Interview on the partnership of SSI SCHÄFER and DS AUTOMOTION
In August 2018 SSI SCHAEFER has announced its investment in DS AUTOMOTION. With the world’s leading manufacturer of highly dynamic Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), the intralogistics expert intends to integrate flexible and reliable systems from Austria into holistic logistics solutions and further advance technologies long-term. In the interview, Manfred Hummenberger and Wolfgang Hillinger (both Managing directors at DS AUTOMOTION), and Rob Schmit (EVP Technology & Innovation at SSI SCHAEFER) give an insight into the background and future plans of the partnership.
Mr. Schmit, SSI SCHAEFER recently announced its partnership with the Linz AGV specialist DS AUTOMOTION. What were the reasons behind this decision?
R. Schmit: This participation is a strategically important step for SSI SCHAEFER and, as a result, we supplement our expertise in this promising field and are delivering what the market demands. In addition, the partnership is in-line with our strategic positioning. We will increasingly work with partner companies where we are ideally involved.
Mr. Hummenberger, how do you justify the decision to cooperate with SSI SCHAEFER in the future?
M. Hummenberger: DS AUTOMOTION is a world leading supplier of AGVs and since 1984 has specialized in the development and production of automation solutions for a wide variety of applications and industries. These years of experience and individual solutions enable users to become flexible in the management of internal material flows. With SSI SCHAEFER, we have found the right partner to serve this future market, especially as a holistic solution provider.
Existing partnerships with AGV manufacturers and your own products already characterize your wide range of services in this area. How would you describe the development?
R. Schmit: SSI SCHAEFER was one of the first providers in the industry to implement holistic intralogistics solutions with AGVs. At a very early stage, we were able to meet the increasing customer requirements for barrier-free and flexible transport. With the acquisition of the Belgian startup MoTuM NV, Mechelen, SSI SCHAEFER has been driving forward extensive research and development work in the areas of swarm intelligence and decentralized control technology since mid-2015. In addition, with partners like the Finnish provider Rocla, we have a broad network that we rely on in our day-to-day business. We are particularly proud of our own product too – the WEASEL®, an AGV for small load carriers. It even received the prestigious IFOY Logistics Award in 2016. With our participation in DS AUTOMOTION, we are constantly developing our AGV expertise. We supplement our scope of supply and services with system implementations based on individual customer requirements as well as with solutions for special applications, such as manufacturing operations. Consequently, users benefit from a comprehensive portfolio for both small load and large load carriers, which integrate into holistic logistics solutions.
Mr. Hillinger, what does the future market for AGVs look like? And what are the implications for intralogistics?
W. Hillinger: Especially in the context of Industry 4.0 applications, of further system integration, and of digitalization, AGVs represent essential elements of modern intralogistics. Based on rapid developments in the areas of navigation technology and software, there is increasing demand for solutions. Simultaneously, it is essential to offer a wide range of vehicle types, which we are already implementing as we continue to develop our portfolio.
R. Schmit: At the same time, the specification of the vehicles depends very much on the particular application. For example, an application may utilize standardized vehicles, but another application may use custom vehicles. Therefore, both standard and custom AGVs are in demand. This results in special challenges for intralogistics. Custom vehicles and concepts meet individual requirements of the transport tasks that need to be performed. With our new partnership, we are increasing the market coverage in the area of customized device configuration and taking this development into account.
What expertise at DS AUTOMOTION complements the existing service portfolio of SSI SCHAEFER and vice versa? Last but not least, what does it mean for your customers?
R. Schmit: The new partnership will bring many benefits: Increased variance of vehicle types, increased expertise in navigation technology, and comprehensive project management. In addition, DS AUTOMOTION has a strong presence in the areas of production logistics, automotive, hospital & healthcare, agriculture, and industry. Plus, DS AUTOMOTION automates mass-produced vehicles to complement the product range. SSI SCHAEFER benefits in turn as the partnership allows us new market access. By combining the AGV expertise of our two companies, we are well positioned in this future-oriented market on the basis of global performance, a wide product portfolio, and our comprehensive IT expertise.
M. Hummenberger: We have many years of experience in implementing both flexible and reliable AGV systems with different technologies – especially in large-volume market sectors. Plus, we offer an extremely broad AGV portfolio for every application. Together with SSI SCHAEFER we are more than able to meet the increasing demand for agile systems.