A small mobile device lifts a long metal beam on which pipes up to five metres long can be transported. (Copyright: Ben Huggler)
Competencies - March 2024

When size matters

Driverless transporters for pipes

In Group Logistics in Pfullendorf (DE), two driverless transport systems move pipes through the warehouses. The digitally controlled devices are not a matter of course, but a customised Geberit solution.

Five metres can be short, for example when Lionel Messi shoots at a goal from this distance. However, if you have to transport a large quantity of five-metre-long pipes, these can feel quite long. At Group Logistics in Pfullendorf, a team has introduced a driverless transport system for such pipes.

Adapted vehicles
“It wasn't easy,“ says project manager Manuel Renz, looking back. “After all, long goods of this kind play almost no role for providers of driverless transport systems.“ In addition, the vehicles must be able to transport weights of up to one tonne. But in the end, the search paid off. A development company was prepared to adapt vehicles for Geberit. “They developed a five metre long goods carrier on which our pipes could be deposited for transport.“

After the introduction, the employees had to get used to the new transport systems. “They no longer can position the forklift just the way they want it.“ Otherwise, the automatic long goods transporter would stop in front of this obstacle and stop moving. The vehicles can transport pipes in continuous operation for two to three hours, after which they have to return to the charging station for a good 15 minutes. Depending on the order load, they carry out more than 100 transport journeys a day.

The limits of the systems
But it doesn’t work without people. On the one hand, employees need to load and unload the goods carriers. Secondly, the two devices are not yet able to handle all the journeys on their own. “Some of the Mapress pipes are 6 metres long and weigh more than a tonne when stacked – that's where the transport system reaches its limits.“ Therefore, the conventional forklifts remain in use.

Manuel Renz (left) and Fabian Hiestand work on the digital settings for the new long goods transporters. (Copyright: Ben Huggler)