Production waste – good starting point when automating intra-factory logistics
KLS Ljubno is a family business with 250 employees producing starter ring gears for flywheels of passenger cars, cargo vehicles and movable working machinery since the 1972. It is part of a global supply chain in the automotive industry. The factory premises of 30.000 square meters are located in the northern Slovenia.
Despite highly automated machine tools, material flow is still manual. Most raw materials, such as carbon steel flat bar, and unfinished products are moved with forklifts. It seems, however, that with a fleet of AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicle) almost all intra-factory logistics could be automated.
Automated logistics would reduce production lead time and the stock needed at each workstation. When connected to the ERP system, AGVs would also minimize human error.
The L4MS experiment offered an opportunity to weight the effects of automated intra-factory logistics.
3D simulations to support designing and testing
The German software company Pumacy Technologies and the research institute BIBA – Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik joined forces with KLS Ljubno to create a logistics solution using the OPIL framework. They decided to focus on the logistics of metal chips and shavings, i.e. recyclable scrap, constantly created by milling machines and other CNC machines.
Pumacy specialists started by creating a digital twin of the manufacturing process and waste handling. This was done with the 3D simulation tool Visual Components.
“Due to the pandemic we could not test the logistics tasks at the facility, but modelling the whole system helped us create a real test scenario that we used later with an AGV,” says Zain Shahwar, Robotics and AI specialist at Pumacy.
A realistic goal – fully automated logistics
The solution involves an AGV picking up a KLT box from the workstation once it is full of scrap metal and replacing it with an empty box.
“We originally expected to reduce human workforce by up to 50%. However, the final solution showed that direct human interaction can be reduced by up to 100 %,” says Samo Mirnik, Executive Manager of Production and IT at KLS Ljubno.
A sensor informs the logistics system when the box is full. When the AGV arrives at the switching station, it pushes the full box away with the empty one, so scrap metal keeps falling into one of the boxes non-stop.
The research institute BIBA adapted an AGV prototype to the solution and designed and built the switching station.
OPIL supports all industrial environments
The project team expects both quantitative and qualitative benefits from the reduction of manual work in intra-factory logistics:
- Increased production capacity
- Reduced labour costs
- Smaller inventory
- Higher worker productivity
- Increased health and safety
For Pumacy, the solution provider, a major advantage is the versatility of the OPIL framework.
“We can replicate the solution in other industrial environments. For example, sensor-based solutions for navigation, localisation, identification and processing are needed in logistics as well as in manufacturing facilities. Besides, also the switching station, which was developed for the solution, can be implemented in other factories where CNC-machines are operated,” says Lennart Rolfs, Research Scientist at BIBA.
The cost of the solution was €194,000 for equipment and work, including design, development and testing.
OPIL modules and other modules used in the KLS Ljubno solution by Pumacy and BIBA:
- OPIL Sensing and Perception (SP): to configure the topology
- OPIL Human Machine Interface (HMI): to define logistics tasks
- OPIL Task Planner module: to guide the Robot Agent Node (RAN) of the AGV
- OPIL Robot Agent Node (RAN): to send control commands to the AGV
- 3D simulation tool Visual Components: to create a digital twin
Partners in the L4MS experiment:
- Factory: KLS Ljubno, Slovenia, an SME manufacturing ring gears
- Solution provider: Pumacy Technologies AG, Germany
- Technology provider: BIBA – Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik GmbH, a research institute, Germany