Press IoT Service Buttons for Intralogistics 4.0

13.12.2021 by Annalena Rauen

Trucks with raw materials and finished products on the BASF Coatings wortks site in Münster

Fewer costs due to unnecessary empty runs, more sustainability, more efficiency, more quality: setting these as its targets, Telekom developed an IoT solution for intralogistics at the chemicals company BASF Coatings.

The new Boeing 777 air freighter glides streamlined through the air like a shark in the sea. und Compared with its predecessors the long-range airliner saves around 3,700 tons of kerosene and nearly 11,700 tons of CO2 per year, and the sharkskin coating is manufactured by BASF Coatings. With its innovative surface coatings for aircraft and vehicles, the furniture industry and buildings Ithe Münster-based BASF subsidiary is a world market leader in the chemical industry. To continue making an in-house contribution to sustainability the company faced a difficult question.

Its Münster site covers a surface area of 400,000 square meters. Up to 450 trolley carts a day move around the site carrying raw materials and products, and coordinating them in a targeted way is a challenge.

How Can Intralogistics Be Improved Sustainably?

Intralogistics at BASF is based on the following principle: Once the raw materials arrive in Münster they first undergo incoming goods inspection and are checked in administratively. They are then stored and picked in barrels, on pallets and in large containers prior to being made available at the right time to in-house production facilities. Containers full of finished products are collected and taken to the finished goods warehouse. At specified handover locations they are then ready to be taken to their destination. Two little trailer trucks drive and fro between production halls and warehouses, collect the trolley carts at regular intervals and take them to their on-site destinations.

The two drivers used to spend the whole day driving around the site looking for full trolleys. There was no fixed structure. One driver often had an empty run because the other one had gotten there first. Conversely, colleagues at the production facilities never knew where the trucks were or whether they were available. A cellphone call didn’t always help. A further challenge is that some of the chemicals must not be exposed to sunlight unrefrigerated for long. So something needed to be done.

Atex: Regulations Impede the Chemicals 4.0 Era

Involving the 150 or so logistics employees, project manager Victor Kaupe launched an ideas pitch to improve intralogistics and gain more control over the in-house flow of materials. Zero empty run, resource-saving materials management as simple as the milk run in U.S. suburbs was how the team envisioned the Intralogistics 4.0 of the future. Digital technologies would have to help with the automation, that was clear. But which ones?

At BASF Coatings substances are used that must be handled with special care. They are subject to ATEX explosion protection regulations that pose special digitization challenges. The European guidelines require every IT solution, be it software or hardware, to be specially certified. That makes implementation of the milk run concept, which is widely used in logistics, difficult in Chemicals 4.0. Conventional tracking is not possible as a rule and conventional logistics solutions frequently fail to fulfill requirements. Most equipment stands no chance.

The Simple Pushbutton Solution

The existing solution definitely had to become smarter. BASF was looking for a sensor solution that initially focused on the trolleys. But ATEX-friendly sensor technology offers became too expensive too fast and would have required extensive upgrading. Deutsche Telekom’s proposal started at another point: IoT Service Buttons that can be fitted almost anywhere by Plug & Play digitize not the trolleys but the collection of the goods to be transported. A further advantage is that the hardware runs on conventional batteries. After intensive planning an in-house transportation team trialed three IoT Service Buttons and the connected IoT Cloud.

The IoT Service Button

  • Telekom upgrade solution based on the Internet of Things
  • Plug-&-Play functionality: easy to attach and with customized messages
  • Direct feedback on a digital display
  • Runs on conventional batteries and consumes little power
  • Suitable for industrial use (protection class IP 55)
  • Can even be used in basements when combined with Telekom’s NarrowBand IoT machine network

Sixty IoT buttons are now in use in Münster. They are in easily accessible, weather-protected places near the handover areas where trolley trucks collect the goods. Forklifts load containers, barrels and pallets onto the trolleys and the employee in charge presses the button. This minimum of manual action is enough to notify the drivers on their tablets that goods are ready for collection and to send them on their way to the collection point. Data transmission outdoors is via 2G cellular and functions across the entire company site. In combination with NarrowBand IoT the buttons could even transmit without interruption from basement production facilities. Information is stored in the Cloud. An energy-saving digital display on the button confirms directly that the order was sent successfully.

Pushbutton Sustainability

Optimizing visual depiction required an app, SIGNL4, developed by Telekom software partner Derdack. The developers adapted the software for use in chemicals intralogistics so that it can communicate with connected devices via an interface and can map collections graphically. Telekom and Derdack implemented the project in just four months and everything is now running according to plan in Münster. “With the aid of IoT Service Buttons we were able to optimize our in-house transportation swiftly, simply and cost-effectively. Our employees are delighted with the system’s simplicity and in economic terms the solution convinces us too with its scalability and productivity,” BASF project manager Victor Kaupe confirms.

For intralogistics at BASF Coatings this simple, smart upgrade solution was a further step toward Chemicals 4.0. The response from on-site production facilities is positive across the entire logistics chain and the solution is also of interest for other BASF sites. In Würzburg, another BASF Coatings location, ten IoT Service Buttons are already in use.

IoT Buttons With Thousands of Possibilities – And Green!

The range of potential uses and use cases for the IoT upgrade solution is wide. The buttons are suitable for use in all situations in which orders and collections occur, and not just in intralogistics. In hospitals, in plant construction to call a cab for hotel guests, Service Buttons can simplify and speed up processes everywhere. They are also a perfect fit for Telekom’s Green IoT strategy. By using smart IoT solutions companies can play their part in reducing their CO2 footprint.


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Annalena Rauen
Annalena Rauen

Marketing Manager IoT

Back in 2016, Anna worked on IoT topics at Deutsche Telekom for the first time. Since then, she has been supporting customer best practices in a wide range of industries – always focusing on the benefits that the Internet of Things can provide. Her IoT blogposts describe real use cases and the value these innovations add to market players, their business models, and even entire industries.