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Production Logistics

The shift from mass production to the manufacturing of more complex, customised products with high added value in small series and with an increasingly shorter turnaround time is making manufacturing more complex. This complexity must be managed for companies to survive, especially in high-income countries, which means the production systems must be smarter and more agile. The internal product logistics organisation seems to be the bottleneck for more flexibility. Sirris works on solutions together with the industry.

Demonstrator shows potential AMR on shop floor

More and more SMEs are considering the implementation of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) to provide logistics support to their employees. However, the use of an AMR has a significant impact on the organisation. Operator support, our new demo from the Industry 4.0 testing ground, demonstrates one approach to this issue.

Our extensive experience with SMEs revealed an underappreciated logistics issue, specifically the fact that people need to walk around to find material and feed the machines. It would be useful to assist operators in their performance of these tasks. Sirris developed a new demonstrator focused on the use of autonomous mobile robots at their Diepenbeek site. Many factors need to be considered when integrating logistics AMR into a factory. We want to use the demonstrator to show the feasibility of these types of new platforms in SMEs.

The purchase of one or more AMRs entails various new challenges. The integration of an AMR requires knowledge in three areas: information technology, operational technology and operations management. Our new demonstrator addresses all three.

Sirris builds a mini production line with automated part supply using AGVs

All production logistics aspects bundled 

Combined with constant pressure to reduce costs and requests to result in an increasingly shorter turnaround time, the shift from mass production to the manufacturing of smaller customised product series is increasing the complexity of manufacturing. The consequences of this increase in production complexity can be seen in the logistics used on the shop floor. Companies able to manage this complexity have a clear competitive advantage. 

In the second quarter of 2020, Sirris published a series of blog posts on various aspects of production logistics. These were based on an online survey mapping typical logistics challenges in the manufacturing industry, both for the shop floor and the warehouse. The survey was completed by over 80 companies working in the manufacturing industry in its broadest sense. The first part of the blog series addressed the survey results. The series also considered the shop floor layout, warehouse management, supplying production machines, automated guided vehicles (AGV), karakuri and kaizen philosophies, and the demonstrator we built at our application lab. 

Logistics orchestration for agile production with autonomous mobile robots

Recent technological developments in the field of autonomous mobile robots (AMR) provide options to automate internal logistics operations at acceptable costs. A few specific logistics challenges need o be resolved first before these technologies can be broadly implemented in the EU manufacturing industry. AMRs enable logistics automation, although a few practical obstacles remain. The ROI is therefore unclear, which is preventing SMEs from implementing AMRs.

Proof of concept

A new project started in July 2020, aims to address some of the challenges by constructing a prototype, then implementing and testing it in an industrial use case, in turn by developing a proof of concept demonstrator. As part of the Trinity project, Sirris, Flagstone and Altachem wished to find a solution to optimise internal logistics, increase production capacity per square metre and move operator focus to added-value tasks. The project partners will demonstrate both the technological and economic feasibility of implementing AMRs on SME shop floors for the flexible production of smaller series. Sirris will develop the necessary automation add-ons to enable the easy docking, loading and unloading of AMRs. These prototype solutions will be implemented and tested in a demonstrator at Altachem.