Ford trials self-driving robot to deliver parts

Ford is trialling a self-driving robot to deliver spare parts around one of its manufacturing plants. The robot, nicknamed “Survival”, can dodge unforeseen objects, change its route if obstructed and stop whenever necessary.
Developed entirely by Ford engineers, the company says it is the first of its kind to be used in any of the company’s European facilities.
“We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate,” Eduardo García Magraner, engineering manager, at Ford’s state-of-the-art body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialled, said.
“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”
According to Ford, delivering spare parts and welding material to different stations around the plant is a crucial element in keeping Kuga, Mondeo and S-MAX production going. For Ford workers though, the task is time-consuming and relatively mundane.
In a statement, the company said the robot does not replace employees but can save up to 40-employee hours every day by taking over this role, allowing operators to use their time on more complex tasks.
The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes. To avoid errors, the opening and closing of these slots is automated, meaning operators in each area only have access to the materials assigned to them.
“Survival” is one of a number of smart robots employed in Ford’s European facilities, including the “Robutt” and co-bots in Cologne, Germany. The self-driving robot uses LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology to visualise its surroundings, a technology also used in Ford’s prototype autonomous vehicles.

Microsoft and BMW partner to build future Industry 4.0 solutions

Microsoft and the BMW Group have announced a new community initiative to enable faster, more cost-effective innovation in the manufacturing sector.
The two organisations will establish an Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP). The initiative is expected to support the development of smart factory solutions that will be shared by OMP participants across the automotive and broader manufacturing sectors.
According to both organisations, the goal is to significantly accelerate future industrial IoT developments, shorten time to value and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges.
“Microsoft is joining forces with the BMW Group to transform digital production efficiency across the industry. Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain,” Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft Cloud + AI Group said.
With currently over 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems connected with the BMW Group IoT platform, which is built on MicrosoftAzure’s cloud, IoT and AI capabilities, the BMW Group plans to contribute relevant initial use cases to the OMP community.
“Mastering the complex task of producing individualised premium products requires innovative IT and software solutions. The interconnection of production sites and systems as well as the secure integration of partners and suppliers are particularly important. We have been relying on the cloud since 2016 and are consistently developing new approaches. With the Open Manufacturing Platform as the next step, we want to make our solutions available to other companies and jointly leverage potential in order to secure our strong position in the market in the long term,” Oliver Zipse, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Production said.
The OMP will be designed to address common industrial challenges such as machine connectivity and on-premises systems integration. This will facilitate the reuse of software solutions among OEMs, suppliers and other partners, significantly reducing implementation costs. For example, an ROS-based robotics standard for autonomous transport systems for production and logistics will be contributed to the OMP for everyone to use. The OMP will be compatible with the existing Industry 4.0 reference architecture, leveraging the industrial interoperability standard OPC UA.
 

The automotive supply chain is about to go electric

BMW’s Mini production line in Oxfordshire, UK. Photo courtesy of the BBC.

Jess Dando

New research from Transport Intelligence (Ti) has found that automotive supply chains will undergo a radical transformation over the next decade as the internal combustion engine is phased out in favour of alternative propulsion systems.
It is clear that electric vehicles will play an important, even defining, role in the industry’s future. This will mean that the supply chain for the entire powertrain will be transformed and the types of components, the logistics processes employed to move them, the markets of origin and destination as well as the tiered character of automotive supply chains will fundamentally change.
Key findings in the new report – Ti Future Mobility: Electric Vehicle Supply Chain Architecture – include:

  • As the dominant technology in electric vehicles, battery manufacturing processes will transform the automotive supply chain.
  • Battery or battery pack producers with high volumes will drive out lower volume manufacturers, including many vehicle manufacturers’ own in-house operations.
  • Supply chain and logistics provision will adapt to the geography of battery and electric component production locations.
  • The integration of the battery-pack and associated drive-train elements will create a distinctive ‘propulsion platform’.
  • The complex and deeply integrated tier-system of suppliers feeding in the components will change fundamentally.

