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Cellular Transport Systems

Rigid warehouse systems with stationary materials handling technology and heavy storage and retrieval machinery are complex and inflexible. In order to do justice to customers’ changing requirements, the warehouse of the future needs to have significantly more flexibility. An innovative system has to be able to make use of so-called “swarm intelligence”.

A growing range of articles and the increasing numbers of orders for smaller and smaller consignment sizes pose new challenges for warehouse logistics. They need to be able to access this wide range of articles as quickly, flexibly and economically as possible. Cellular transport systems with self-controlled, autonomous transport units are now to take over from the rigid structures in the warehouse. For some years now the industry has already been using shuttles as a flexible alternative to standard storage and retrieval machines. But until now these have still been attached to rails and are not really in a position to take on tasks other than putting articles into or taking them out of storage. Swarms of driverless transport vehicles which can take goods to the right workstations without any unnecessary detours will enable a whole new dimension of flexibility.

Objective of the Project

This project aims to develop a cellular transport system where vehicles can move freely without any lines or markings to guide them through the warehouse, and react dynamically to their environment, communicating with each other and taking care of both storage and transport tasks. The development of the Multishuttle Move is now being followed up with practical tests in a specially equipped demonstration area in the Research Hall for Cellular Materials Handling (“Zellulare Fördertechnik” (ZFT)).

Around 1,000 square meters of space are available to investigate and practice real warehouse operations. In what is probably the most extensive experiment ever carried out with artificial intelligence in logistics, 50 innovative autonomous transport vehicles move around between the shelves and the order picking workstations. The project aims to prove that it makes sense to replace stationary materials handling and storage and retrieval systems with autonomous shuttle systems for economical, ecological and technological reasons.

Specific Innovations

By utilizing a multi-agent system and with the help of ant-algorithms, “swarm intelligence” is being transferred to intralogistics. Using shuttles which can find their own direct route to the intended destination it should be possible to achieve much shorter routes within the warehouse. Other advantages include the scalability and changeability of the complete intralogistics system so that system performance can be controlled at will by changing the number of vehicles deployed at any particular time.

Partners in the Project

Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML

In future we will see a swarm of shuttles moving freely around our warehouses. Innovative vehicles combine warehouse and transport processes.

Contact person

Dr.-Ing. Sören Kerner


Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML

Phone: +49 (0) 231 97 43 170



Dipl.-Ing. Guido Follert


Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML

Phone: +49 (0) 231 97 43 253


Facts & Figures

Start of the Project


Project Volume
5,5 Mio. Euro

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Members of EffizienzCluster

EffizienzCluster Management GmbH
Kölner Str. 80 - 82
45481 Mülheim an der Ruhr

Tel.: 0208-9925 - 255
Fax: 0208-9925 - 222
E-Mail: info@effizienzcluster.de