Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) optimise the efficient use of resources within a logistics facility. We have purchased an AGV system for our site in Felben – a key investment for the future.

Initial phase completed

Distances, time, resources – these are the factors that determine how efficiently things literally go to and fro in a warehouse. The technical term for this is intralogistics. The bigger the area involved, the longer the distances and the more extensive and varied the goods being stored, the more demanding the internal flow of materials becomes.

But we wouldn’t be Planzer if we couldn’t rise to precisely this challenge. We therefore installed a system by SSI Schäfer at our Felben-Wellhausen site that includes two AGVs. This enabled us to gain some initial experience, refine our processes and optimise the time and resources involved

What it’s about

AGVs are motorised, self-steering industrial trucks (e.g. forklifts) for the automated transportation of goods. They carry materials from one processing point to another. AGVs move without any direct human intervention. They can be integrated flexibly into individual warehouse setups. Those who install an AGV system primarily want to speed up the internal flow of goods and to save human resources.

There and back efficiently

Our AGV transports picked small parts from the automatic small parts warehouse (ASPW), with around 52,000 parts and components, from the racking zone to the container point. The empty containers and Euro pallets obviously then go back. The two vehicles control three ‘stations’ with destinations (delivery) and sources (pick-up). An operator terminal with visualisation is installed at every station. If a source is marked as occupied, the AGV automatically generates a transport order. The destination is stored in the corresponding source. Our warehouse logistics staff issue the transport order with just one click – and the AGV carries it out straight away.

Optimising the route and destination

The route from the picking zones to dispatch is around 400 metres and crosses several former assembly halls. We programmed both routes into the design – meaning into the software – at the start of the project. This means that both AGVs are integrated into our WiFi network and communicate via a virtual master computer. They navigate autonomously and determine their location using a rotating laser light barrier. We have also placed reflectors along the entire route. The AGV needs to recognise three of them to calculate its exact position. To begin with, uneven floors caused malfunctions, but once we had eliminated that, we were able to increase the speed and therefore the efficiency.

Goodbye to drivers, jobs lost?

On the contrary, automation using an AGV allows us to move goods and empties from A to B within a warehouse location. This is a task that customers don’t pay for. The AGV system has enabled us to increase output at Felben-Wellhausen significantly, as we are able to deploy our staff in a more targeted and efficient way. They can now focus on activities that add more value, such as order management, picking, packing or preparation for shipping.

Safety first

Before commissioning the AGV system, we trained our staff in how it works and introduced new traffic rules. The simplest and most important of these is that an AGV always has right of way. A blue LED light indicates the direction of travel. If there is an obstacle in its way, the AGV recognises it autonomously and stops 30 cm ahead of it. An electronic voice then politely tells the obstacle to move out of the way.

We can see potential for further optimisation in a second stage of development: we can increase the level of automation for order placement even more, which will enable the AGVs to get underway without orders having to be loaded manually. Having combi-locations will also eliminate the handling of empty pallets and increase efficiency even more. So the solution will grow as the project expands – in line with our motto: better is always possible.

«The system by SSI Schäfer with AGVs and a control system is working well. There is acceptance of the vehicles, as the staff are proud that the new system is being used at our site as a prototype. The AGVs have been integrated as fully-fledged members of the team.»

Roger Graf, Site Manager in Felben-Wellhausen
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