While batteries are complex pieces of engineering, they are much more straightforward to insert into a vehicle than an internal combustion engine. Plugging in the electric motors to the battery is a comparatively simple process. With no welding shop, no engine plant and a higher level of outsourcing to new component suppliers, the automotive assembly facility will shrink in scale along with its logistics requirements.
“Conventional vehicle manufacturers define assembly as a core-competence but with the changing nature of operations, this may no longer be the case. It may be that, in time, automotive manufacturers’ come to focus on the design and marketing of their product, in the way that Apple does,” said Nick Bailey, Ti’s Head of Research and the report’s co-author.
The impact of the reduction in parts and the elimination of tiers of suppliers in the powertrain supply chain might be considered to be traumatic enough for the automotive supply chain. However, in addition to this, the process of the manufacturing of batteries in terms of materials, skills and existing production structures has developed outside of the main automotive powerhouse economies. Japan, South Korea and China are dominant in the sector, sourcing their raw materials from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Europe and North America have, with a few exceptions, been side-lined in the development of new technologies of batteries as well as in the manufacturing know-how.
One important discrete aspect of any EV supply chain that will make it distinct from IC supply chains is the differing nature of the interconnection of components. Whereas the relationship between components in IC vehicles is predominantly kinetic, the relationship between electric and electronic components is reliant on the movement of electrons. This means that the nature of different component’s interfaces are very different. This obviously has major supply chain implications.
“Fundamentally there is a shift in the nature of the components used, from mechanical engineering to electrical and electronic engineering,” said report co-author Thomas Cullen, senior analyst at Ti.  “The economics of both designing and producing these components is very different. This has enormous implications for how the automotive supply chain is ordered.”

Volkswagen partners with Amazon to automate its manufacturing and logistics processes

Amazon and Volkswagen have announced a multi-year, global agreement to build the Volkswagen Industrial Cloud, a cloud-based Industrial digital production platform that will  transform the automotive company’s manufacturing and logistics processes.
Volkswagen will rely upon the breadth and depth of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) portfolio of services, including IoT, machine learning, analytics, and compute services to increase plant efficiency and uptime, improve production flexibility, and increase vehicle quality.
The Volkswagen Industrial Cloud will bring together real-time data from all of the Volkswagen Group’s 122 manufacturing plants to manage the overall effectiveness of assembly equipment, as well as track parts and vehicles.
“We will continue to strengthen production as a key competitive factor for theVolkswagen Group. Our strategic collaboration with AWS will lay the foundation. The Volkswagen Group, with its global expertise in automobile production, and AWS, with its technological know-how, complement each other extraordinarily well. With our global industry platform we want to create a growing industrial ecosystem with transparency and efficiency bringing benefits to all concerned,” Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG and Member of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft responsible for ‘Production’ said.
“Volkswagen’s industrial cloud, which will reinvent its manufacturing and logistics processes, is yet another example of how Volkswagen continues to innovate and lead. Volkswagen’s and AWS’s collaboration will have a profound impact on efficiency and quality in production throughout Volkswagen’s global supply chain, as Volkswagen gains access to the broadest and deepest cloud with the most functionality, the most innovation, the highest performance and security, and the largest community of partners and customers of any other infrastructure provider. We are tightly aligned across Volkswagen’s businesses to help them reimagine the future of automobile manufacturing by taking advantage of all the benefits the cloud can deliver,” Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS said.

