Redefining the jumbo
When HERMA commissions its new coating plant for adhesive materials in Filderstadt in autumn 2019, it will also be hosting a premiere in the industry in the field of internal material movements. Special guided vehicles designed to carry massive loads will be taking care of automatically moving raw materials, such as paper and film, as well as semi-finished products and coated adhesive material rolls. “Automated guided vehicles, or AGVs for short, are in general use in other sectors but for the dimensions we require there are not thought to be any precedents in our industry,” explains Frank Baude, who is head of logistics at HERMA. “We are talking about vehicles that are capable of moving rolls that are up to two metres wide and weigh as much as four-and-a-half tonnes.” The dimensions of an AGV carrying one of these rolls are much the same as those of the large commercial Sprinter vans that are so popular with logistics service providers. “A lot of research had to be performed in order to find suppliers who were willing to build vehicles with the necessary load capacity,” continues Baude. The technology now being adopted by HERMA is conventionally used to transport rolling stock, wind turbine blades or aviation fuselages inside industrial assembly halls. “In order to avoid confusion, we’ll not be able to talk about our jumbo rolls of paper and rolling jumbos in the same breath,” says the head of logistics with a grin. No fewer than ten such AGVs will be navigating their way through the new coating plant. They will be joined by four smaller vehicles with a lower, ergonomic working height, which are to be used where manual operations, such as unwrapping, have to be performed on the rolls.
No induction loops or magnets
The aisles in the new coating plant are designed to allow two large AGVs to pass each other. “This arrangement also creates a redundant transport system – if an AGV becomes marooned, every location in the production facility remains accessible,” comments Baude. Each vehicle possesses four wheels that can swivel through 360 degrees, two of which are driven by a powerful electric motor. The AGVs are controlled by multiple integrated scanners, which navigate by referencing fixed points, knowns as landmarks, in the plant. For this reason, neither induction loops nor magnets are required. Some of the defined positions on the coating machines have to be approached with a positioning accuracy of ± 2 millimetres. “This is achieved by way of barcodes in the floor, which enable the AGV to identify its correct orientation,” explains Baude.
The AGVs will take care of all roll movements between the new high-bay warehouse, which is 35 metres tall and has 13 levels, the two coating machines and the slitters. And, for the first time at HERMA, none of the materials being moved will require either pallets or other carriers. In other words, the rolls will rest directly on the vehicle bed, whose profile resembles a very flat V. “In the past, wooden splinters from the pallets were a recurring problem. They not only gave rise to unnecessary soiling, but also interfered with our transport systems’ sensors,” comments Baude.
Since HERMA manufactures exclusively in Germany, highly automated production and logistics processes are vital if it is to remain competitive. In the period to autumn 2019 the company will have invested around 80 million euros in the new coating plant in Filderstadt. A further amount of 20 million euros is being channelled into a new labelling machine facility, where production is scheduled to commence at the beginning of 2019. For the time being, HERMA continues to manufacture its machines in Deizisau.