Automated indoor transport systems have already been in use at BMW Group production facilities like Plant Dingolfing for a few years, but now, BMW is looking to take the next step by expanding their use to the outdoors. The purpose of these systems is to transport materials and parts to and from their destinations at BMW production plants, but the challenges posed by designing them for outdoor use are unique in that they requires different, more capable sensor arrays and supporting systems, along with 5G connectivity, which can cope with conditions that vary based on weather and other disruptive and influencing factors. BMW is also known for producing various different vehicle series and models on the same production lines, meaning the implementation of autonomous systems is more complex than at other operations.
“Due to the wide variety of models we have here in Dingolfing, from the BMW 4 Series to the fully-electric BMW iX, our assembly logistics currently handles different articles and parts,” explained Armin Feser, head of physical logistics at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing. “Automated transport systems help us manage this complexity and organise our logistics processes at the plant more efficiently.”
BMW is already in the process of testing a handful of new systems in pilot programs at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing. These include a tugger trains by Linde Materials Handling and EasyMile, along with a self-driving car box, and a car trailer from Stäubli-WFT.
The tugger train by Linde Materials Handling uses an electronics package by Schiller Automation, has traction of more than three tons, and is currently being evaluated for hauling door handles autonomously in covered outdoor spaces. The system by French manufacturer EasyMile operates on a greater scale, with traction of more than sixteen tons and autonomous technology from the automotive industry. Electrically-powered with a total of three trailers and length of over 50 feet, the EasyMile tugger train operates autonomously at speeds of up to six mph and relies upon GPS navigation and Lidar to create a 3D profile of its surroundings.
The self-driving car box from Stäubli-WFT can transport goods that are protected from the weather by a housing. Used to move special containers between storage and production facilities, the car box measures nearly fifteen by six feet, and is described as ideal for outdoor use. BMW is also testing an automated car trailer platform by Stäubli-WFT, which can move containers transported by rail to docking gates at a nearby container yard, instead of traditional tractor trailers.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]