Overhead transport to tackle lack of floor space in the factory
Devold, established in 1853 in Norway, manufactures mainly woollen, knitted garments in Panevezyz, Lithuania. In 2015 it moved with its 300 employees to new premises of 15 800 m2 with highly automated equipment for knitting, finishing and cutting. It was clear then and still is that the assembly of garments cannot be automated to the same level. So, 177 sewing stations were installed for employees to operate.
Intra-logistics continued in the new sewing department as before. All parts of a garment were bundled together and these bundles were moved between workstations with manual trolleys. A search for a more sophisticated logistics solution began.
“We soon noticed that there is not enough space for robots to drive around among sewing stations and operators. There are too many bundles constantly on the move, as no garment is started and finished at the same sewing station,” says Tor Jonsson, General Manager of the Devold factory.
What if the robots moved boxes overhead? This was the question Jonsson asked the Lithuanian robotics company Factobotics, and their cooperation started. They entered the L4MS program to kick-start the solution development.
Digital twin saved time and gave confidence
“We wanted to use OPIL tools, even though they are originally meant for AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles). They worked fine for the overhead solution as well,” says Justinas Katkus, Head of Product Design and Co-Founder of Factobotics.
Factobotics started by creating a digital twin of the sewing department to understand all the processes as well as possible. They then narrowed down to a smaller section of the factory space, which was chosen for the experiment.
“The digital twin with its 3D simulations saved us a lot of time. We were able to model processes without having to go the factory,” Katkus says.
“The digital twin turned out very useful for us, too. It gave us confidence that the idea will work,” Jonsson says.
OPIL tools offer an overview of the production
Factobotics divided the task into two subsystems. One system was developed to stack and dispatch boxes in the warehouse, and the other one to move boxes on cables over the sewing stations and lower them where needed.
OPIL modules are now used to guide and monitor both systems and also to help production supervisors to keep track on garment bundles, which hasn’t been possible before.
“With the new system we will be able to track a particular box with a particular bundle, and it’s visualized on the system. Then we can prioritize its production if needed,” Jonsson says.
“With an add-on we can also integrate OPIL modules to an ERP system,” Katkus adds. He expects that the overhead transport system can be easily deployed in any industry handling small parts and having limited floor space.
Production to speed up by 9 percent
Factobotics is still finishing off the complete overhead transport system, but benefits were already seen in the experiment which took place in a limited area.
- Lead time decreased by 9%
- Transport time decreased by 20%
- Improved workplace monitoring and resource management
- Business process optimization with more efficient routing and production planning
Factobotics estimates the cost of the complete solution to be around EUR 500 000 including software, hardware and implementation.
OPIL modules used in the Devold solution by Factobotics:
- Digital twin: the external 3D simulation tool Visual Components
- Task Planner
- Robot Agent Node
- Human Agent Node
- Sensor Agent Node
Partners in the L4MS experiment:
- Factory: Devold UAB, garment manufacturer
- Solution provider: Factobotics UAB