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The KION Group modernizes logistics thanks to AMR technology

High competition, high customer expectations – and major logistical challenges: The e-commerce sector is an industry that is as demanding as it is highly dynamic. To keep pace with the increasing demands, omnichannel retailer Radial Europe is now relying on an end-to-end solution from KION subsidiary Dematic. The scale of the project with 299 Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) marks a milestone – and enables Radial Europe to achieve greater safety, efficiency and scalability through the integration of advanced AI and robotics technologies.


An ensemble is characterized by the harmonious interplay of its members. This applies to orchestras as well as warehouses: the larger the ensemble, the more sophisticated the choreography. The key to success lies in a coherent overall concept, emphasizes Francis De Backer, Managing Director Dematic NV (and Sr. Director EMEA) at Dematic. 299 AMRs, spread across 45 pick and pack stations, are revolutionizing automation at the logistics center of Dutch omnichannel giant Radial Europe by enabling an unprecedented automation boost.

Inclusion of AMRs

With more than 35 e-commerce fulfillment centers in Europe and North America, Radial Europe has established itself as a global player. The logistics center in Groningen covers an impressive 26,000 square meters, which is the size of four football pitches. Francis De Backer explains: "In view of Radial Europe's enormous growth in recent years, there was a need to optimize the warehouse processes. The aim was to increase efficiency in the handling of several million parcels a year."

Instead of relying on conveyor belts and pallets as usual, Dematic opted for a different approach for this project. First, comprehensive data analyses were carried out. It quickly became clear that the technology used in Groningen would be based on autonomous mobile robots. Francis De Backer: "We used to supply customers with AMR systems that were designed exclusively for pallet transport. But this time it's about introducing a goods-to-person system based on AMR – on an unprecedented scale." The 299 AMRs are part of an integrated operation in which they work side by side with up to 200 human employees. "This was new territory for us," continues De Backer: "The challenge was to fully understand the application of an AMR-based order fulfillment system – in its design and implementation." The challenge was approached step by step.

Mixed operation with AMRs

After a planning phase lasting several months, implementation began. The first step was the delivery of the transport robots by KION's strategic partner Quicktron. In Groningen, 45 pick and pack stations and ten transfer stations were installed. In addition, more than 600 pallet storage locations and a racking system with a capacity of around 65,000 containers were created. "The AMRs perform three main tasks in the complex structure," explains De Backer: "First, they transport the pallets from the entrance to the arrival zone of the warehouse. Then they move to the transfer stations and the order pickers." The AMRs then take on the task of transporting the containers filled by the pickers between the rack storage area and the picking stations.

What appears comparatively simple at first glance is a complex system that works primarily thanks to Dematic’s software solutions. This is because the AMRs are mainly used to process e-commerce orders in the textile sector and carry out actions autonomously at critical points. Francis De Backer: "Our AMR solutions use advanced software algorithms to generate orders autonomously and determine efficient routes."

Both scalability and a comprehensive safety concept are of crucial importance here. Kevin Heath, Director Global Robotics, adds: "For this important order, we are relying on safety practices that have been specially developed for this innovative technology." These include sensors and cameras that can detect obstacles and adjust the robots' route accordingly. The safety concept enables a symbiosis between human employees and AMRs: while the robots take care of the transportation and positioning of the goods, the humans take on tasks that require sensitivity and decision-making skills. These include quality control and the manual picking of special items.

Hybrid Systems with AMRs

AMR-based goods-to-person systems like the one at Radial Europe will be in greater demand in the future, says Francis De Backer – according to him, market requirements are clearly trending in this direction, and their advantage is obvious: compared to conventional conveyors and conveyor belt systems, they are more cost-efficient and easier to implement. But does this mean the end of conveyor and shuttle systems? "Not at all," emphasizes De Backer: "Conveyor and shuttle systems can handle a much higher throughput volume. The future lies in the combination of both systems – in hybrid solutions." According to the expert, such a mixture of automated warehouses and AMRs offers customers the best of both worlds, so to speak. "The project in Groningen has enabled us to expand our expertise in AMR-based goods-to-person systems," says De Backer. For Dematic, the major project in Groningen was therefore also a learning process in which new knowledge could be combined with proven expertise.

However, one thing is clear: The best interaction can only be considered a success if the customer is also satisfied. Dries De Love, Executive Vice President at Radial Europe: "The solution increases efficiency, which leads to improved services and lower costs for our customers. In addition, we see ergonomic improvements and safety benefits for our employees. This leads to a higher overall performance."