An unexpected combination Bale clamp: new uses

Automation in warehouse logistics continues advancing. A main component of this promising form of intralogistics are automated guided vehicle systems, or AGVs. Multiple vehicles, called AGVs, form this system. They are replacing conventional lift trucks in more and more places. As a result, it also affects attachments for forklifts. But fixed forks are not sufficient for all AGVs to deal with the handling task. This also applies to the manufacturer of tobacco products, JT International Germany GmbH (JTI) in Trier.

In the tobacco industry in Germany, JTI is the largest employer and the site of the German production location is not far from the Luxembourg border. Forklifts from various brands move around the whole site. Lorries criss-cross. But the further you get from the main entrance, the quieter it becomes. One of the obvious changes: so-called outdoor AGVs are on the move on the roads and pathways between the individual production and storage buildings. However, JTI does not only rely on the innovative automated transporters in outside areas. Therefore, the new times have already arrived in one of the storage buildings.

The visitor notices various things when entering the warehouse. There is the aromatic smell of fresh tobacco. Because the building is completely packed with light-brown boxes with a capacity of up to 300 kilogrammes. These do not only contain raw tobacco, but also so-called semi-finished goods (tobacco). While the raw products are only stored here temporarily before further production stages, the next stop for the goods already processed is dispatch. The row of yellow AGVs in one of the main aisles attracts the attention. They are vehicles from ek robotics (→  more information). The company, previously known as 'E&K Automation', from Rosengarten in Lower Saxony before the gates of Hamburg, has named this product range COMPACT MOVE. Just as conspicuous: the loads are not transported here with forks but with T413 bale clamps from KAUP.

What does JTI use the automated guided vehicles for?

“In the past, forklifts were naturally also everywhere here”, says one of the JTI project managers, Johannes Permesang. “But we wanted to have a future-proof design for our internal logistics,” the electrical engineer continues, “and we therefore decided on a solution with an automated guided vehicle system from ek robotics.” In order to implement the system as required, the manufacturer of innovative, high-performance transport robotics brought the attachment specialist KAUP from Aschaffenburg on board.

Currently, forklifts deliver the boxes from different production buildings on the site and put them onto two conveyors at the edge of the warehouse building. The normal load size: three boxes stacked on top of each other. The AGVs take over the continued transport here. At first sight, the bale clamps used look perfectly normal. Cylinders for clamping and for the sideshift are likewise present along with the clamping arm. Their dimensions of 1,020 mm length and 500 mm heigth are not, however, standard. Instead, the intricacies are in the detail. Cord sensors for the clamp cylinders and sideshift are installed as well as pressure sensors and a flow divider for synchronism.

But it is not only the bale clamps that are special. Above all, the AGVs bristle with intelligent technology. They can, for example, “decide” when it is time to charge the battery and then drive to one of the various charging stations. But even more important is another feature: the hybrid navigation system from ek robotics. With laser navigation and numerous magnets in the ground, it ensures that the boxes are safely brought to the intended destinations even in warehouse lanes.

At the end of the automation project, more than two dozen automated guided vehicles from ek robotics with the same number of KAUP bale clamps will be in use in seven storage buildings. JTI is planning for two employees to look after them. They will start new transport orders centrally and will become involved in the case of any faults in the transport systems. Talking about planning: KAUP and ek robotics are already working on further projects and currently planning their implementation.


KAUP GmbH & Co KG is one of the world's largest independent manufacturers of attachments for forklifts. However, the engineering company is also getting more and more involved in the field of automated transport systems. One of their partners is ek robotics GmbH. The company is the leading manufacturer and system integrator worldwide of innovative high-tech transport robotics for production and warehouse logistics. ek robotics from the vicinity of Hamburg has experience stretching over 50 years in transport robotics and has already installed more than 1,000 systems in the previous decades.

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