• Intralogistics 4.0

Intelligent trucks

The iGo neo horizontal picker is the first self-driving product from the STILL iGo family and meets the trend for adaptive logistics solutions for the smart factory and Germany's Industry 4.0 digital manufacturing initiative. The vision? To reduce the amount of human-truck interaction to a minimum so that people can do their jobs better. Instead of being operated by hand or remotely, the iGo neo works autonomously – and makes picking even more efficient.

It's too big to be a dog, too boxy and it doesn't bark. But when it comes to obedience the iGo neo is right up there with the best. Christian Fischer moves speedily from rack to rack in the STILL warehouse in Hamburg. The high-tech truck made by KION's premium brand company drives dutifully alongside him, waiting to be loaded. "It does it completely on its own," says Fischer, Head of Product Management Business and Automation Solutions at STILL, as he demonstrates the capabilities of the iGo neo.

Picking goods from a rack is a complex task. So complex that doing it quickly is too much for robots to handle. But quickly and efficiently is exactly how it needs to be done. Up to now, warehouse staff using horizontal pickers have had to drive them forward, stop, get out, walk, load or unload them, walk, get in again and drive on once more. It's laborious work and takes up a lot of time.

STILL’s solution is automation on demand: it's up to the operators what level of automation they require. "The iGo neo, the latest product of the STILL iGo family, goes one better and works on the basis of new robotics technology," enthuses Fischer. "It understands its environment and can detect obstacles and most importantly its operator – it works in tandem with the order picker."

The iGo neo is entirely beholden to its master: it moves when the operator moves and comes to a halt again when he or she stops to grab something from a rack. The order pickers can therefore focus fully on the task at hand. The benefits? The same distance is covered, but less time is spent walking, costs are lower and the operator's job is made easier. If you're working with the iGo neo, you no longer have to keep getting in and out of the truck, the risk of injury is reduced and warehouse paraphernalia such as racking, pallets and other trucks are better protected. The way in which users and industrial trucks work together is made more efficient than ever before.

"With the iGo neo we are clearly taking a step beyond traditional automation. It's one thing for a truck to be able to make decisions on its own, but this one is actually allowed to do so," says Volker Viereck, who is responsible for developing self-driving trucks and robotics at STILL. The system developed by STILL's robotics team enables the robot to gather information about its environment, to combine the data from its various sensors and to interpret this using highly developed algorithms. It is able to detect its current location, what aisle it is working in, crossways and obstacles, people and most importantly its operator so that it can move itself to the optimum position for the process. "The truck decides itself whether it needs to stop for an obstacle, whether it can drive around it or whether it just needs to slow down – it reacts dynamically to these kinds of situations," says Viereck. "The end result is a significantly optimised flow of materials."

Christian Fischer is also visibly proud: "We are setting a benchmark for the industry in terms of autonomous driving. The interaction of various sensor systems and different algorithms from the fields of robotics and automation are making it possible for trucks to independently perceive and interpret their environments. That's a first milestone for us from which further milestones will follow." The lasers in the two sensors used to detect people are intentionally designed to resemble a pair of eyes that follow the order picker. "The iGo neo quite literally never loses sight of its operator. And if you don't switch it off, it will even follow you to the toilet or home!" he laughs. The warehouse equivalent of man's best friend.

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