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The internal logistics system includes all activities connected with managing the flow of materials within the physical limits of a facility. This system is an important part of operations in need of increased focus and continuous improvements. Automation is one possible tool with a previously confirmed great potential to improve internal logistics. Despite this great potential and a growing trend of using automation in the area, internal logistics activities are still not automated to the same extent as other parts of operations. The overall aim of this research is therefore to develop knowledge that supports the successful use of automation in internal logistics systems.
The automation development process has been identified as critical for the success of the use of automation. With the overall aim of the research in mind, the objective of this thesis is to develop a framework facilitating the automation development process in internal logistics systems. To help fulfil the objective, empirical data have been collected through five case studies and a survey study. During the empirical studies, the process of improving the internal logistics system and the automation development process have been analysed and the focus has been on identifying challenges and facilitators for the successful use and development of automation in internal logistics systems.
The findings indicate a poor awareness of both current and desired performance of the internal logistics system at the companies studied. In addition, automation development is often conducted in an unstructured and poorly supported manner and there is often insecurity regarding what steps and actions to take. Foremost, the findings indicate a poor base for proper evaluation and decisions during automation development in internal logistics systems. This is analysed and concluded as a cause of unclear goals and requirements and the lack of a strategic view with regard to both internal logistics operations and the use and development of automation.
A framework, including proposed guidelines to overcome the observed challenges by including identified factors facilitating successful automation development in internal logistics systems has been developed. The core of the framework is a proposed process model for automation development in an internal logistics context. Due to the identified importance and the lack of a strategy linked to and supporting the automation development process, the framework also includes a proposed model for an internal logistics strategy as well as a proposed model for an automation strategy.