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Smart plant logistics: Automated transport systems for outdoor use

+++ Outdoor tugger trains, car box and car trailer piloted in outdoor areas at Plant Dingolfing +++

Production, Recycling
Industry 4.0
Smart Logistics

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Dingolfing. At BMW Group Plant Dingolfing, automated transport systems have long been an essential part of plant operations: From autonomous tugger trains to smart transport robots to car forklifts – rollout of these innovative vehicles is well underway, and they have already become a common sight in production halls. “Due to the wide variety of models we have here in Dingolfing, from the BMW 4 Series to the fully-electric BMW iX, our assembly logistics currently handles different articles and part” explains Armin Feser, head of Physical Logistics at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing. “Automated transport systems help us manage this complexity and organise our logistics processes at the plant more efficiently.”

After using these innovative vehicles indoors, the next step is to deploy automated transport systems in areas outside the production halls. Pilot projects have been running on the plant grounds for several weeks – with two automated outdoor tugger trains, a so-called car box and a car trailer.

Peter Kiermaier is responsible for logistics planning and industrialisation of logistics innovations at Plant Dingolfing. He firmly believes these vehicles have potential for the future, but also describes the unique challenges of using them outdoors: “On the one hand, because of the weather, we have far more disruptive and influencing factors, so we need more robust sensors and systems. On the other, we also need vehicles and systems that can communicate and interact effectively with each another.”

He says protecting other road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, is top priority and requires the innovative vehicle to be integrated into the existing traffic control system.

As part of the AC Log (Autonomous & Connected Logistics) research project, plans call for the car trailer and car box to be connected to 5G, so they can communicate with the existing BMW standard control system.

Specifically, two different outdoor tugger train models are currently being piloted: The first is a tugger train built by Linde, with an integrated automation kit from Schiller and a traction of three tonnes, which is being used to transport door handles autonomously, without a driver, in covered open spaces. The second model, from French manufacturer Easymile, builds on lessons learned from vehicle technology for autonomous driving and is mainly being used to transport PHS sheet metal parts outdoors. The electric hauler delivers up to 15 tonnes of traction and, with three trailers, reaches a length of over 16 metres and an automated speed of 10 km/h. It comes with a complex navigation system that uses GPS satellite navigation and Lidar technology to create a 3D image of the surroundings.

An automated, self-driving car box from Stäubli-WFT is also being piloted. With a footprint of 4.5 x 2 metres and a housing to protect transported goods from the weather, it is ideally equipped for outdoor use. The self-driving box moves special containers back and forth between locations where empty containers are stored and returned in the northern sector of Plant 02.40. “The product represents a further development of the previous indoor vehicle used at the Dingolfing Dynamics Centre 02.70. In the long run, we want to achieve greater flexibility by using different vehicle sizes and transport volumes," explains Dr Thomas Irrenhauser, head of Technology Development Innovation.

Another device from Stäubli-WFT, the car trailer, is currently in use at the Dynamics Centre (DYZ). In the near future, two automated car trailers will be deployed at this location to move containers arriving by rail to the docking gates for outgoing goods at the container yard, some 500 metres away, instead of tractor units. There, the container will be loaded with new parts, which are then transported back to the container yard by the car trailer, where they wait to be shipped.

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