“Driverless transport systems have been used by the automotive industry for decades,” says Christoph Krammer, technology control specialist for overall vehicle production at Magna Steyr.
“However, the previous systems were track-guided, which means they could only move along defined routes, for example, along magnetic strips of tape embedded in the floor of the hall.” Magna Steyr wants to replace this rigid route guidance system to make production even more flexible. If the driverless transport systems were able to move freely in the assembly hall, there would be no further need for rigid production lines. “Autonomous transport units allow more flexibility in terms of variant and model mix while reducing lead time, changeover time, and costs,” explains Krammer.
For driverless transport systems, this means: They transport materials, machines, and robots in the intelligent factory of the future, as well as the car itself in the final stage of development. A 3D map of the digital factory allows the driverless transport systems to move freely. The transport system scans the environment with sensors, overlays the data on the map, and freely determines the position in the room. It can then navigate and travel to destinations along any route without colliding with objects.
The driverless transport systems have a key role in agile manufacturing. If they fail, the production falters because vehicle parts will be missing at the individual assembly stations. Therefore, Magna Steyr was looking for a solution that records and controls the statuses of the transport systems in real time. “The keyword is predictive maintenance,” says Krammer: “Using the sensor data, we can deduce when it’s time for maintenance, for example. In addition, we record loads to be able to make continuous runs for the thorough checks of the driverless transport system, for example.”
Magna Steyr relies on an IoT solution from T-Systems to capture and send machine status data via radio networks to analysis software. If all driverless transport systems are equipped with sensors that transmit via radio in the future, large amounts of data will be generated that could be sent to the cloud. There, the data are analyzed in real time and provided to the factory control. If the data deviates from optimum conditions, the software triggers an alarm and the transport systems can be maintained in a targeted manner without any loss of production.