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.
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.”
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
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
RTMS auditors in bid to raise safety awareness amongst truck drivers in South Africa
South Africa faces a pressing road safety challenge, with a disproportionate number of accidents involving heavy vehicles, particularly trucks. In an effort to address this issue and promote safer road conditions, it is imperative to raise safety awareness among truck drivers across the country.
To promote safe driving amongst heavy vehicle truck drivers, certifications solutions company JC Auditors (JCA) will participate in a series of road shows in collaboration with industry partners, dedicated to raising awareness among heavy vehicle truck drivers and promoting safe driving behaviours.
The first event will be hosted at the Highway Junction Truck Stop on 4 October 2023, targeting an audience of 2 000 drivers.
During this event, drivers will not only be treated to delightful surprises and giveaways, but will also receive a crucial safety message emphasising the importance of responsible driving. The Highway Junction team are spearheading this event, with the JCA team providing driver safety resources and support.
For the second year, JCA will partner with the Reinhardt Transport Group (RTG) for their “Safer Roads” road shows, which will take place in various locations, including Komatipoort, Steelpoort, Rustenburg, Brits and Richards Bay.
This collaboration will enable the dissemination of vital road safety information to a broader audience of truck drivers across these high-volume routes.
In addition to these road shows, JCA will host its third Annual Driver Day at Highway Junction, which will encompass driver health checks and the highly successful one-on-one driver motivational talks.
This event further recognises the challenges faced by truck drivers and aims to express appreciation for their demanding profession. Each driver will receive a token of gratitude as a gesture of recognition for their commitment to one of the most challenging jobs around.
“The JCA team strongly encourages all stakeholders in the road safety ecosystem to consider and implement initiatives that elevate the professional status of drivers,” says Managing Director Oliver Naidoo. “By collectively addressing the issues faced by truck drivers and promoting safer driving practices, we can work towards improving South Africa’s lamentable road safety record.”
JCA is committed to fostering a culture of road safety and believes that these road shows, in collaboration with industry partners, are a meaningful step towards making our roads safer for everyone.
“South Africa’s trucking industry plays a pivotal role in the nation’s economy, facilitating the transportation of goods that are essential for daily life,” continues Naidoo. “The significant increase in freight volumes proportionately increases the safety risk exposure, hence the need for greater awareness and adherence to safety protocols among truck drivers.”
In this regard, Naidoo highlights some key factors the road freight sector should consider:
High Accident Rates
South Africa has one of the highest road crash rates in the world, and a significant proportion of these accidents involve heavy vehicles. The consequences of these accidents are often devastating, resulting in loss of life, injury, and damage to property.
Road accidents involving trucks have a substantial economic impact, causing delays in supply chains, increased insurance costs, and damage to infrastructure. These costs ultimately affect businesses, consumers, and the overall economy.
Truck driving is a demanding profession, often requiring long hours on the road, exposure to adverse weather conditions, and significant physical and mental strain. Ensuring the well-being of truck drivers is not only a safety concern, but also a matter of basic human rights. The increasing truck crime statistics and social unrest incidents make the situation even worse.
To address these challenges, there is a growing need for comprehensive safety awareness programs targeting truck drivers. These initiatives should include:
Education & Training
Providing truck drivers with access to training programs that focus on safe driving practices, defensive driving techniques, and understanding road conditions. This should not be purely classroom based which has limited impact, but should use personal, innovative, and consistent means of engaging with the drivers to bring about the desired shift in safety culture.
Mental & Physical Health Support
Offering resources and services that address the mental and physical health of truck drivers, including stress management, nutrition, and regular health check-ups, especially for drivers with chronic illnesses.
Implementing advanced safety technologies such as collision avoidance systems, fatigue monitoring, and using telematics data to enhance driver safety.
Encouraging collaboration between government agencies, the trucking industry, and local communities, to create a collective commitment to road safety.
Recognition & Appreciation
Recognising and appreciating the contributions of truck drivers who undertake one of the toughest jobs in the country, often under challenging conditions.
Voestalpine VAE SA (VAESA) Awarded a Prestigious Three-Year Contract by Transnet Freight Rail for Turnout Sets
Leading provider of railway infrastructure solutions, VAESA, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a significant three-year contract by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) to manufacture and supply TFR’s demand for turnout sets and components annually.
This collaboration is a testament to VAESA’s commitment to delivering high-quality railway products and services that enhance South Africa’s rail network.
TFR’s decision to award VAESA with this game-changing contract from a rail network infrastructure perspective, underscores the company’s reputation for excellence and innovation within the railway industry.
“We are delighted to have been selected by TFR for this significant contract,” says Pulane Tshabalala Kingston, VAESA’s Chief Executive Officer.
“This partnership between ourselves and TFR aligns perfectly with our mission to provide cutting-edge railway solutions that contribute to South Africa’s transportation infrastructure progress. Our team is dedicated to delivering products of the highest quality that meet the stringent standards set by TFR.”
Local Production a Boost For The Economy
The turnout sets and components for this project will be manufactured at VAESA’s state-of-the-art Isando facility in Johannesburg.
The facility holds a unique history, as it was acquired 26 years ago by voestalpine Railway Systems, part of the voestalpine group, a distinguished Austrian-listed metal company renowned as the unrivalled leader in turnout technology globally. In 2021, Mirai Rail Corporation, a black woman-owned company, acquired a controlling interest in VAESA.
