Earlier this month, Audi began testing driverless transport systems (DTS) at its Ingolstadt plant. With DTS, logistics employees no longer have to fetch the required goods from the material shelves; the goods will come to them fully automatically. Audi says it is the first automobile manufacturer to implement such a DTS-based goods-to-person concept.
Autonomous goods conveyance is another pioneering development towards the factory of the future. By means of intelligent connectivity, we achieve additional efficiency and flexibility, while easing the work of our employees.—Axel Bley, Head of Logistics Concept Development
Driverless transport systems drive under the shelves, lift them up and transport them automatically to a central picking station. There, symbols on a monitor show the employees which goods they have to put into which place. Unlike the previous person‑to‑goods commissioning, a DTS does not need wide lanes and picking bays, so the shelves can be positioned much closer together. That reduces space requirements by 25%.
A fleet-management system coordinates the carries so that they always arrive at the commissioners’ workplaces punctually. Employees never have to wait for their goods—a shelf change at the picking station takes just four seconds. The robots receive the order to bring a shelf for commissioning by Wi‑Fi. When in motion, they orient themselves by means of QR codes on the floor, which are read by a camera installed under the DTS. The autonomous transport systems move in a separate area from where the employees work.
The goods‑to‑person principle eliminates not only long working times in the picking bays, but also long walking distances and the pushing of heavily loaded material carts. If components change or new ones are added, this can be quickly integrated.
All the shelves are mobile, so where they are located is no longer important. With the increasing number of parts, it is enormously important that we can react flexibly.—
The autonomous transport systems are equipped with eight rechargeable batteries with a running time of approximately seven hours. When their charge status has fallen to 40%, they automatically return to their charging stations. There, they are recharged for two hours via induction plates in the floor, and then automatically return to work in the transporting shelves.
When charged, the robots accelerate to a speed of 3.6 km/h (2.2 mph), irrespective of the weight of the material carried. They can transport a maximum of 600 kilograms.
The commissioning of the owner’s manuals for the Audi A3 models is the first task for which the new supermarket concept is being tested. Next year, additional commissioning stations at Audi will take over the goods‑to‑person principle.