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On the Agenda at the CILTSA Warehouse Automation Conference: Robots in the Warehouse and Safe Racking

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Three autonomous mobile robots

Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are revolutionising the warehousing landscape internationally, setting new standards for expectations and deliverables. This exciting technology is already being used to a limited extent in South Africa – with companies reporting wide-ranging benefits. Andy Cooper of European Conveyors and Components, a specialist in materials handling and technology, will be exploring this topic at the upcoming Warehouse Automation hybrid conference hosted by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport: South Africa, taking place on 23 May at The Garden Venue in North Riding, Johannesburg and online.

In digital technology company Zebra’s most recent global Warehouse Vision Study published in 2022, 99 per cent of warehouse operators expected to deploy some form of AMRs in the next five years, even though only 27% say they are using AMRs in their warehouses today.

Andrew Cooper

According to Cooper, AMRs encompass exciting new technologies, which are bringing about real Return on Investment (ROI) – hence the quick adoption from industry. AMRs employ a system that has an Artificial Intelligence algorithm; they are constantly learning and can plan journeys independently. Says Cooper: “AMRs use Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM), which enables you to build a map and localise your vehicle in that map at the same time. SLAM algorithms allow the vehicle to map out unknown environments.”

Numerous benefits

Cooper outlines just some of the benefits of including AMRs in warehouses: increased efficiency; rapid ROI (one to three years), quick deployment (AMRs can go live within three to four months); better utilisation of storage space (by up to 30%), increased picking accuracy (up to 99.9 per cent); and, safer operations.

Contrary to popular belief, automation does not automatically take the place of people and so need not result in job losses. “Many warehouse companies are seeing that AMRs are making warehouse jobs less stressful, as operators’ jobs require less walking and a reduced amount of handling and picking,” says Cooper. “Indeed, warehouse workers have reported increased productivity and a reduction in the mistakes they make. AMRs have enabled them to advance to new roles and opportunities.”

Cooper, who recently travelled to several countries in Europe to explore this new technology, concludes: “Technology is huge enabler and problem-solver.”

Racking inspection and safe racking

Leader Nkala


Storage and racking systems can pose potential dangers in a warehouse. Even a properly stationed pallet rack does not guarantee that product will not fall from the shelves. Material Handling Equipment (MHE) are one of the most common causes of accidents in warehouses. Leader Nkala, SHERQ Director at leading local racking and shelving company Acrow, will be sharing practical safety tools and tips at the CILTSA warehouse conference on this important topic.

Nkala will share the company’s 10 Racking Health and Safety Commandments, highlight the compliance requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and stress the importance of ongoing training.

“Racking and shelving are important assets in any warehouse – helping you make the most of your storage space and optimising the organisation of your products. However, when these are damaged or incorrectly loaded or installed, they can become dangerous,” he explains.

The full conference programme includes talks on:

  • Warehouse Automation: The Risks and Benefits by Martin Bailey FCILT –Industrial Logistic Systems
  • Robots in the warehouse by Andy Cooper – Managing Director: European Conveyors & Components
  • How to optimise digital transformation in the warehouse by Munya Husvu – CEO: ISB Optimus
  • The current challenges we are facing in warehousing preventing automation and how to overcome them by Gerhard van Zyl – Group Operations Director: AsimoTech
  • Safety and Technology in the logistics environment by Annah Ngxeketo – CEO: Mamoja Trading and Projects
  • Warehouse safety awareness and inspection by Leader Nkala – SHERQ Director: Acrow

CILTSA’s conference is being hosted in collaboration with the Transport Forum. The event sponsors are Acrow, Fumani Holdings, ISB Optimus, Mamoja Trading and Projects, Toyota Material Handling, CFAO Equipment and Tendai Mhlanga Photography . Event supporters include CILTSA interest group Women in Logistics and Transport: South Africa (WiLATSA), the African Women in Supply Chain Association and Sincpoint.

To sign up for this free-to-attend event in person, register here

If you wish to attend online, click here

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Logistics

New Multimodal Inland Port Association Launched at Transport Forum

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Railway freight train in South Africa

A significant milestone was reached in the South African logistics sector with the recent launch of the Multimodal Inland Port Association (MIPA). This new association was launched during the Transport Forum, an online event on 23 May 2024 attended by over 250 delegates, with a distinguished panel from industry, Transnet and academia. The event marked what many are calling the dawn of a rail renaissance in the country.

