Energy-efficient intra-logistics: Electric conveyor drives to reduce CO2 emissions

Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences and the device manufacturers, Lenze and Weidmüller, are carrying out a pilot project on intra-logistics that involves testing drive and control technologies that enable energy-efficient work processes. Firstly, old drives and controls are gradually replaced in a price-neutral manner that is fully compatible with standard market solutions. The initial results indicate an energy savings of 20 per cent for horizontal movement and 40 per cent for vertical movement of the conveyor systems.

Ostwestfalen-Lippe University of Applied Sciences and the two companies, Lenze and Weidmüller, have developed and tested energy-saving drive and control technologies together. The new components can be used for electrical drives for conveyor technology in buildings (intra-logistics), as are used in the tens of thousands at logistics centres. About 50 per cent of all conveyor drives in Germany come into question for the solutions they have developed. A market penetration of ten per cent is to be expected. Linked to this, there would be a CO2 saving of around 870,000 tonnes. In addition, the cooperation partners are working on machines that communicate with each other and are capable of learning. It has already become clear that an additional 2 to 15 per cent in energy savings can be achieved with these.

Engine for progress:

  • modular system for the gradual conversion of intra-logistics systems
  • components are compatible and price-neutral
  • energy savings of up to 40 per cent for motors and drives in the warehouse
  • approximately 870,000 tonnes of CO2 can be saved in Germany

1 of 4

Photo: Lenze

The schematic diagram shows a typical intra-logistics facility. Conveyor distances of many kilometres and thousands of drives consisting of infeed and outfeed systems, horizontal and vertical conveyors, converters and high-bay warehouses.

Components are easy to integrate

The new features are approximately price-neutral in comparison with state-of-the-art technologies. The individual components are easy to integrate because they are mechanically, electrically and functionally compatible and can therefore be introduced with only a few changes to the bill of materials. This means that the cost of replacing the old technology is very low. Here, the newly developed components differ significantly from other intra-logistics technologies where the replacement cost involved is very high, which is why potential savings have often remained unused until now.

Gradual replacement is possible

The project participants have developed a modular system, whereby the individual parts can be replaced and can easily be combined with existing equipment. If this technology were widely used, the calculated electricity consumption in Germany could be reduced by 1.5 to 3 per cent (in 2014, total consumption was about 580 billion kilowatt-hours).

Photo: Borcherding

"A lot of electrical energy can be saved where a lot is consumed. Therefore, we have taken on conveyor drives, which are used in the tens of thousands at logistics centres and warehouses. Our efficiency drives can simply replace the existing ones, save 15 to 40 per cent of energy and are not much more expensive. This allows an enormous energy savings potential to be achieved."

Prof. Holger Borcherding, Project Manager itsowl-IASI

Partners and sponsors

  • Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe
  • Lenze Drives GmbH / Lenze SE
  • Weidmüller Interface GmbH & Co. KG
  • Fraunhofer-Anwendungszentrum Industrial Automation (IOSB-INA)
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)