Integration, Digitalisation – AGV’sation

One of the paramount trending topics of recent (and upcoming) years is autonomous driving – it may polarise opinions, but it’s beyond a doubt enormously fascinating.

What’s also comprehensible here for laypersons (and presumptively therefore a bit frightening) is the difficulties and the technical challenges that have to be overcome before a car or a transport vehicle moves to its destination “all by itself”. To tell you how Krones manages to master these difficulties, and why the solution originates in Italy, here is my colleague Roland Hofstetter, who ventured south of the Brenner Pass recently and witnessed a milestone.

Since 2016, you see, Krones has owned parts of the logistics company System Logistics located in the North Italian town of Fiorano. Krones and its subsidiary had already made joint appearances at the BrauBeviale 2016 and the drinktec 2017, so we’ve been working closely together for quite some time. During my visit early in August, I then learned even more about System Logistics’ technologies and saw them in action. At the same time, we used training to lay the foundations for our partnership to create a very tangible added value for the client.

So in future clients will be getting a shared single-sourced solution from Krones and System Logistics. What does this project involve?

I need to digress a bit here. Basically, to put it simply, each of our Krones machines needs a consumable, which it processes. For example, a blow-moulder is “fed” with preforms, which are then processed to make bottles. Hitherto, the usual practice was for the client’s staff to bring these materials to the machine, insert them, and resupply them as necessary. They would often be working in shifts, mistakes would occasionally happen, and of course the staff concerned need breaks and holidays. In recent years, there has been an observable trend towards more and more producers deploying AGVs (automated guided vehicles) for this workstep. These driverless systems are able to collect goods from a Location A, and then deposit them again at a predefined Location B – and to do all this autonomously. What surprised me a bit is how fast this change-over in the production operation can pay for itself – it’s usually anticipated that the procurement costs of an AGV will have been amortised after only one or two years.

But System Logistics has been making these AGVs for quite a long time now. So what’s so particularly new about them?

That’s right, driverless systems of this kind are basically nothing new for the Krones subsidiary. Up to now, though, no machinery manufacturer or logistics company had been able to offer a line with a completely integrated AGV system – that’s what’s particularly new. Thanks to close collaboration and the trainings provided, System Logistics and Krones can now offer a complete package: the AGV, which supplies the consumables, and the machine, which processes the materials concerned. This is rendered particularly exciting by the fact that Krones is currently the only vendor who can offer all this from a single source.

But even hitherto clients could get all this from different vendors, couldn’t they? Has the added value for the client really increased thanks to integration?

Absolutely. Quite simply because the client now has just a single point of contact. The interface between the AGV and the machine it’s coupled to becomes much less complicated – because the technologies have been perfectly matched to each other and the client no longer has to worry about integrating the two constituents.

Curious? Then may I mention the BrauBeviale in November of this year – where my colleagues from Krones and System Logistics will be delighted to answer in person any questions you may have.