Usually when we are talking about logistics we imagine ships, planes and trucks travelling between huge warehouses and factories. However, logistic operations inside huge industrial plants are not much easier, because journeys of various components and finished products need to be planned very precisely. That is why the world’s largest engine manufacturer had to employ an innovative solution to its interior logistics.
Driverless transport vehicle in the engine production plant in Audi Hungaria. Image credit: Audi
It may come to you as a surprise that Audi Hungaria is the world’s largest engine manufacturer, but it is the central engine supplier of many brands of the Volkswagen Group. And while the automotive industry might be moving towards electric cars, engines are still very important. This means that if Audi Hungaria is not working to its maximum efficiency, the entire Volkswagen Group operation in Europe may start to struggle. That is why Audi Hungaria partnered with Jungheinrich to employ six driverless transport vehicles to automate logistics in the 2.0-litre four-cylinder Otto engine production.
The new robots, called FTFs, are working on a 1,000 metres long journey, which has 57 stations – 50 of them are right next to the production line. As you might imagine, these robots are delivering various components – one of them can carry 5,000 tonnes of goods. FTFs are equipped with the latest navigation technology and safety features, because they work very close to humans. On their way back to the logistics area these robots take packaging material.
The new robots in Audi Hungaria have an interesting navigation technology. They use lasers, which bounce back from reflective surfaces installed on objects along the FTF’s route. These reflective surfaces, mounted on shelves, walls, and columns, allow the autonomous system to understand its position and avoid contact with immovable objects with millimetre-level accuracy. These robots save time and effort, making the entire internal logistics process in the Audi Hungaria that much more efficient.
Robert Buttenhauser, Member of the Board of Management responsible for engine production at Audi Hungaria, said: “In addition to “smart” solutions used in production, we are also working on introducing digital solutions in the field of logistics. Automation of our logistics processes is an important step in this area, which contributes to increasing our efficiency and boosting our competitiveness”.
Audi Hungaria now uses a total of 60 driverless transport vehicles. They greatly improve efficiency, while having no compromises on safety. No tracks or embedded magnets needed – these robots simply work. And it is likely that in the future there will be even more autonomous robots in automotive plants and a lot of them will have human coworkers.