How BMW's intelligent factory uses self-driving vehicles to automate logistics
BMW Group, in partnership with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and other companies is exploring how self-driving logistics vehicles can be used in a production setting at its component plant in Landshut in Lower Bavaria. The research project is part of a two-year programme which is worth 1.2-million-euro and funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Field testing of the self-driving logistics vehicles is underway at BMW Group's Plant in Landshut, marking the beginning of the intelligent, connected factory. The aim of this project is to fully connect production at the plant, in which autonomous transport systems, logistics robots and mobile devices can seamlessly operate and communicate with each other.
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The project uses self-driving forklift trucks that help load and unload trucks and help manage block storage facility at the supply centre. These trucks come with integrated cameras that help calculate the autonomous runs. Simultaneously, these vehicles calculate driving movements that help in coordination with millimetre precision.
These calculations are then sent to a high-performance data cloud using 5G technology, meaning that the vehicle doesn't have to carry complex hardware. This also helps in optimally controlling forklifts as the cloud reduces downtimes for logistics vehicles. It thus helps boost performance and efficiency of the entire logistics system, explains Ludwig Huber, who is responsible for integration at the BMW Group Plant in Landshut.
5G technology plays a key role in the entire process as it allows for large data volumes to be transferred within a short span of time. It enables real-time connectivity between machinery and equipment. “5G, the fifth generation of mobile communications, is more than just an incremental improvement in existing standards. In addition to significantly higher data rates, it also enables billions of machines to be connected and transmit data in near real time," said Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger.