone Control system features flexible operational modes and pre-programmed functions for reduced commissioning time and simplified training. The ZC200 requires no tools for installation, and is equipped with local hardware diagnostics and easy switch settings for control configuration.
Secure Remote Computer Networking, FKI Logistex NetLok
FKI also introduced the NetLok Remote Access System that provides a high level of network security for remote access of customer systems. While customers benefit from remote services, they have also exposed themselves to a potential threat. PLC or PC-based control systems, warehouse management systems, warehouse control systems, and other higher-level software can be accessed easily by vendors  and, potentially, by others who may not have a legitimate reason for doing so. NetLok™ is designed to provide secure remote access using a closed-loop login procedure with a restricted login provision, allowing secure, one-time access to the network by authorized technical support staff. With reliable 24/7 diagnostics availability, FKI Logistex technical support staff can log-in remotely to troubleshoot, identify and respond immediately to the problem with the appropriate solution.  
NetLok proactively detects connectivity problems, reducing potential lapses in diagnostics. The system can also automatically track, record and archive an audit of remote network access. To ensure its suitability as a standard, NetLok supports multiple industry-standard connection types, centering around virtual private network (VPN). It features a common user interface, allowing NetLok to provide network access without the need for special clients. Existing FKI Logistex customers can easily upgrade their legacy systems to NetLok to gain the benefits of a secure and reliable remote connectivity package.
ARINC Worldwide Asset Tracking
ARINC is an integrator that provides in-transit tracking and visibility for refrigerated and dry containers, trailers, locomotives, railcars, pallets, and unit load devices (ULDs) anywhere in the world with their Asset Assure system.'s Bill Lydon and Kia Weller attended an impressive real-time demonstration of its tracking system. ARINC has an established global presence that creates a fully integrated, highly reliable, wireless network to track, monitor, and secure valuable assets. 
Installed ARINC Wireless Sensor
ARINC is a credible global, wireless communications integrator with nearly 8 decades of mission-critical experience serving the military and commercial airline industry. The company was incorporated December 2, 1929 as Aeronautical Radio, Inc., and chartered by the Federal Radio Commission (later named Federal Communications Commission) to serve as the airline industry's "single licensee and coordinator of radio communication outside of the government." Soon the company, known in the industry as ARINC, took on responsibility for all ground-based, aeronautical radio stations and for ensuring station compliance with FRC rules and regulations. From this base technology, the company expanded into transportation communications, continuing to support the commercial aviation industry, as well as the U.S. military.
Using Global Sentinel Units (GSUs) and Remote Sensor Units (RSUs)—customized electronic sensors—customers are able to check the location, condition, and safety of assets while they are en route, anywhere in the world. The sensor units are bound to the GSUs through a mesh network and all fielded devices are securely connected to the Device Management Center (DMC). The DMC provides actionable information—location, sensor state, security posture—from the fielded devices directly to the customer, via secure XML data feeds, e-mail, and SMS.
DAIFUKU AND WEBB Joint Demonstrations
Jervis B. Webb Company and Daifuku America Corporation, both affiliates of Daifuku Co., Ltd., jointly exhibited for the first time at the ProMat 2009 Show. Webb and Daifuku demonstrated how an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) integrates with two Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs).
Daifuku showcased a new, faster unit load AS/RS, which is a high-density pallet buffer designed to maximize vertical storage space while maintaining a compact footprint. A unit load is comprised of an input/out station, Storage Retrieval Machine (SRM), storage rack as well as on-board and end-of-aisle controls. Daifuku's unit load stores and retrieves items placed on pallets, euro pallets, box pallets or roll box pallets. With over 20,000 global installations, Daifuku offers a wide range of AS/RS systems that includes a mini load AS/RS, which handles small products or irregularly shaped objects stored in totes or small boxes; and a synchronized AS/RS, a two-crane system that maximizes throughput. The Daifuku unit load AS/RS helps companies regain floor space, and improve efficiency. The Daifuku unit load AS/RS shown at ProMat transferred and received palletized loads from a SmartCart Automatic Guided Cart (AGC) and a SmartLoader Automatic Trailer Loading Vehicle, both supplied by the Webb Company.
Webb introduced its latest Automatic Trailer Loading Vehicle, the SmartLoader Model 2000. The 2000 SmartLoader can move loads up to 2500 pounds and is available with single, double or single side shift forks. At the show, it automatically loaded and unload pallets from the AS/RS into a simulated trailer. SmartLoader is now equipped with LADAR vision, which provides pinpoint accuracy when loading/unloading trailers as well as stacking loads.
Webb’s SmartCart Model 300 Counterbalanced Fork AGC, a flexible AGV guided by magnetic tape, will deliver loads from floor storage to Daifuku’s AS/RS. The Counterbalanced Fork SmartCart can also be used to transport loads to and from stretch wrapping systems. SmartCarts are available in a variety of models and options, including roller conveyor, tugger and scissor lift.
RM's line of wireless CAN interfaces enable CAN messages to be sent by radio signals for short or long distances. RM's standard range of products includes a broad range of wireless solutions to provide transmission of CAN messages via GSM (with optional GPS), GPRS and Bluetooth. 
Seegrid Corporation
Seegrid Corporation demonstrated the features and benefits of its vision-guided industrial mobile GP8 robotic pallet truck.   The GP8 (which stands for general purpose pallet truck 8,000-pound capacity) is a vision-guided industrial mobile robot that is designed to free up skilled employees by taking care of non-value-added work, which can significantly reduce labor costs. Seegrid industrial mobile robots sense, move, analyze, interact - and then repeat to automate your everyday material handling tasks.   Seegrid robots use no lasers, tape or wires and feature WalkThroughThenWork™ set up--One walk through your facility and the machines are ready to work in minutes.
The operator positions the GP8’s forks under the pallets then the truck does the rest. Products are moved on pallets within the manufacturing facility or distribution center, and the GP8 automates long-haul transports of these pallets. Using cameras and intelligent software to navigate their environment, the GP8 moves the pallets to the assigned location, automatically positions the pallets, then returns to the original starting point or another designated, pre-assigned location for more work.