MIPA addresses a critical need in South Africa’s logistics landscape, which is increasingly grappling with rising costs and severe congestion. The association aims to act as the unified voice for inland ports across the nation, focusing on promoting, supporting, and advocating for the increased movement of cargo from road to rail.

Warwick Lord, MIPA

“Transporting more cargo by rail has become an imperative, considering the growing cost of logistics in South Africa. It is no longer just a nice-to-have,” says Warwick Lord, MIPA Chairman.

MIPA aims to reform the rail industry through private investment, foster trade activities that meet social objectives, and facilitate the crucial transfer of goods from road to rail. By optimising industrial and logistics activities through efficient multimodalism, logistics costs will be reduced, and efficiency will be improved.

Formed by leading entities in the transportation sector, including the Cato Ridge Inland Port, Tambo Springs Development Company, Portfutures, Autoforce, Mac Group, Cape Town Inland Port, the Cape Winelands Airport, the Musina Intermodal Terminal, RailRunner South Africa, and RailRunner Services, the association is committed to collaborating on best practices, particularly in through private sector participation (PSP). It will work closely with government and state-owned enterprises.

“We aim to create one voice for inland ports, driving workable multimodal solutions that deliver efficiency, cost reduction, and much-needed resilience to the South African supply chain. By doing so, we can mitigate the impact of external shocks and ensure stability in the logistics sector,” says Lord.

MIPA’s strategy to drive more cargo from road to rail includes using innovative multi-nodal technology and improving collaboration with other freight hubs and stakeholders, to optimise each supply chain link from a cost and efficiency perspective.

“Inland ports increase accessibility through long-distance transport corridors, leading to lower distribution costs and improved capacity by consolidating freight volumes,” explains Lord. “These multi-modal terminals can handle large amounts of cargo continuously, allowing sea ports to extend their cargo base, which is crucial given the increasing size of vessels.”

Furthermore, inland ports provide significant dedicated logistics developments, proximity to rail and highways, ample truck parking, and less traffic congestion.

Lord says MIPA is dedicated to facilitating free trade and promoting sustainable practices. The association will support its members in complying with sustainable development goals and the SADC Vision 2050.

Dr Juanita Maree

Dr Juanita Maree, CEO of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF), highlighted the launch of MIPA: “Our logistics network is at a turning point, with more alignment across the country than ever before. By working together, we can achieve significant advancements. It is crucial to continuously foster dialogue, share insights, and raise awareness to build a sustainable supply chain for the future.”

According to Lord, MIPA will aim to expand its membership, encouraging more stakeholders to join and contribute to the conversation.

“The business community plays a vital role in developing and facilitating trade within the logistics and supply chain environment. We will lobby warehousing, transport, and consulting businesses through these channels to join MIPA. We will also seek to include State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) – as they are significant players nationally and globally – while fostering a close-working environment with the government,” concludes Lord.

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Unitrans launches Centre of Excellence to enhance African supply chain solutions

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Operating cost efficiencies and safety – both driver and vehicle – are primary considerations for any logistics or freight company and Unitrans, a forward-thinking company dedicated to providing value-added supply chain solutions across the continent, moves this to a new level with the launch of its newly upgraded Centre of Excellence (COE).

“The launch of our upgraded COE marks a significant milestone for Unitrans and the industry as a whole,” says Jacques Greeff, Executive of Solutions at Unitrans. “We are thrilled to unveil this state-of-the-art facility that will drive value creation and operational excellence for our clients across Africa.”

The modern supply chain is driven by ‘big data’ with information coming directly from trucks on the road, fleet management systems and other services. The COE collects, analyses this data and provides real-time solutions and information to all relevant departments, as well as to drivers on the road – for example, instant route changes to avoid traffic jams and the like.

By harnessing the power of technology through the COE, Unitrans is able to process large-scale data into actionable business intelligence.

“Our focus is on empowering our clients with real-time insights and predictive analytics that drive informed decision-making and enhance overall operational performance,” remarks Greeff. “Through our centralised platform and data-driven approach, we are unlocking new possibilities for supply chain optimisation and cost efficiency.”

Unitrans is committed to developing bespoke solutions to provide optimal results for its customers. The company’s commitment to excellence extends beyond technology and data analytics. Its team of industry experts brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table, ensuring clients receive best-in-class solutions tailored to their specific needs.

“We believe that the future of supply chain management lies in the integration of data-driven insights and advanced technology,” continues Greeff. “Our COE is designed to be a game-changer, offering our clients a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving marketplace.”