“As the only facility of its scale in sub-Saharan Africa, our Isando facility stands as a testament – not only to the company’s dedication to advancing railway infrastructure and technology on the Continent, but also to our commitment to local manufacture in South Africa,” says Tshabalala Kingston.
“In this regard, it is important to note that our facility has the capacity to comfortably meet both TFR’s demand in terms of the awarded contract, as well as our other customers’ demands. We have gone to great lengths to ensure the security of supply for our customers, as we understand how important this is.”
“It is noteworthy that this is the first substantial turnouts contract to have been successfully awarded in the last five years – and explains TFR’s significant maintenance backlog.
This award is an important and positive step forward by TFR, which will go a long way to resolving cycle time issues, creating jobs, bolstering the revenues of users on the rail network and ultimately contributing to our overall economic growth,” continues Tshabalala Kingston.
Turnouts are a critical component of modern railway infrastructure. They let trains change tracks smoothly, without needing to stop.
Turnouts allow trains to be re-routed to avoid congestion, delays, or maintenance work. Additionally, rail turnouts enable the creation of sidings, which are essential for freight trains to pass each other on single-track lines.
Empowering Communities & Driving Economic Growth
According to Tshabalala Kingston, the significance of the contract goes well beyond VAESA, casting a positive light on the entire perway industry.
“This award heralds a much-needed turnaround that will breathe new life into various facets of the industry – including job prospects and the livelihood of downstream suppliers, who provide essential components like nuts, bolts, chairs, and fishplates. The positive impact of this award extends across the industry, as it revitalises not only VAESA, but also the network of companies that support its operations.”
Already, VAESA has supplied TFR with 18 complete turnout sets. These were installed in July this year during the annual shutdown of the coal line that runs from Lephalale in Limpopo, through Mpumalanga, to the Port of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.
The turnouts were installed on the Ermelo, Vryheid, Ulundi and Richards Bay lines. As of January 2023, the coal line had a number of clamped turnouts, which hurt the ability of coal mining companies to evacuate their export coal.
Replacing 18 turnouts has been heralded as a game-changer, significantly improving cycle times and overall turnaround time in the TFR Ermelo yard – ultimately halving the overall cycle time.
“The awarding of this contract and the successful engagement and participation in the yearly coal line shutdown, through collaborative efforts with various stakeholders, serves as undeniable evidence of what is possible when all stakeholders come together with a common purpose, ” concludes Tshabalala Kingston.
“It benefits the manufacturing industry at large and users of the various rail corridors. Equally important, is that it will increase tariff revenues for Transnet – given the greater operational efficiencies achieved, allowing for more volumes to be transported between the coal mines and the Port of Richards Bay. This impact of the award cannot be underestimated – it has the capability of contributing to the re-awakening of the South African rail renaissance.”
Unitrans champions International Water Week with collaborative Clean-up Day.
Committed to environmental rejuvenation and sustainability, logistics services provider Unitrans has partnered with Adopt-a-River, uniting their efforts in a river clean-up initiative as part of International Water Week.
The event, held at the Unitrans depot in Clairwood, Kwa-Zulu Natal, on 23 August 2023, showcased a robust collaboration among critical stakeholders, including neighbouring companies, the community and the government.
“We have prioritised several sustainability goals and have made a firm commitment to making a positive impact and being responsible in our consumption and everything we do,” explained Unitrans CEO Terry Bantock. “The clean-up day is a reflection of this.”
“Unitrans believes in the power of partnership and proactive engagement to drive positive change. Through initiatives like this, we aim to inspire and encourage a broader movement towards safeguarding our planet for future generations.”
Unitrans actively supports Adopt-a-River, a non-profit organisation dedicated to making a difference in our waterways. The project involves waste collection from the Umhlatuzane River adjacent to the company’s Clairwood depot, tackling illegally dumped waste and controlling the alien invasive species along the riverbank.
The clean-up day highlighted the ongoing efforts to restore the Umhlatuzane River, by clearing some significant sand deposits and blocking off slip road access, which was illegally used for washing vehicles and dumping waste and chemicals into the river.
Collaboration for sustainability
By Unitrans’ unwavering dedication to adopting a portion of the river and fostering sustainable practices, the event echoed a resounding call for collective action in safeguarding natural resources.
The dedicated group of environmental enthusiasts comprising Unitrans and Adopt-a-River staff, representatives from the community, Ethekwini Municipality, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, neighbouring companies, as well as members of the media, dedicated their time and effort to address some of the challenges faced on the Umhlatuzane River.
Recognising the critical importance of water resources and the need to address environmental challenges, Unitrans and Adopt-a-River embarked on this journey in November 2022, marking the beginning of a relentless effort to combat daily issues affecting the Umhlatuzane canal and its banks. The project’s inception highlighted the problems plaguing the Umhlatuzane River and its surroundings.
Founder and Director of Adopt-a-River Janet Simpkins stressed the importance of collaboration:
“By embracing the concept of adopting and maintaining a space along a river, ordinary individuals can become water warriors. The need for water security, particularly in the face of global climate change, cannot be over-emphasised.
“Protecting our precious water resources and keeping them pollution-free is vital. We are grateful to all the stakeholders for joining hands with us to support this important initiative.”
Commenting on the excellent turnout of various stakeholders, Head of Accelerated Organisational Sustainability Liesl de Wet added: “Considering the multiple stressors impacting our rivers, now more than ever, a unified approach is required to protect our rivers, wetlands, and broader catchments. We are delighted that our neighbours, community members and government stakeholders joined us on this important initiative.”
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