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Remote-controlled forklifts will soon be rolling through the production halls

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Remote-controlled forklifts will soon be rolling through the production halls

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Remotely controlled forklifts could soon navigate the aisles in Germany’s extensive production halls – a visionary answer to one of the most pressing challenges of our time: the shortage of skilled workers. The two technology pioneers enabl and PCB-Arts have joined forces to develop efficient and autonomous solutions for the logistics industry, which is particularly suffering from the acute shortage of skilled workers. The two founders met at the CyberLab Accelerator. The proximity to other startups always promotes fruitful collaborations.

The status quo of logistics in Germany

Logistics, as an essential part of the economy, faces a dilemma. Not only is it the third largest industry in the country, but it is also one of the sectors most affected by labor shortages. The unpredictability of the order situation makes it difficult to have sufficiently qualified workers at all times. Traditional solution approaches, such as automation, encounter challenges here. Unlike office jobs, where automation is advancing rapidly, logistics work areas will need at least another decade to adapt to these relatively new technological concepts.

enabl from Karlsruhe: An innovative approach to the shortage of forklift drivers

Amidst this scenario, enabl is a pioneer. A young company from Karlsruhe whose engineers are working on modern and creative solutions to the shortage of forklift drivers, one of the most critical bottlenecks in logistics. What they currently offer is a groundbreaking technology called “forklift remote automation.” “In many situations, real drivers still work best, but they are not always available. Automation often reaches its limits,” explains Julian Wadephul, co-founder of enabl. The startup offers a solution that allows German companies to connect their forklifts with European workers at any time. They can then use their skills flexibly if there is a lack of staff on site. Booking a transport order takes just a few clicks and is only billed for the time actually required.

The technology behind the innovation

The way it works is as fascinating as it is advanced. enabl equips the forklifts with a comprehensive package consisting of several cameras, various sensors, microphones, speakers, a router and the Edge AI computer (EdgeKit). With this package, remote workers can see the entire space around the forklift. Laser sensors provide precise details about distances, and on-vehicle microphones allow drivers to hear their surroundings. An integrated loudspeaker enables communication with employees on site.

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Why EdgeKit?

PCB-Arts, as a supplier of one of the core components, developed the technology platform. The hardware core is based on Nvidia Jetson and enables real-time processing of all incoming data. “Small-scale high-performance industrial computers typically do not offer customization options,” says Saber Kaygusuz, founder of PCB-Arts. “However, EdgeKit offers detailed configuration options and regular software support, so the application could be put into operation quickly.”

The way into the future

“Automation will continue to advance. We are planning a smooth transition from the remote control of a forklift for employees to the possible control of several forklifts, some of which can be fully automated.” Julian emphasizes that this does not necessarily mean the loss of many jobs, as the “Hands off the Wheel” project does “I have already shown from Amazon. “On the contrary: remote technology creates better jobs and integrates employees where automation reaches its limits.”

The partnership with PCB-Arts in the CyberLab Accelerator

The collaboration between enabl and PCB-Arts began in the CyberLab Accelerator, where innovative teams meet. Julian talks about their first contact: “I looked at which teams were in the current accelerator batch and it sounded like PCB-Arts could be relevant for us.” The collaboration quickly became a success story in which both of them Teams regularly exchanged ideas and worked together to develop new technologies.

The path to market readiness and customer demand

The implementation of the EdgeKit began in summer 2023, initially with a prototype. “The whole thing has developed and established itself,” says Julian happily. enabl now has five vehicles in advanced pilot phases, which will soon go into continuous operation. Customer demand is promising. enabl is aimed exclusively at high-quality large customers.

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