Car maker Audi has introduced a goods-to-person system at its Ingolstadt plant using driverless transport.
It is currently testing the new method with the commissioning of driver’s manuals at the plant.
Axel Bley, head of logistics concept development, said: “Autonomous goods conveyance is another pioneering development towards the factory of the future. By means of intelligent connectivity, we achieve additional efficiency and flexibility, while easing the work of our employees.”
Audi describes the new warehouse as a “supermarket of the future,” because the system knows which parts the commissioners need and provides them with the right goods at the right time.
Driverless transport systems, known as carries, bring the goods to the commissioners autonomously. To do so, they drive under the shelves, lift them up and transport them automatically to a central picking station.
There, symbols on a monitor show the employees which goods they have to put into which place. Unlike the previous person‑to‑goods commissioning, a DTS does not need wide lanes and picking bays, so the shelves can be positioned much closer together. That reduces space requirements by 25 per cent.
A fleet-management system coordinates the carries so that they always arrive at the commissioners’ workplaces punctually. This means that the employees never have to wait for their goods – a shelf change at the picking station takes four seconds. The robots receive the order to bring a shelf for commissioning by wi‑fi.
When in motion, they orient themselves by means of QR codes on the floor, which are read by a camera installed under the DTS. The autonomous transport systems move in a separate area from where the employees work.
“All the shelves are mobile, so where they are located is no longer important,” said Bley. “With the increasing number of parts, it is enormously important that we can react flexibly.”
The autonomous transport systems are equipped with eight rechargeable batteries with a running time of approximately seven hours. When their charge status has fallen to 40 per cent, they automatically return to their charging stations. There, they are recharged for two hours via induction plates in the floor, and then automatically return to work in the transporting shelves. When charged, the robots accelerate to a speed of 3.6 kilometres per hour, irrespective of the weight of the material carried. They can transport a maximum of 600 kilograms.
The commissioning of the owner’s manuals for the Audi A3 models is the first task for which the new supermarket concept is being tested. Next year, additional commissioning stations at Audi will take over the goods‑to‑person principle.