Even unique workflows can be supported by automated logistics
Bazigos, established in 1973, designs and manufactures high precision parts and equipment, such as injection moulds and cutting and forming dies. It uses highly automated machine tools in its 7 000 m2 premises in the outskirts of Athens, Greece. With its 60 employees Bazigos is the leader of the domestic market but generates the majority of its turnover of EUR 5 million in the international market either directly or through multinational partners.
Due to the nature of the products, orders are usually low in volume and contain components which vary a lot in size and design. This means that each product requires a unique workflow, which makes intra-factory logistics hard to be automated.
Small parts are carried manually or pushed in trolleys from the warehouse to workstations and between workstations. There are also big metal plates weighing up to hundreds of kilos that are lifted onto trolleys with roof cranes.
The L4MS experiment offered an opportunity to find out how to use AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) to automate the transportation of small parts.
3D simulation to offer an overview before investments
An Athens based software company Casp joined forces with Bazigos to create a logistics solution. Casp had already become involved in robotics, but working with AGVs was new to them too. They started by creating a digital twin of the manufacturing process. This was done with OPIL tools.
“3D simulation was very helpful and necessary when demonstrating potential scenarios to the end-users at the factory. It gave a good overview of the present process and future possibilities,” says George Papanikolopoulos, CEO of Casp.
“It was a great advantage to be able to model various material workflows that involve automation without having to invest in them,” says Angelos Koutoupes, R&D Project Manager at Bazigos.
Faster software development and ease of use – with OPIL
The solution proposed by Casp replaces manual transportation of small parts by AGVs. Machine operators would call an AGV to the workstation, load half-finished products on it and send it to the next workstation. All orders would be given on tablets or smartphones and directed to AGVs by OPIL modules.
After a couple of months of simulation and development work, employees at Bazigos were able to test the solution in the factory with an AGV.
“Using the application was made very easy for the machine operators. When they were ready to send the part to the next workstation, the application suggested the target, as the sequence of the manufacturing tasks were included in it. Actually, if we were to use this in the whole factory, it might be very useful to connect it to our ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system. Then all changes to our plans would show in real time,” Koutoupes says.
Papanikolopoulos confirms that OPIL modules allow an easy connection to most ERP systems on the market.
“On the whole, we noticed that OPIL tools helped us develop a software that is quite easy to deploy in other factories as well. We can use different AGVs and create different tasks, but the software is already there. This will help us expand our business,” Papanikolopoulos says.
Extra benefit – OPIL interface to replace paper forms
Testing the solution confirmed the benefits that had been seen in the 3D simulation. It also turned out that the solution supported the overall information flow regarding logistics by transferring it from paper forms to OPIL interface on tablets.
- 20% of space was saved in the shop floor
- Labour and ergonomics costs related to intra-factory logistics were cut by 70%
- Time spent on intra-factory logistics information was reduced by 65%
Casp estimates the cost of the solution to be around EUR 25 000 including software, AGV and implementation.
Koutoupes from Bazigos points out that finding an affordable solution and a good solution provider can be quite difficult for SMEs.
“The L4MS experiment and OPIL tools made logistics automation available for us. In the next year or two, when we are ready to expand the business, we will certainly consider this technology,” Koutoupes says.
OPIL modules used in the Bazigos solution by Casp:
- Digital twin: the external 3D simulation tool Visual Components
- Task Planner
- Robot Agent Node
- Human Agent Node: to enable Human Machine Interface
Partners in the L4MS experiment:
- Factory: Bazigos SA, SME manufacturing high precision tools and equipment, such as moulds and dies
- Solution provider: Casp SA, small software company, www.casp.gr