Greven/Berlin, June 29, 2022 | With 155,000 square meters (1.67 million square feet) of logistics space, a good 800 employees and 55 million outgoing items per year, the Fiege Mega Center Ibbenbüren is one of the largest logistics centers in Europe. Many of the customers operating at the site are growing steadily, meaning the space required is continually expanding and the distances needing to be covered for order picking are often also becoming longer. To provide employees with sustainable and effective support at work, the family-owned Fiege company has deployed the AI-based Cray X exoskeleton from German Bionic since June 2022.
The compact and lightweight power suit is a multi-talented device that straps on like a backpack: The smart exoskeleton provides up to 30 kilograms of support per lifting movement in manual working environments, features active walking assistance, and is also integrated into the digital workflow via the German Bionic IO platform. It thereby succeeds in creating the ideal situation where humans and machines interact with each other in a seamless and intuitive manner.
“We already have picking robots, push tray sorters and sorting systems in use alongside our employees at our site, but there are a whole range of recurring tasks that cannot be performed purely by automation,” explains Detlev Hornhues, Head of the Fiege site in Ibbenbüren. “And this is exactly where we want to start with the innovative technology from German Bionic. We are convinced that with the smart Cray X, we can optimize the important manual work at our site and, in this context, provide our employees with valuable support in their day-to-day work.”
How it works? As soon the Cray X is switched on, it connects to the German Bionic IO system platform via LTE or Wi-Fi and begins its preventive and supportive tasks, namely to make physically strenuous and repetitive tasks performed by employees less demanding and more ergonomic. The AI-based Cray X achieves this by supplying the respective wearer with additional, external energy during their activities – and learns each day along the way.
Fully connected: Manual workplaces become integrated into the digital workflow
The full connectivity of the powered exoskeleton via the German Bionic IO system platform is what makes most of the innovative features possible. “Since full connectivity means we remain in continuous contact with our customers, we can analyze work processes better than other providers and constantly improve the Cray X on the basis of user feedback as well as our own evaluations,” explains Armin G. Schmidt, co-founder and CEO of German Bionic. “German Bionic’s cloud-based exoskeleton platform is unique in the industry. It provides us with the data we need to advance and optimize machine learning and continue our research and development at ever higher levels.”
The system integrates manual workplaces into the company’s digital workflow, creating an interoperable exchange of data between the various enterprise systems. In addition to improved workplace safety, this also has the benefit that Fiege can create its own bases for evaluation in order to identify potential bottlenecks at an early stage, optimize processes, and eliminate disruptions in the workflow.
AI-based alerts that highlight ergonomic risk factors and fatigue
The integrated AI-based early warning system for ergonomics, the Smart Safety Companion, also helps to prevent fatigue, poor posture, and incorrect lifting techniques among employees. As a result, it can also help to avoid employee errors and injuries caused by excessive strain. The comprehensive reporting functions provide immediate overviews of the effectiveness of workplace safety measures. This opens up new potentials for workplace safety and business performance.
Automation has been an ongoing process at logistics service provider Fiege for many years. In close coordination with the LEAN management and engineering team, the company examines how processes can be made more efficient – for example, by using innovative technology. However, the aim is not to replace people, says Hornhues. “Quite the opposite: The aim is to relieve our employees of mundane and repetitive tasks as far as possible, so that we can deploy them in value-creating processes that are more enjoyable on the one hand, and in which human capabilities are indispensable, on the other.”
Very much in keeping with this spirit, German Bionic’s technology comes into play in situations where full automation or robotic systems reach their limits. “We will continue to see numerous areas of work in the future that will remain reliant on the creative problem-solving skills of humans,” says Norma Steller, CPO at German Bionic. “Using the AI-based Cray X is not about replacing humans with robotics, but about human augmentation and inclusion paired with measurable process optimization.”
The FIEGE Group, headquartered in Greven in Westphalia (Germany), is one of Europe’s most innovative logistics companies. A workforce of over 23,000 employed at 133 locations based in 16 countries back FIEGE and its international operations in core markets across all of Europe, and all the way to Asia. FIEGE is a fifth-generation family business that is regarded as a pioneer of contract logistics. Its modular solutions in Logistics, Digital Services, Real Estate and Ventures form the essence of its business activities. In 2021, the FIEGE Group generated 1.8 billion euros in turnover while overseeing more than four million square metres of logistics space. www.fiege.com
About German Bionic
German Bionic is a leading developer and manufacturer of smart power suits. Exoskeletons are human-machine systems that combine human intelligence with machine power by supporting or amplifying the wearer’s movements. The Cray X from German Bionic is the world’s first connected exoskeleton. Linked to the Smart Factory, it self-learns to reinforce lifting movements and prevent incorrect posture, thus becoming an intelligent link between humans and machines. In doing so, it delivers data that underscores its ability to protect the health of workers, measurably reduce the risk of accidents, and thereby make quantifiable improvements to work processes. In recognition of this innovative technology, which puts people back in the focus of Industry 4.0, German Bionic and the Cray X have received numerous awards, including the Bavarian and German Entrepreneur Awards, the Land of Ideas and Automatica Award, as well as a nomination for the prestigious Hermes Award at the Hannover Messe. German Bionic offices are located in Augsburg, Berlin, Boston, and Tokyo.