Material flow control, also known as material flow computer or material flow control system (MFCS), is very often described as an order management directly assigned to materials handling equipment. However, this view does not do justice to the task if a logistics center has a heterogeneous structure of materials handling equipment that has evolved over time, and only its coordinated interaction makes optimal operating results possible.

In the world of IT systems in logistics centers, the MFCS in the narrower sense fulfills a central function – to ensure the optimal throughput of the facility at all times. On the one hand, its functions are used by a facility or conglomerate of different facilities and expansion stages, which is usually optimized in terms of investment costs, and on the other hand by the functions of the operational business with different utilization strategies. The behavior of the MFCS must be predictable and stable and it must be possible to adapt to new strategies, expanded facilities and new ideas at any time during operation. In material flow control, this requires a standardized solution which is flexible enough to cope with all requirements or which can easily be adapted or extended to new requirements.

Transport execution in the material flow control

The primary task of the MFCS is to perform existing transport tasks generated by other systems in such a way that the facility is not blocked. To this end, it must take into account the operating status of the facility and the occupancy status of routes, points and transport resources and commission the available transport resources with corresponding transport orders. The execution of the transport orders themselves is not the task of the MFCS, but of the subordinate controllers. In particular, transport coordination must take into account the fact that the load situation of all conveyor areas is considered collectively. For example, the frequently encountered constellation of a forklift traffic area with a pallet conveyor system and an automatic high-bay warehouse can be controlled together.

Transport management in material flow control

The most important function of an MFCS is the commissioning ofmaterials handling systems with transport orders in a way that optimally utilizes the facility and serves the logistic processes in the best possible way. Both goals cannot be achieved independently of each other, sometimes conflicting goals arise. The logistic process always has a leading role: The on-time and complete delivery of goods is the primary goal, which is the basis for the design of the facility as well as its operation. The optimal utilization of the facility by the MFCS is subordinated to this goal. The transport management is the central instance for monitoring, ordering and coordinating all transport orders and transport resources.

Methods for the creation of optimal driving assignments

What good is the best routing if there are no plannable tasks? Derived from practical experience, the following methods are suitable for creating optimal driving assignments:

  • Listen to the assignment backlog -> trigger early replenishment and “forward” to the MFCS
  • Batch picking -> Grouping of sales orders, simultaneous access to one article
  • Time slicing -> timely tour provision in goods issue (see also: cut-off time)
  • Reservation of urgent batches -> time-controlled insertion into the daily routine

Further information on material flow control can be found under “The database of the material flow control”.


Image source © Scanrail –

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