The University’s Centre for Smart Warehousing and Internet of Things company Logidot are collaborating to improve the performance of warehouse and factory operations, with support from Innovate UK’s Smart Grants.

The alliance of academic and commercial expertise will combine algorithm and modelling expertise from the University’s School of Management with Logidot’s Internet of Things (IoT) solution to develop and optimise systems.

The partnership, to be joined by a leading contract logistics company, will develop capacity to enable real-time monitoring, analysis, and optimisation (AI-based) of operations and resource allocation. It will enable warehouse operations to dynamically respond to labour shortages, and improve health and safety. The new approach will synchronise with transport services and enable order prioritisation, to reduce inefficiencies, waste and costs.

Dr Vaggelis Giannikas, Director of the University’s Centre for Smart Warehousing and Logistics Systems said: “We are excited to work with Logidot to revolutionise the manufacturing and logistics industries. Humans are going to remain an integral part of any automation system of the future as they can provide unique value that is complementary to that of robots and machines. “Finding the best ways people and automation can work together will help tackle some of the real-life problems faced by businesses and open new avenues for human-robot collaboration.”

A key focus is on developing functionality for activity tracking in manual work and operations by forklifts and pickers, to understand where and why time is wasted on unproductive workflows, dynamically responding/routing drivers/pickers in real-time, and coordinating with automation (conveyor belts or robots).

With access to a flagship Warehouse of the Future in the Midlands, an advanced prototype will be developed and piloted for mid-large sized automated warehouses, demonstrating innovative techniques to enable robust activity tracking in manual warehouse operations (forklifts/pickers), routing and synchronisation with automated parts (conveyor belts/robots).

Efficient logistics is vital for UK trade, impacting the economy and over seven million industry employees. Surging costs and acute labour shortages are threatening the sustainability of the warehousing and logistics industry where margins are typically very low and businesses operate on short contract terms.

The industry is embracing innovative digital technologies and robotics to automate operations, improve efficiency and reduce costs. However, with increasing automation, human-robot collaboration and the measurement and tracking of goods, equipment and workforce activity across operations becomes increasingly challenging.

Logidot founder Dr Niccolo Corsini said: “Covid-19, Brexit, the war in Ukraine… the UK warehousing and manufacturing sectors have weathered crisis after crisis with incredible resilience and kept vital supplies flowing. A perfect storm of labour shortages, rising costs and ever higher customer expectations is forcing industry to automate rapidly. We are honoured to have been recognised as an innovative solution to help companies on this digital transformation journey and look forward to collaborating with the University of Bath as well as our other partners.”