Greeff describes the COE as an enabling tool that serves to optimise operations, mitigate risks and enhance safety and security measures – ultimately contributing to the increased efficiencies of our customers’ supply chains. Some of the tangible benefits of the COE include fleet optimisation, reduced standing times and an overall boost in vehicle efficiency.

Whilst none of these concepts are new, the Unitrans COE uniquely balances risk mitigation imperatives and efficiency targets with sustainability objectives.

Predictive analytics

Predictive analytics means leveraging historical and real-time data to forecast future outcomes. By analysing large-scale data sets, businesses can gain valuable insights into patterns, trends and potential risks, allowing them to make informed decisions and mitigate operational challenges effectively.

In the context of a logistics business, predictive analytics can revolutionise risk management practices by identifying potential issues before they escalate, reducing operational risks and improving operational cost efficiency significantly.

Through the continuous analysis of data related to factors such as weather conditions, traffic patterns, equipment maintenance and driver behaviour, transport and logistics companies can proactively address potential problems and optimise their operations for efficiency, safety and sustainability.

“Ultimately, with the integration of advanced predictive analytics tools and large-scale data analysis, it is conceivable the supply chain industry could not only reduce operational risks, but potentially eradicate them altogether,” says Greeff.

This transformative approach has the power to improve the way supply chain businesses operate, ensuring smoother operations, enhanced safety standards, and ultimately, a more sustainable and reliable supply chain ecosystem.

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Press Releases

JC Auditors prompts Easter Road Safety Campaign

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South Africa has historically faced alarming road safety challenges during the Easter holiday period. According to past statistics, road accidents and fatalities tend to spike significantly during this time, highlighting the need for heightened awareness and proactive safety measures. According to Transport Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga, 225 people died on the roads over the four-day Easter 2023 long weekend in 185 fatal crashes.

This is an almost 40% increase on the number of deaths in 2022. According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the number of fatal crashes increased by 33% between Easter 2022 and 2023, with North West and Northern Cape recording decreases of 57% and 25% respectively in fatal crashes. The highest percentage increase was in the Free State at 125%, followed by Kwa-Zulu Natal at 67%.

As a prompt to the road transport industry, JC Auditors (JCA) are encouraging the road transport sector to consider initiating Easter road safety campaigns in the context of their business operations. The industry is being encouraged to consider simple, innovative ways to keep safe driving at the forefront during this high-risk period. With the holiday season approaching, it is crucial to avoid becoming immune to the messages of road safety campaigns and instead focus on engaging and impactful methods to remind drivers of the importance of safe driving.

“These campaigns need not be formal and big events – although the bigger corporates may opt for this – but a simple safety talk, a few impactful posters, a voice-note to the drivers, a quick reminder by the fleet controller. This can make a difference to at least one life,” says Yashen Naidoo, JC Auditors’ RTMS Lead Auditor.

More than 80% of road accidents are due to driver behavioural issues. Therefore, changing the mindset, attitude, and focus of drivers is crucial in reducing road accidents and fatalities. “From the RTMS audits conducted, we have found that distracted driving, travelling at unsafe speeds, and not maintaining a safe following distance are key contributors to road accidents,” comments Naidoo. “Drivers need to adjust their driving behaviour to suit prevalent road conditions, including high traffic density, road construction sites, wet roads, poor visibility, and damaged roads.”

Certain routes, such as the section of the N3 between Pietermaritzburg and Hammarsdale, pose an extremely high risk to drivers due to narrow lanes with temporary barriers. A minor lane deviation, a moment of distraction, or travelling at an unsafe speed can have catastrophic results. Commercial fleet operators need to raise awareness among their drivers about such high-risk routes and the need for extra caution.

The N3 Toll Route has seen a significant increase in the number of trucks over the past decade, mainly due to the transfer of freight from rail to road. On average, 7 000 trucks move thousands of tons of goods on the N3 every day. Given the high risks, commercial fleet operators need to seriously consider innovative means of raising awareness in our collective efforts to reduce road crashes and fatalities.

As part of the collective effort to stimulate practical road safety initiatives, JC Auditors (JCA) has made a free “Easter Safety Basket” poster available to prompt commercial fleets to start taking steps to promote safe driving. The poster which can be shared with drivers may be downloaded from JC Auditors. “By working together and taking little steps, we must believe that, despite our poor road safety record, we can make a difference!” concludes Naidoo.

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