Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are not new, but, in times of growing complexity and uncertainty, they are an increasingly sought-after game changer for making processes more flexible, reducing dependencies, and cutting costs through optimized processes and increased efficiency. With its "Driverless Solutions" product line, SSI SCHAEFER meets this increased demand through optimally integrated solutions that can be implemented quickly while at the same time accommodating individual customer requirements. The know-how for these solutions comes from AGV specialist DS Automotion.
For several years now, AGVs have proven their worth as reliable assistants in the warehouse and/or production environment. They relieve humans of monotonous and arduous tasks and help make up for the ongoing shortage of personnel, which creates additional challenges, especially in three-shift operation. Particularly during the pandemic, companies increasingly see a need to exploit potential for improvement as quickly as possible and achieve greater flexibility with the help of AGVs. Another point in favor of AGVs is that they quickly pay for themselves. Moreover, depending on the application, noticeable and measurable added value can be achieved with just one or two vehicles. This means that operators do not have to make large investments immediately, but can gradually build up a vehicle fleet adapted to future growth.
However, the effectiveness of AGVs crucially depends on the integrated communication, navigation, and safety technology, not to mention the software. Another decisive factor is the know-how needed to incorporate the vehicles intelligently and effectively into an existing or newly established overall system. SSI SCHAEFER shares these competencies under its partnership with AGV specialist DS Automotion, thereby strengthening its presence in this growth sector.
"Linking our offering with the SSI SCHAEFER portfolio has the key advantage of being able to offer highly integrated solutions without interface problems," says Kurt Ammerstorfer, Head of Sales, Product Management & Marketing at DS Automotion. This point is echoed by Peter Berlik, SVP Global Head of Technology at SSI SCHAEFER: "Sharing all this mechanical and software expertise under one roof means that we have everything in our own hands, we are not reliant on third parties and can implement tailor-made AGV applications quickly, safely, and efficiently."
This holistic approach also means that all AGVs are developed directly as a fully automated transport vehicle, as a best-in-class solution from a single source. It does away with the time-consuming and always risky process of having serially manufactured machines tuned by third party automation companies. This ensures continuous availability and performance and guarantees the highest safety standards for customers.
At the heart is the DS NAVIOS control system, which makes both track-guided and autonomous AGV applications possible. The software provides interfaces with customers' IT architectures and can be linked to SSI SCHAEFER's own WAMAS® logistics software, thus supporting synchronized interaction with other components. Another advantage is that the AGVs, which are specifically adapted to the use case, can be put into operation quickly. Within a few days of commissioning, significant performance improvements can be achieved with increasingly small-scale job structures. Furthermore, companies benefit from a high ROI and great flexibility. AGVs can easily be integrated into existing factory halls, while spaces and floors can be used in a wide variety of ways. The system ensures reliable transport operations even when used in a constant 24/7 cycle, and its modular and scalable design allows optimal adaptation to dynamically changing market requirements in every phase of the company's development.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence are proof that software continues to reach new levels of maturity. While AGVs follow defined routes, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) use onboard navigation systems and can change the route independently – if they encounter an obstacle, for example. The "Plannable Autonomy" developed by DS Automotion achieves this flexibility, but without sacrificing technical performance and availability. The collaboration on the design of the new VDA 5050 interface once again underlines the partners' software expertise, which is also being used to develop AMR solutions suitable for industrial use.
"In addition to the expanded product portfolio, connected integration solutions will be a key factor for joint success and market acceptance," emphasizes Peter Berlik. Kurt Ammerstorfer adds: "DS Automotion and SSI SCHAEFER offer these entirely from one source. This also benefits customers who want to work with a single partner for hardware selection, implementation, and IT system integration, to avoid the expense of coordinating different subsystems."