Daifuku Intralogistics America Corporation : Automation That Inspires

Scarlett BurkeLucy Pilgrim
Scarlett Burke - Head of Projects Lucy Pilgrim - Senior Editor

At the center of the rise of e-commerce, Daifuku Intralogistics America Corporation is a vital link in the sector’s national growth. Dany Rheault, Senior Vice President of Engineering, highlights the company’s innovative storage and data software solutions that have sustained its success for over a decade.

AUTOMATION THAT INSPIRES

The emergence of e-commerce has been on the horizon since the late 1990s as the newfound capabilities of the internet took a hold of the retail industry. 

Today, the sector’s revenue is expected to total over $1.4 trillion in North America, spurred by the heightened use of mobile devices, apps, and social media. 

Yet, operating behind the scenes of this retail convenience, the intralogistics sector is a key supporting pillar of e-commerce’s fast-paced growth. 

A major player in the rise of e-commerce, Daifuku Intralogistics America Corporation (Daifuku Intralogistics) is the regional subsidiary of the Japanese automated handling solutions giant, Daifuku.  

Designing, producing, and installing forward-thinking manufacturing solutions, the company aids businesses by moving products safer, faster, and more affordably. 

Daifuku Intralogistics comprises two types of solutions  – traditional conveyance/sortation and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS). 

The company diligently handles the former in a case format, including anything that is of reasonable size and can be enclosed in a box. 

“One of our core businesses is to supply all of the equipment needed to stock the market, including conveyors, sorters, and print and apply machines to produce labels for products as they exit the facility,” introduces Dany Rheault, Senior Vice President of Engineering.    

Daifuku Intralogistics’ ASRS business, meanwhile, delivers storage systems that can be used at case level, pallet level, and beyond. The company offers products known as unit loads, mini loads, and shuttles that provide vertical storage solutions to ensure that its clients’ facilities are streamlined and operate at maximum efficiency. 

The opportunity for vertical storage reaching 40 meters (m) in height means that an agglomeration of cases can be placed in pallets, which can then be shuttled into the facility using conveyors that operate at varying speeds. 

As such, the company has become recognized as a key industry innovator, demonstrated by its ISO 9001 certification for its high-quality management and products. 

MANUFACTURING IN AN E-COMMERCE AGE

Since Daifuku Intralogistics’ inception in 2013, the manufacturing industry and its consequential supply chain have gone through various transformations. 

“The explosion of e-commerce has massively spurred our growth and we’ve been doing work with major players in the industry, which has definitely fueled our expansion since 2016,” highlights Rheault. 

Namely, the company has a close partnership with major food and beverage enterprises, as well as other multinationals that utilize Daifuku Intralogistics’ capabilities in ASRS technology and e-commerce. 

These notable organizations acknowledged the estimated growth of e-commerce early on, which has subsequently been beneficial for companies such as Daifuku Intralogistics in recent years. 

However, as was the case across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to the company’s supply chain operations, whilst also fast-tracking the need for e-commerce. 

“We’ve been extremely busy ever since the pandemic, where we supported e-commerce customers that were suddenly in a rush to meet demand and ensured everyone had what they needed,” Rheault expresses. 

Working with such a vast repertoire of top companies has enabled Daifuku Intralogistics to not only grow in size, but also capability, as the business has evolved by leveraging the extensive expertise of its partners and harnessing their desire to deliver to customers. 

“Due to e-commerce, at the click of a button, there’s an expectation that within 24 to 48 hours you will have a package arrive at your door,” highlights Rheault. 

As a result, the company has navigated challenges in the preparation, velocity, and execution of projects, as it must constantly be ready to meet pressing demands. 

“I often say to my team that preparation is everything, and by doing our due diligence ahead of time whilst everyone else is asleep, we can limit our time in the field, thus improving system efficiency,” he adds. 

Therefore, Daifuku Intralogistics’ central focus on e-commerce has helped it embrace delivery and push for better, faster, and more affordable products. 

“It has been a great sector to be involved in and it’s definitely exciting, particularly as my background is in another industry, so the differing mindset has certainly changed my perspective.”

“The explosion of e-commerce has massively spurred our growth and we’ve been doing work with major players in the industry, which has definitely fueled our expansion”

Dany Rheault, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Daifuku Intralogistics America Corporation

INCREASING CAPACITY

With a multitude of engineering offices across North America, Daifuku Intralogistics predominantly operates from its manufacturing facility in Hobart, Indiana, which was completed in 2018 to meet the company’s evolving needs. 