The changing face of logistics in the Australian automotive sector

While Australia’s car manufacturing industry has closed after more than a century, other opportunities are opening in the sector for design and logistics.
In recent years, we have seen the closure of Toyota, General Motors Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi’s manufacturing plants. Since reports first surfaced of the planned closures back in 2013, many analysts have tried to quantify the subsequent fallout.
For the majority, there can be no glossing over the negative impact that the closures will have on the Australian economy. A report by the University of Adelaide estimates the industry collapse has put up to 200,000 jobs at risk across the nation and taken $29bn out of Australia’s GDP annually.
Global management consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group, now ranks Australia the worst performer among 25 nations assessed in its worldwide manufacturing cost-competitiveness index. Costs are higher than in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland and Australian manufacturing wages rose 48% in the past decade while productivity fell, it said.
The good news, however, is that Australia is reviving its automotive sector and making major contributions to the economy. For example, Toyota, Holden and Ford have all said they recognise the excellence of Australian vehicle designers and engineers. Ford has retained its production development centre and testing facility after it ceased manufacturing in 2016 and Holden has hinted that it will retain its global design studio.
In addition, the closure of automotive manufacturing has resulted in an investment in warehousing and distribution centres. For example, Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi have launched a shared warehousing and logistics operation in Australia realising synergies to be replicated and expanded across the world.
The new Alliance National Parts Distribution Centre is one of Australia’s largest automotive logistics facilities and managed by CEVA Logistics. At over 37,000 square metres in area, it will use industry-leading technologies and processes for the fast and efficient movement of automotive parts and accessories. “This is a milestone development and a future test case for their global operations,” said Adam Duncan, CEVA’s General Manager Sales – Contract Logistics.
Stow Australia is proud to have designed and installed the major component of the warehouse; the racking, conveyor and mezzanine floor solution. The mezzanine floor has 3 tiers and provides approximately 70,000 storage locations for automotive parts and accessories. A further 29,940 pallet locations were installed as part of the racking component.
Another investment example in warehousing is the new ‘state of the art’ headquarters and parts warehouse for truck market leader, Isuzu Australia. Stow Australia was successful in winning the competitive tender to design, manufacture and install the multi-functional racking and storage facility for Isuzu, following the completion of a successful Brisbane-based warehouse racking project for Isuzu in 2013/14. The storage solution includes more than 5000 pallet spaces for high bay, oversize and cab racking and more than 20,000 bin locations over two tiers.
According to Isuzu Australia Limited’s Chief Operating Officer Phil Taylor, the new facilities will equip the market leader for years to come. “The state-of-the-art facilities will perfectly reflect our operations in the future – as Isuzu aims to continue improving on 29 consecutive years of market leadership.”
Despite concerns amongst the general public, the automotive industry is still very much alive in Australian logistics.
At Stow Australia, we provide industry-specific products and solutions. This includes high quality European designed and manufactured steel selective racking to bear heavy loads, multi-level mezzanine storage areas for small parts, variable sized racking for odd-shaped stock and deep lane storage for automotive parts that don’t always need to be accessible. Every Automotive custom-designed solution is created with the customer to ensure it is highly efficient and fit for purpose.
Are you searching for the most efficient automotive warehouse storage solution? Talk to the experts. For more information about our products and services, visit the Stow website or call on 1800 438 786.

Rolls-Royce partners with AI software developer to boost engine reliability

Industrial AI and IoT software developer, Uptake, and Rolls-Royce have joined forces to extend Rolls-Royce’s digital ecosystem.
According to Uptake, the company will demonstrate how its capabilities can help Rolls-Royce implement a data-science-first approach to optimising the performance of its Trent engine fleet, the market-leading engine family for widebody aircraft.
Rolls-Royce’s TotalCare® service enables customers to maximise the availability of their engines while allowing Rolls-Royce to focus on the most efficient management of the fleet. Working with Uptake to analyse a number of disparate datasets will arm Rolls-Royce with new insights to deliver on its TotalCare® promise to airlines around the world by improving the uptime and availability of their Trent engine fleet.
“We’ve been applying analytics as a key part of our TotalCare® services strategy for many years and are always looking to advance our digital approach to improve the quality and value of our services. With industrial AI and machine learning techniques, we can increase the uptime of our engines and help customers extend the life and value of their critical assets,” Tom Palmer, Senior Vice President of Services for Rolls-Royce’s Civil Aerospace business said.
Built on a foundation of data science and machine learning, Uptake develops solutions that help industrial companies digitally transform their business. The company’s latest release of its Asset Performance Management application, Uptake APM, incorporates the Asset Strategy Library (ASL), the world’s most comprehensive database of industrial content including equipment types, failure mechanisms and maintenance tasks. This rich combination of deep operational and equipment knowledge with predictive analytics provides unparalleled visibility into, and insights surrounding, the entire asset environment, whether assets are connected or not.
Uptake APM is built on top of our industrial AI and IoT platform. This enables companies to put powerful AI and machine learning to work, using our pre-trained data science models and industry-specific content to turn mountains of data into actionable insights that drive financial outcomes.

