How middleware amplified the power of vertical integration in the logistics industry

To ensure that data is stored, managed, and analyzed properly, companies use a variety of software. However, sensors cannot communicate with these software solutions directly. To properly translate sensor protocols into something many software can understand, an intermediate level of software is necessary, like middleware. Often referred to as the “software glue,” middleware provides a method for linking newer applications to legacy systems. By using programs and formats our customers already know and trust, SICK is able to provide customized solutions, proper integration of data, and standardize aggregated data for higher-level IT systems.

Middleware has opened many new opportunities in production. A new understanding of logistics is required to exploit digitalization along the entire supply chain – from procurement logistics to warehouse and production logistics to distribution logistics.

A primary example of how middleware is being used on the field is the RFMS Pro RFID reading system. It is an automatic RFID-based incoming goods control system commissioned by a package and logistics service provider for their newest distribution center for a textile brand client.

“In the past, not only were the bar codes of all packaging units scanned and booked on arrival, but random sample packages were also opened and their contents checked in order to ensure continuously high stock quality. This naturally took time,” said Manfred Pierl, Sales Manager International Key Accounts at SICK's location in Dusseldorf, Germany. “It made sense to use an RFID-based solution because textile producers now label almost all products with RFID tags.”

Keeping the Customer in Mind throughout Development

Even during the very first test runs, the RFMS Pro RFID reading system reliably detected the number of products contained in the dispatch boxes (1,700 cartons per hour)… without even opening them.

“The semi-automated target-actual comparison already saved a lot of time. But integration of the RFID hardware directly in the producer’s goods management system also resulted in considerably greater customer benefit,” said Manfred Haberer, Head of Integration Solutions at SICK AG. “Our middleware enables us to provide the results of this goods comparison to the producer’s Warehouse Management System. We were thus able to convince both the logistics service provider and the producer to go with a fully automatic solution for incoming goods.”

Conveyor systems and ejection points were implemented, as well as fully automatic rejection of incorrect packages based on an inspection of the unit and article numbers. The quality of the delivery can now be checked immediately, and suppliers send complaints about any deviations. This not only reduces costs resulting from inventory faults, but also ensures availability of the necessary articles – so shops are supplied with the correct goods on time

“Our customer-specific integration solutions enable us to close the gaps between sensor data detection and the customer’s management and planning systems while building up new customer relationships for software solutions,” Haberer said.

Integration capability and consistency are important features of intelligent and future-oriented communication structures – particularly regarding Industry 4.0.

Want to learn more about our middleware and industry 4.0 solutions? Contact a SICK representative today!