Rollon Delivers Smooth Operation for World’s Largest Online Retailers
Last year, consumers spent $900 billion more than usual online. From batteries to birthday gifts, people increasingly rely on e-commerce to get what they need. Rollon® linear motion technologies help the world’s largest online retailers fill these orders quickly, efficiently and safely via automated warehouses.
Many of the world’s largest warehouse automation equipment manufacturers have integrated a wide range of Rollon solutions into their systems. Rollon, which joined The Timken Company portfolio of brands in 2018, produces linear actuators and telescopic guides that equip everything from rack-style automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) to automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
Rollon’s leadership in these applications dates back more than a decade when consumer warehouses started implementing intralogistics, or the process of automating, managing and optimizing the flow of goods through a facility.
“Project by project, we applied our power transmission expertise to these systems and evolved with our customers,” said Federico Banti, Rollon’s business development manager, material handling and logistics. “Today we have the strongest technical knowledge and most flexible product range in this field, with 90% of our solutions customized for each warehouse’s unique setup.”
“In an industry changing this fast, we have to move fast as well. We are focused on understanding the technological innovations ahead of us and growing our product portfolio to help customers grab new opportunities for efficiency and performance.”
Business Development Manager, Materials Handling & Logistics, Rollon by Timken
Labor and efficiency challenges, solved
Automated material handling significantly improves warehouse efficiency, allowing the use of vertical space to increase a retailer’s inventory without increasing their square footage. Automation frees up people to do more value-added work and improve ergonomics and safety for those in packing and quality control roles. Fewer workers are needed to run a warehouse, which is advantageous given today’s labor shortages.
Rollon solutions are critical to the flawless operation of these automated material handling systems. In ASRS, multiple shuttles move up and down along Rollon® linear actuator systems to access shelves. The shuttles use arms equipped with Rollon® telescopic slides to pick storage units from the shelves. The arms place the storage units onto the shuttles, which return to packing stations where workers check and package goods for shipping. It’s a highly orchestrated “dance” that requires everything to run perfectly, all the time.
Each ASRS shuttle uses two to four telescopic slides (shown in green).
Unmatched technical capabilities yield high-performance products
Rollon products manage high speeds, repetitive motion and environmental debris to deliver smooth and precise operation, even when loads are heavy. This is made possible by Rollon’s engineering and manufacturing expertise.
Many telescopic rails undergo induction hardening, a heat treatment during manufacturing that creates an extremely tough outer layer of material around a soft core. This enhances the product’s mechanical properties, improving strength and wear resistance.
In telescopic slides with extreme requirements — like reaching 200% of their normal length to retrieve a storage unit — special, customized pins are used to increase durability and fastening.
Banti notes these design elements are the result of observing linear motion challenges across industries, then using that knowledge to create a catalog of standard products that can be efficiently customized.
For instance, when designing linear motion solutions for battery-powered AGVs, weight is a top concern. Telescopic slides must be strong enough to perform, but light enough to optimize power usage and reduce electric motor strain.
“We drew on our experience designing for linear motion in aircraft interiors,” Banti said. “We modified AGV telescopic rails using special machining to reduce weight while retaining the performance characteristics of the steel. It’s a great advantage to AGV manufacturers and their customers.”
Rollon’s collective knowledge is also reflected in its internally built engineering tools, which help design, select and customize products based on application needs and product life calculations.
Into the future: scaling to support next-gen automated warehouse trends
In the next five years, the global market size for warehouse automation is expected to double to $30 billion. One trend significantly influencing future warehouse design is a drive toward more flexible equipment that improves efficiency and helps facilities scale appropriately based on demand. Examples include modular material handling solutions that can be easily reconfigured, and more use of AGVs that can navigate any type of existing floor plan.
Rollon intends to address those advancements the same way it did in the very beginning — by staying close to customers and expanding its product offering to meet their needs.
In a move to expand its product portfolio and capabilities into larger, heavier-duty automated warehouse applications, Rollon recently acquired Intelligent Machine Solutions (iMS). “The acquisition of iMS gives us a unique opportunity,” says Banti. “From the telescopic slides to gantries, no other manufacturer in the world has a stronger product range for this industry.”
iMS systems use steel, so they excel with heavier applications like foundry operations and aircraft and automotive production. Combining portfolios — and the engineering capabilities behind them — will lead to hybrid solutions for customers that have a mix of heavy and light-duty needs throughout their facilities.
“In an industry changing this fast, we have to move fast as well,” Banti said. “We are focused on understanding the technological innovations ahead of us and growing our product portfolio to help customers grab new opportunities for efficiency and performance.”
“The acquisition of iMS gives us a unique opportunity. From the telescopic slides to gantries, no other manufacturer in the world has a stronger product range for this industry.”
Timken is customizing a new generation of magnetic encoders for autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) used in the worlds’ most sophisticated warehouses. These small, high-tech devices make a big impact on automated warehouse efficiency.
Last Updated: 2021/11/3