automation “The issue of smart factories is very complex.”
“Smart Factories” can only be created through open and networked automation. Dieter Steenkamp, Director of Automotive Operations at SEW-Eurodrive, explains its development.
Presenters about it
Mr. Steenkamp, who is the SEW-Eurodrive?
We are dealing with conveyor technology, with small casing components transferred to entire cars, often over the head, in final assembly – which in the case of electronic cars can weigh between 3 and 3.5 tons. Essentially, we offer products you don’t look at directly: drive technology and associated control technology. In other words: our customers care about mechanical engineering, we care about automation.
To what extent have smart factories been developed by German car manufacturers and suppliers?
The production of vehicles is very complex, and the idea of \u200b\u200bthe “smart factory” is implemented step by step. Especially in the current productions, companies want to take a step towards the “smart factory”. But first you need the basic requirements – network infrastructure, IT structure and personnel skills. We see today’s challenges above all in the flexible production of different models on one line, by which I mean above all different engines: combustion engines, hybrid models, electric vehicles.
It is more important than usual to find potential energy saving potential.
What requirements do you face?
New models should be able to integrate quickly and model changes should run smoothly. At the same time, productivity and quality should at least remain the same – but costs should come down. And: production must be able to respond quickly to changes in the market. The topic of “smart factory” is very complex. The goals are ambitious, and the “smart factory” theme plays an important role in most plans for new plants or assembly lines.
What are the areas of focus for this change?
We see a major trend in logistics. Flexible and Interconnected Driverless Transport Vehicles, AGV. They must supply the assembly with materials without errors, using the best possible methods and avoiding traffic jams, for example. This also has an impact on the workforce: AGVs are complex, maintenance requires appropriately trained personnel. But vehicles have a number of advantages: they drive around the clock, for example, without breaks, and mistakes are less likely than human drivers, for example regarding nighttime working hours.
Where is this development heading?
Today we find AGVs primarily in logistics, but also in secondary lines such as cockpit and front end assembly, axle and powertrain assembly and “bridal AGVs”. In the main lines somewhat less. Overhead conveyors and push slides are common here, they are well developed and highly available. In logistics systems where a large number of vehicles are regularly used, we see a trend towards a unified interface to the master control system for the entire AGV fleet.
The logistics know-how is in the fleet control unit, and the technical know-how is in the vehicle. It is important that logistics AGVs are used across manufacturers as much as possible, the VDA 5050 keyword. We are currently implementing a large logistics system for a German car manufacturer using this interface.
How do networked devices communicate?
WiFi is the standard and we are proud of it. why? Because we helped change the market here. Over ten years ago, we chose and developed a technology from the 1970s. Since then, we have been able to implement shielded wireless communications for rail-guided systems, such as monorail systems or EMS for short. To put it simply, we are transporting inside a protective aluminum profile – immune to interference and over long distances.
What specific functions use WiFi?
We use relatively large bandwidths for control, regulation, and safety technology – and for diagnosis. By that I mean real-time transparency: for example, you can display the temperature of the frequency converter directly on the screen. Today, mobile vehicles mostly communicate via customer-side WLAN coverage in production halls, in the future increasingly with 5G. We also offer direct communication between vehicles via light-duty communications.
What is the status of the 5G standard?
The standard was not widely used in production plants. However, most companies in the auto industry are using 5G in test environments, such as campus networks, that are designed to be more cellular. The development is here step by step. Today, the hardware and software for 5G is not yet as available as is necessary for industrial applications; And if so, it is expensive. The infrastructure should then be used accordingly, there should be a useful use case.
There are likely to be mobile subscribers in the plant connected to the network, AGV for example. A lot of data is sent here, but not always in the millisecond range. AGVs have their own intelligence and can travel distances – excluding transfer points or crossings. Or if there is an accident: Bandwidth is important. China is a pioneer in the fifth generation. But even there it is not yet widely used.
How do you develop new systems?
In our view, plant simulation is the best way. This means: we are using data from the real system in the simulation, so we are very close to reality. This is important, for example, at the delivery points of the assembly, these are difficult hubs. We’ve been doing this for over ten years, but of course we’ve developed the systems further. Today we can detect potential errors or vulnerabilities and re-create the errors. In addition, it is more important than usual to find potential energy-saving potential. Should the drive at a certain point in the system accelerate by 120 percent, for example, or is it less than that? We move the plant in 3D and analyze the resulting data.
Can the energy efficiency of systems be significantly improved today?
I started with obvious things, like lighting. A lot has also happened in driving technology in recent years. The legislator defines efficiency profiles here, which means that the current technology is already at a very high level. However, there are other options. When it comes to energy use, the focus is likely to be on the paint shop and body veneer. Both use energy-intensive process steps.
In the casing structure, the technology of welding, fastening and bonding is often triggered by pneumatic – there is a possibility here, for example, by electrifying systems. For example, some of our largest customers use electric welding guns. This allows you to control the pressure point more precisely and read the pressure from the individual power consumption. Audi uses servo motors in its heavy-duty EMS system in Ingolstadt, saving 100 tons of CO22 Yes honestly.
What topics are you currently working on?
The Smart Factory is a big topic, which is why we have the Maxolution business area. Here we develop everything related to the smart factory: command, control, connectivity, safety and security – all in mobile systems and as a complete solution. This includes standardized control systems “out of the box”, i.e. a building block of the basic building blocks from which we assemble the systems. One example is mobile assistants, a height-adjustable workbench with screens and scanners that shows workers what parts to use and helps them assemble. We also develop topics such as digital twins, fleet controls for AGVs and logistic assistants. Software sharing has increased exponentially, and finding software developers has become difficult. Innovative minds are always welcome at Maxolution.