Ford Australia has announced it will open a new distribution centre that will be one of the largest automotive parts distribution centres in Australia, marking the biggest investment in the motor company’s parts business in 60 years.
Global companies with a significant supply chain presence in China have suspended operations due to Coronavirus fears.
DHL Express, Ford and electric vehicle maker StreetScooter have announced their collaboration on a new electric delivery vehicle.
The new “H2 Panel Van” will become the first 4.25 tonne electric vehicle with an added fuel cell, which will provide additional power and enable a range up to 500 kilometres.
In a first step, DHL Express has ordered 100 of the fuel cell vehicles, with delivery expected from 2020 through 2021.
For Markus Reckling, CEO DHL Express Germany, the new van fits in to the Group’s larger environmental goals. “With the H2 Panel Van, DHL Express becomes the first express provider to use a larger number of electric vehicles with fuel cells for last-mile logistics. This underscores our aspiration to be not only the fastest and most reliable provider on the market, but also the most climate friendly,” he says.
“We firmly believe that fuel cells will play an increasing role in electric-powered transport, since they can give battery electric vehicles the kind of range that is so important for so many customers,” says Schmitt. “With the Panel Van, StreetScooter begins yet another chapter in its proud history of innovation and enters into a new growth phase,” Fabian Schmitt, Chief Technical Officer at StreetScooter GmbH said.
The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) as part of its National Innovation Programme Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology (NIP II).
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.
Germany’s Deutsche Post DHL Group is planning to collaborate with Ford on the design of a new electric van.
According to DHL, the chassis of the existing Ford Transit will serve as the basis for the project. It will be equipped with a battery-electric drivetrain and fitted with a special body construction based on DHL specifications.
“The start of production is scheduled for July 2017,” DHL said in a press release.
“Before the end of 2018, at least 2,500 vehicles will support the urban delivery traffic of Deutsche Post DHL Group. With this volume, the joint project will become the largest manufacturer of battery-electric medium-duty delivery vehicles in Europe.”
Both DHL and Ford named a strong focus on reducing emissions and creating new traffic solutions as the key drivers behind the project.
“I consider this partnership another important boost for electro-mobility in Germany”, said Jürgen Gerdes, member of the executive board of the Deutsche Post AG, the company behind DHL.
“This step emphasises that Deutsche Post is an innovation leader. It will relieve the inner cities and increase the people’s quality of life. We will continue working on completely carbon neutral CO2-neutral logistics.”
Steven Armstrong, Group Vice President and President Europe, Middle East and Africa at Ford Motor Company, added, “E-Mobility and innovative traffic solutions for urban areas are key focuses for us as we transform our business to meet future challenges.
“As the leader in commercial vehicles in Europe, this partnership plays perfectly to our strengths and in StreetScooter and the Deutsche Post DHL Group we have a partner with enormous competence and a worldwide network.”
DHL has already left its mark in the smaller van segment by designing and producing the emission-free StreetScooter in house. The joint Ford project will build on the existing production processes and could see DHL produce up to 20,000 units per year.
Ford has revealed its concept for autonomous parcel delivery – ‘Autolivery’ – at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
“For more than half a century, vans have played a key role in deliveries,” said Ford in a statement. “Drones are a modern phenomenon. But the two could work hand in hand to improve mobility in urban areas in one example of Ford’s vision for the ‘City of Tomorrow’.
“Self-driving vans could quickly and efficiently transport everything from groceries to urgently needed medical supplies on the ground, with drones potentially able to take to the air for the final leg of the journey to reach destinations inaccessible by car, such as high up in a tower block – or where parking would be difficult, impractical, or unsafe.
“The innovative Autolivery concept, developed by a team of Ford employees for the company’s Last Mile Mobility Challenge, imagines electric self-driving vans used together with drones to pick up and drop off goods and packages in urban areas. The concept can be experienced through virtual reality headsets at Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, in Barcelona, as part of Ford’s vision of the City of Tomorrow.
The concept was developed by Shanghai-based Ford designers Euishik Bang, James Kuo and Chelsia Lau in response to Ford’s calls for urban mobility solutions – the Last Mile Mobility Challenge.
“It’s all about making life in the city easier,” said Bang. “The possibility of harnessing autonomous and electric vehicle technology with drones to quickly and easily send and deliver parcels could help to make life better for everyone.”
News site Post&Parcel has previously reported that by 2021, Ford intends to have a “fully autonomous, SAE level 4–capable vehicle” that can be used for applications such as package delivery fleets.
Barrick Gold US have made a bulk order of light vehicles from Ford, after having been chosen to test the prototype 2015 Ford F-150 trucks.
The new trucks feature an experimental aluminium-alloy cargo box, which has been torture tested by workers throwing heavy gear, pumps and motors into the cargo bed on a daily basis.
Barrack made an order for 35 of the new trucks, to be used in US operations, and Ford has said the mining company is ready to replace its entire fleet of hundreds of 2012 F-150s.
The new vehicles run on 3.5 litre V6 and 5.0 litre V8 engines.
Organisers for the Asia-Pacific International Mining Exhibition (AIMEX) have dropped the rumour that Ford, which will be on display at the Sydney mining event in September, have been planning something big.
Could their plans include a live demonstration of a mining specific F-150 truck?
Logistics and Materials Handling has contacted Ford for further comment.
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