Competitive Internal Logistics Systems through Automation

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: The growing demand for products and services puts great pressure on logistics performance and enhances the role that logistics plays in determining a company’s competitiveness.This research focuses on internal logistics systems, which includes all logistics activities and processes within the physical limits of an isolated company. Internal logistics is vital for the overall function of many companies. However, despite its importance, this part of logistics has traditionally not been viewed or developed in a strategic way. Since internal logistics activities are often characterized by a high degree of manual handling and hence strongly affect the cost of operations, there is a large incentive for improvements in this area.  One possible way to improve an internal logistics system is with the help of automation. In many areas, automation is a well-known means to increase productivity and cut costs, thus improving competitiveness. However, automation is not commonly used within internal logistics activities, and there is a lack of knowledge and research within this new application area. The main objective of this research, therefore, is to contribute to an increased understanding of how automation can be used to develop competitive internal logistics systems.Four empirical studies have been performed to investigate how companies perceive and work with their internal logistics systems, specifically in terms of improvements using automation. The empirical studies also aimed at identifying and describing how the studied companies could benefit from automation within internal logistics activities.From the studies, the importance of assessing and being aware of the current state of logistics performance was discovered as a basic requirement that needs to be fulfilled before conducting improvement work. Further, one of the main overall conclusions from this research is the need for a logistics strategy that includes goals and plans for the operation and development of an internal logistics system. As a result of the research, a structure and procedure for the development of a logistics strategy and a framework for conducting an improvement process in internal logistics using automation were developed.

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