BMW invests in automated logistics

The BMW Group has revealed that it is increasingly relying on innovations from the fields of digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in production logistics.
The company has increased focus on applications such as logistics robots, autonomous transport systems at plants and digitalisation projects for an end-to-end supply chain.
According to the company, innovations coming out of many pilot projects are currently being implemented worldwide in logistics at BMW Group plants and staff can now control logistics processes from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and use virtual reality applications to plan future logistics.
“Logistics is the heart of our production system. Our broad spectrum of ground-breaking projects helps us run increasingly complex logistics processes efficiently and transparently. We are taking advantage of the wide range of available technological innovations and working closely with universities and start-ups. We are already working with tomorrow’s Industry 4.0 technologies today,” Jürgen Maidl, Head of Logistics for the BMW Group production network said.
Around 1,800 suppliers at more than 4,000 locations deliver over 31 million parts to the 30 BMW Group production sites worldwide every day. Digitalisation and innovations help the company organise logistics more flexibly and more efficiently. At the same time, almost 10,000 vehicles coming off the production line daily must be delivered to customers around the globe. Digitally connected delivery, so-called Connected Distribution, ensures that these transport routes are also more transparent.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles appoints DBS

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has signed on DB Schenker for automotive spare parts logistics in Australia.
The scope of service comprises cartage, warehousing and domestic transport. These services will be performed for FCA’s automotive brands including Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Fiat, Jeep, SRT, Abarth and Mopar. DB Schenker will run the warehouse at FCA Headquarters in Port Melbourne and provide receiving, storage and dispatching services, as well as final delivery to FCA’s dealer network nationwide.
In the future the Melbourne set-up will likely be complemented by forward stocking locations in Queensland and Western Australia.
The warehousing service is said to be supported by the latest technology and also integrates with DB Schenker’s transport management system delivering a functional set-up that supports FCA’s material flows.
 

Former Toll Group GM joins supply chain firm TM Insight

Supply-chain consultancy TM Insight has appointed Rob Turner, former General Manager – Business Development and Solutions for logistics company Toll Group, as a Director of its Supply Chain division.
Turner has designed, built and operated automated warehouses across multiple industry sectors including retail, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), general merchandise, automotive and healthcare.
“TM Insight’s reputation, team members, and unique approach were an attractive proposition to join the business,” said Turner. “I am really looking forward to sharing my experience with TM Insight’s current and future customers in what is a rapidly changing environment.”
Turner will be led by Adam Noakes, head of the Supply Chain Division, who joined TM Insight from Kmart in 2013, where he was General Manager of Supply Chain.
“A key factor for our clients is that all of our directors bring industry experience rather than just theoretical consulting experience,” said Noakes. “This is what our clients value most, and Rob is without doubt one of the top-tier supply chain professionals in Australia.”
Founder of TM Insight, Travis Erridge, added, “To have someone of Rob’s calibre join us is a huge coup for our business. Being able to add Rob’s broad industry knowledge and expertise will significantly enhance our supply chain offering to our clients.”
Turner will begin in the role in December 2017.
 

HNA International acquires AHG Refrigerated Logistics

Automotive Holdings Group (AHG) has entered into a binding agreement to sell its refrigerated logistics business – comprising its Rand, Harris, Scott’s and JAT operations – to CC Logistics (Australia), a wholly owned subsidiary of HNA Group, for $400 million.
The sale will comprise approximately $280 million in cash, and the acquisition by HNA of approximately $120 million in finance lease liabilities associated with the refrigerated logistics operations.
“AHG has previously announced it would explore all opportunities to maximise shareholder value from the refrigerated logistics business,” said David Griffiths, Chairman, AHG. “Although the restructuring initiatives are delivering a significantly improved financial performance, the sale provides AHG with the opportunity to realise a certain value for shareholders that reflects this continuing improvement.
“The sale also provides AHG with both the resources for further growth in our automotive operations and scope for capital management.”
John McConnell, CEO and Managing Director of AHG, added, “HNAI has indicated a commitment to growing and continuing to invest in the refrigerated logistics sector, both internationally and in Australia.”
Stephen Cleary, the current CEO of AHG Logistics, will remain in his role with the refrigerated logistics business and will be supported by the existing management team and employees of the business.
Completion of the transaction is expected to occur in the first half of 2018, and remains subject to the satisfaction of regulatory approvals and to other customary conditions precedent.
The sale of its refrigerated logistics operations is not expected to have any material impact on AHG’s automotive retail division or non-refrigerated logistics operations.

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