However, within a year of COVID-19 and the resulting growth in demand for e-commerce, the facility was overrun, reaching full capacity in a short amount of time. Therefore, Daifuku Intralogistics is currently in the process of evaluating various strategies to enable further growth.  

Meanwhile, the company is currently working on substantial ASRS projects that will deliver robotic solutions for palletizing. 

“A giant vertical buffer will be used by the customer to store their equipment. Therefore, when orders come through on their systems, trucks can be used to extract the materials that need to be transferred,” Rheault explains. 

One of the company’s ambitious projects will comprise dozens of aisles of ASRS 35m cranes, as well as robotic cells and hundreds of motors running conveyors throughout the center. 

When conducting huge operations such as these, Daifuku Intralogistics realizes that it is difficult to achieve success across every single aspect of the operation. 

“What makes us different is that, at the end of the day, we know we can stand by our products and our teams can say they’ve tried their hardest to deliver successful projects to customers,” affirms Rheault. 

This is evidenced by the number of repeat customers who are a testament to the company’s ability to deliver projects and maintain long-lasting relationships, guaranteeing its continued success.

PUSHING THE SUPPLY CHAIN FURTHER

From a supply chain standpoint, the pandemic further presented difficulties as it pushed Daifuku Intralogistics to accommodate new technologies and redesign various elements of its products in order to cater to the increased demand. 

“The climate made it extremely challenging for us to deliver projects and I cannot give enough credit to our workforce. Our controls team in particular were dealing with suppliers that would report delays for parts of up to nine months; we therefore had to be quick on our feet and come up with lots of creative ideas,” recalls Rheault. 

Meanwhile, the company has changed its internal processes and set up specialized programs for the purchasing team that have allowed them to acquire and retain parts in advance for future projects. For instance, Daifuku Intralogistics orders surplus parts so it can have back-up products to cater to any urgent needs. 

To further alleviate supply chain pressures, system applications and products (SAP) software has just been integrated. As a major investment, the company is currently optimizing processes from introducing this software across the entirety of the organization.  

“From our financial department all the way through to the supply chain, the SAP software touches upon everything we do, even in the way we order products and configure our conveyors to execute projects efficiently.”

AN EXEMPLAR TEAM

Currently comprising approximately 950 employees, Daifuku Intralogistics is expected to extend its workforce in the coming year to execute its extensive pipeline of projects and investments. 

“I believe that we have some of the strongest teams in our industry across all levels of the business. We are looking for qualified people to join our team and develop young talent that can help us through our future endeavors,” notes Rheault. 

The company’s engineering team in particular is a shining example of how to be responsible and professional with customers, as they are reaching new frontiers in industry innovation. 

“With a background in engineering, I’m super grateful for their efforts and what they do for us as a business. Every time I get the opportunity to meet and break bread with the team, I thank them for their efforts and make sure they have all the tools and technologies they need to succeed,” he affirms. 

As such, Rheault’s role is to remove barriers and cultivate an optimal environment for his staff. 

“I’m very proud of our team. We have some amazing leaders that are in the trenches every day to make sure that we not only please our customers, but also ensure our employees are happy to be working alongside us.” 

LOOKING AHEAD

Daifuku Intralogistics looks forward to enhancing its capabilities further thanks to the implementation of various forms of software alongside the streamlined implementation of the SAP investment. 

From an engineering standpoint, the company is incorporating new forms of technology through a partnership with US software firm, Copia Automation, who is providing a revision control platform for Daifuku Intralogistics’ programable logic controller (PLC) programs.  

This exciting collaboration will aid the business in streamlining its internal developments of PLC solutions with tools that were reserved for traditional software development in the past.  

Additionally, Daifuku Intralogistics is implementing a complete suite of software that will allow its products to be used via a 3D tool. Currently, it is using Autodesk and AutoCAD software, however by making the switch, the company will be able to boast greater 3D capabilities. 

This marks a significant engineering investment for Daifuku Intralogistics to develop its tools so they can connect to the SAP software. Thus, the company can serve its customers more effectively with industry-leading solutions. 

“The final frontier is to integrate all our systems, such as SAP and 3D software, and bring all of our engineering technology to the forefront so we can be more efficient in identifying challenges,” concludes Rheault. 

REPUBLISHED ON:Supply Chain Outlook
PUBLISHED BY:Outlook Publishing
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By Scarlett Burke Head of Projects
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Scarlett Burke a Head of Projects for Outlook Publishing. Scarlett is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Scarlett is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Scarlett to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.