To shape the future of an industry, one must not only understand the framework conditions but also anticipate technological as well as societal trends. With the logistics company Raben Group, we have already realized several LED refurbishment projects in Poland, utilizing our E-Line Next LED continuous line system, the light management system LiveLink Premium, and cloud services. We have taken advantage of this connection to ask some exciting questions about digitization in logistics to Michał Węgrzyn, Regional Contract Logistics Director at Raben Logistics Poland.

Logistics is considered a digital flagship industry.

Where does your company stand currently?

The Raben Group has been working for many years on the automation and robotization of processes and services. In automation, we focus on intelligent IT solutions, such as platforms that autonomously provide information for our customers, such as the estimated time of arrival (ETA) of a delivery. In the field of warehouse automation and robotics we implement devices for shipment tracking, utilize autonomous or semi-automatic forklifts, as well as collaborative robots with "cobotic" arms. Additionally, we incorporate sensors for the Internet of Things (IoT), VR driving simulators, and many other solutions that enhance the efficiency of warehouse and transport processes. The long-term goal is hyper-automation through the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning techniques, and the integration of information from other platforms and systems, such as IoT sensors, industrial CCTV cameras, or GPS systems.

What are the benefits of digital tools for planning logistics real estate and processes?

The digital simulation of warehouse processes helps us efficiently plan new warehouses or infrastructure expansions. We can review various workflows and models to identify where changes or improvements can be made. This allows us to virtually uncover bottlenecks and optimize positions and equipment – even before the first cent is invested and the first sod is turned.

We have also already implemented "digital twins," which are digital models that fully replicate the real warehouse system and interact with it in real-time. Digital twins help to simulate various logistics scenarios, layouts, and process schematics virtually by showing how the real system reacts to changes.

Is automation in logistics a blessing or a curse?

Against the backdrop of labor shortages and the complexity and diversity of tasks and processes in the logistics industry, automation is primarily a practical necessity. At Raben, we are currently focusing on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA bots are not physical robots but software programs that can autonomously handle recurring, highly complex tasks, such as generating quotes and invoices, planning loading and unloading processes, calculating routes, and much more. RPA bots relieve employees by taking over tedious and error-prone routine tasks. And they perform their tasks much faster than their human counterparts, which helps alleviate labor shortages.

In Industry 5.0, human well-being is becoming increasingly important.

What role does lighting play in this context?

The days of poorly illuminated warehouses and logistics areas are definitely over. While lighting used to be primarily selected based on functional and normative criteria, factors such as light quality, human well-being, and health are now in the spotlight. The demands and expectations of employees regarding the attractiveness of their workplaces have increased enormously.

Well-designed lighting not only contributes to the well-being of employees but can also enhance efficiency at work. By reducing eye strain and creating a pleasant working environment, employees can work more attentively and productively, ultimately benefiting company performance.

In the logistics complex in Ruda Slaska you rely on smart lighting.

Does it pay off?

Definitely, and in multiple ways. We chose 8 km of E-Line Next LED and the LiveLink light management system, particularly due to their high cost-effectiveness, light quality, and sustainability. Sensor technology for presence detection has also been integrated into the network for minimal energy consumption. However, light quality cannot be quantified in monetary terms. The luminaires in Ruda Slaska provide excellent visibility conditions throughout all hall areas with customized light distributions – from the floor up to a height of over 12 meters. This increases safety, visual comfort, and well-being alike.

Autonomous delivery vehicles, delivery robots, flying drones –

When will we see these approaches in practice?

All of these solutions have been around for some time. Their deployment is hindered not primarily by costs but mainly by regulatory requirements that do not always keep pace with technology. The safety of transportation and transported goods also plays an important role. Therefore, I think it will take some time before these solutions mentioned become prevalent in practice.

What does the future of logistics look like for you?

The future belongs to ubiquitous artificial intelligence. Thanks to machine learning, robots will be able to evolve, make decisions autonomously, and carry out assigned tasks independently. Artificial intelligence will help optimize processes, reduce costs, and improve sustainability and efficiency. In the future, humans will probably only be the initiators and no longer the executors of the process in the supply chain. However, the role of the logistician will not disappear.

They will continue to support customers in realizing their business goals and plans. The only difference is that in the future, they may have access to a variety of digital solutions to optimize the delivery process to the end consumer. This means I don't believe robots are a substitute for dedicated employees. Automation, robotics, or AI rather help them keep pace with the changing world.