Date: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Robotics resolves fashion manufacturer’s production bottleneck

When your factory is built on two floors, you need to find a solution to the internal logistics bottleneck in material flows between the floors. The OJS consortium developed a robotics-based way to help this Italian fashion manufacturer to streamline production and cut costs.

OJS is a consortium formed by four partners to face the industrial challenge of internal logistics in a SME. The consortium includes four partners from different backgrounds and with competencies complementing each other: Puntoart Srl, an Italian company in the fashion market producing embroideries for haute couture firms, Eutronica Srl, an AGV manufacturer, Eureka System, a system integrator, and Centro Ricerche Enrico Piaggio, a research centre specializing in robotics solutions.

Production ups and downs

The consortium came into existence because of the industrial challenge of Puntoart, whose production facility operates on two floors. This peculiar layout led to an equally peculiar challenge in the logistics, because at different stages of production, the departments on the two floors need to exchange materials by way of an elevator. This context created a logistic bottleneck at the elevator. Moreover, the human-based material handling slows down the regular activities of the operators as they are forced to wait for the elevator. AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) turned out to be a promising solution.

       

“Our small-size batches flowing from the bottom floor to the top floor and back constitute our main challenge. We identified the AGV solution to lighten the elevator bottleneck and our operators”, says Paolo Raggini, CEO of Puntoart. For this reason, the whole consortium decided to join the first Open Call for the L4MS project, aiming at integrating research outcomes into its own application.

Humans and machines in collaboration

The adoption of the new autonomous technologies led the consortium to change the traditional material handling operations and to set up the AGV platform to overcome the human-handled operations. As stated by Luca Valli, CEO of Eutronica, “The facility operators have been properly trained to interface with the HMI and to optimise their activities with respect to the new workflows introduced by the AGV. The AGV has undergone some changes in the wheels and in the carrier unit in order to match the elevator doors and gaps.”

The most “frightening” challenges that the consortium companies were about to take on concerned the installation activities. However, the platform deployment has proceeded smoothly, thanks to its modular architecture and the pre-definition of connections and messages. Furthermore, pre-built components minimized the impact on the configuration of modules.

The modular and middleware-based approach also ensures open interfaces to the system for the connection and management of new devices, such as the elevator that constitutes the bottleneck, and which is now connected through a simple adapter to the Fleet Management System, enabling the AGV to call the elevator.
 


Team OJS and L4MS mentors from POLIMI

Open platform allows expansion

This approach has been recognized by Paolo Raggini as the main strength of the OPIL platform. “Although we were prepared to make some changes to our procedures in order to take maximum advantage of this new technology, the open approach of the OPIL platform encouraged us to consider and embody this open and modular approach for the logistics automation. This shape is particularly felt by SMEs.”

The importance of open interfaces is a key enabler for manufacturing SMEs, which in many cases cannot afford huge investment in automating their processes. Through a modular and open platform, they can save costs and perform the integration module by module, helping a progressive transition towards the sharp edge of automation and Industry 4.0.


 

Walter Quadrini
Automation and Control Engineer
POLIMI (Politecnico di Milano), member of L4MS Consortium

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OJS is one of six Application Experiments that got selected through 1st Open Call in 2018, receiving funding and mentoring support from L4MS project. The team has worked closely with mentors from POLIMI (Politecnico Milano) since May 2019. L4MS will select six new teams to enter the acceleration programme in 2020. Read more updates from our current on-going Experiments, L4MS mentors and pilot experiments from Blogistics 

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