Autonomous transport systems and smart robotics support employees in production and warehousing

Safe and efficient: shuttle and warehousing with optional MRK application.

Some people speak of driverless transport vehicles, others prefer the abbreviation AGVs, and still others autonomous transport systems. But no matter which term is chosen: One thing is certain: in times of advancing digitalization, strong competitive pressure and constantly changing market requirements, companies and logisticians must come up with a number of ideas to streamline processes, strengthen safety and support employees. Transport systems that automatically steer through production and warehouses optimize the transport of materials and parts as a flexible alternative to rigid conveyor technology and can be adapted to special tasks by means of superstructures. Supplemented by MRK robots, workplaces are sustainably humanized. Data management tools also enable concrete networking with customers, partners and suppliers.

A survey by Statista shows that 55 percent of 272 German experts in the logistics industry surveyed rate the importance of autonomous systems for their industry as high to very high. But how can the interaction between man and machine in production and warehousing be orchestrated in the best possible way? How can driverless transport systems be supplemented, supporting the collaboration of robots and employees? Ideally, transport and warehouse systems are coupled with human-robot collaboration (HRC), with the transport shuttle transporting goods and the warehouse shuttle taking over the assembled goods to store or retrieve them in the high rack. Matching robots allow tasks to be divided up in such a way that monotonous and error-prone as well as heavy work steps can be taken over. The mobile transport shuttle plus MRK robot controls different stations and workplaces, which relieves employees and at the same time optimizes processes in the warehouse and logistics.

A strong team: transport system and MRC in a double pack

Autonomous transport systems provide valuable assistance in combination with robotic systems. Instead of replacing employees, the goal is to use robots as an additional hand to the human colleague and to sustainably relieve employees, especially in monotonous or dangerous tasks. Hands and grippers can safely operate alongside and with each other when processing workpieces. Another advantage of innovative systems consisting of shuttles and MRK robots is their great flexibility and increased safety. Since there are no separating safety guards, humans and robots share a workspace.

While autonomous transport shuttles already provide enormous work support in logistics, the combination of a collaborative robot (cobot) with specially developed gripper changing systems or individual grippers offers additional added value. Across all industries, the mobile duo of transport shuttle and MRK robot relieves the workload exactly where it is needed: in conveying, palletizing and depalletizing, precise layer formation and accurate packaging. The MRK solution handles automated work steps and can be programmed for different tasks.

Production reliability and data overview

Robotics-supported transport systems also score points for increased efficiency in production. Rigid routes within production or incoming goods can be shortened or avoided – thus providing more usable space. In addition, reproducible processes are carried out by MRC robots in reliable quality on a permanent basis. Last but not least, the coupling of transport system and cobot ensures higher production reliability. Mobile MRK robots use the scanners of the automated guided vehicle to find their way to the target position. With the help of the image processing functions at the respective workstation, the correct position can already be entered before the actual task is carried out. TRAPO AG has developed the web-based business intelligence portal TIM (TRAPO Intelligent Managementsystem) as a control element for monitoring, controlling and operating based on practical experience in mechanical engineering. TIM provides management-relevant production figures in real time – available worldwide at any time and thus contributes directly to plant optimization and increased results. TIM also provides round-the-clock security, analyzes production figures, makes recommendations on maintenance intervals, takes over error analysis and suggests the affected spare part in the event of an impending shutdown.

It is also helpful for users to be able to optimize energy requirements, increase capacity utilization and improve process efficiency for their plants by logging parameter changes and comparing performance based on the changes.

Strong, smart and fast: Here’s what companies should look for when selecting AGVs.

Transport systems should have a high payload in relation to their reach in order to operate reliably. Distances within production or incoming goods can be covered with the help of such vehicles, and companies can create more usable space by replacing conventional conveyors. The TRAPO Transport Shuttle (TTS), for example, carries loads of up to 2,000 kilograms as standard and can be combined with MRK robots plus grippers depending on company needs and customer requirements. Other examples of customer-specific setups include additional conveyors or integrated lifting function. The Transport Shuttle offers optional inductive, autonomous or optical navigation – and thus the widest possible range of applications. With such a solution, companies can supplement or replace rigid conveyor and palletizing systems to benefit from more space and flexibility. The Mecanum wheels of the TRAPO system turn the TTS on the spot and enable surface-directional movement. The modular design principle ensures flexible configuration options. Thus, sizes, energy transmission and storage as well as drive and navigation can be combined as required.

The TRAPO Warehouse Shuttle (TWS) takes over the products or complete load carriers in the high-bay warehouse area – thus the TTS and TWS automated guided vehicles can be used as a combination. At an acceleration of 1.5 m/s², the Warehouse Shuttle travels three meters per second and completes the cycle of extending, gripping and retracting in a maximum of three seconds. Power is supplied either by rechargeable batteries or power caps, and charging is preferably carried out on the reciprocator or via a charging point in the aisle. The shelving system has a modular design and can be flexibly expanded.

Conclusion: Artificial intelligence and machine learning drive development forward

Autonomous transport systems paired with compact mobile assistants and data management functions are replacing large and inflexible robots in Production and Logistics 4.0. At the same time, users benefit from consistently high quality as well as efficient material flow for intralogistics tasks. Since the use of such a system is also significantly more flexible than traditional devices, a wide range of tasks is conceivable in the future. Companies benefit even more if they embed their transport and storage system in their overall plant. TRAPO AG provides support in this regard with well-founded overall system expertise. At the same time, the hardware is compatible with different suppliers, which facilitates individual adaptations. Currently, many MRK applications are still at the beginning of their development. However, rapidly advancing developments in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning will ensure that programming such systems will become increasingly simple. In the future, robots will learn independently and improve production processes on their own, allowing human employees to devote more time to creative, problem-solving and value-adding tasks.

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