The integration of automated guided vehicles
Intralogistics is an indispensable part of every manufacturing company. It includes transport and storage activities as well as the essential task of ensuring the supply of production with the required materials. To keep up with the competition, companies are forced to constantly optimize their processes and make them more efficient. This also applies to logistics. With advancing digitalization and automation, more and more technologies such as automated guided vehicles and many other intelligent systems are being integrated into companies’ intralogistics. They pursue the goal of optimizing logistics processes by simplifying or completely taking over repetitive and labor-intensive activities such as internal material transport or warehouse processes for warehouse employees.
A quick overview of the technology:
According to VDI guidelines “2510”, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are internal, floor-bound conveyor systems with automatically controlled vehicles whose primary task is to transport materials, but not people. They are used inside and outside buildings and essentially consist of:
- one or more driverless transport vehicles,
- a control system,
- devices for location determination and position detection,
- data transmission equipment,
- and infrastructure and peripheral equipment.
The external appearance of automated guided vehicles varies depending on the manufacturer and is largely dependent on the load to be transported as well as different shapes of load carriers. An example of this are small load carriers or pallets or even individual objects such as car doors or toolboxes.
Depending on the design and the objects to be transported, stationary equipment is also used so that the AGV can pick up the load. These include underride aids for loading pallets or mechanical loading arms.
What are the advantages of automated guided vehicles:
Driverless transport systems are available in many different designs and price classes. This means that a solution can be found for almost any transport situation and any transported goods. With proper automation, costs can be saved in work processes and productivity can be increased at the same time. In this way, the human factor is removed from monotonous and non-value-adding work areas. This not only significantly reduces the error rate, but also makes more effective use of manual labor in other areas. An AGV does not need a break and is not bound to fixed working hours.
Accordingly, the AGV can be used permanently and in three-shift operation. In this way, a continuous supply of the production lines with the required materials can be ensured. Likewise, logistics processes become almost completely transparent through digitization in connection with AGV deployment. As a result, they are easier to monitor, better plannable and scalable. Thus, significant productivity increases can be achieved through the use of AGVs, while personnel costs in these areas are significantly reduced.
What challenges are companies facing:
When integrating automated guided vehicles into a company’s existing intralogistics processes, it is first necessary to document potential hurdles and create basic requirements in order to ensure smooth operation and achieve the desired performance optimization. In principle, the physical framework conditions should be ensured and created before integration. Among other things, AGVs should have a level and low-slope surface, suitable aisle widths and suitable atmospheric conditions in terms of room temperature, humidity and particle contamination. In addition, good WLAN coverage and accessibility to the charging infrastructure are required. To this end, identification and pickup points for the transported goods must be accessible with sufficient space.
Once the conditions regarding hardware have been met, the systemic integration can begin. On the one hand, this requires a technical understanding of the AGVs to be integrated as well as advanced knowledge in the use of the EWM MFS from SAP. A good cooperation with the manufacturer of the AGVs also offers great advantages here and makes the work much easier.
The first challenge in the systemic integration of AGVs lies in the integration of the AGV servers. For example, guidelines regarding firewalls must be met and remote desktop connections must be possible to ensure secure intervention. Furthermore, not all manufacturers provide an SAP interface that is sufficient for the customer’s needs, which can result in additional work on the part of software adaptations. Although the combination of SAP and AGV offers many advantages, this almost always means additional programming effort, since EWM RF and MFS, for example, are not compatible with each other without Z-coding. Subsequent adjustments to transport orders from SAP, such as cancellations, changes in priority or location after they have already been sent to the AGV, are not standard and require increased expertise. Likewise, in order to take advantage of the non-existent pause requirement of the AGVs, support and monitoring must be guaranteed around the clock.
What can HPC support and accomplish here?
HPC not only has an exceptionally high number of experts in the field of EWM and MFS, but can also look back on a large number of satisfied customers regarding the integration of various types of automated guided vehicles from different manufacturers. In this way, many challenges and problems that can arise during the integration of the respective systems are already known and a suitable solution approach is available. This benefits the customer and saves time and money.