- Expert interview
AUTOMATED GUIDED LOGISTICS 4.0:
3 questions for Paul Considine, international business development manager machine building - conveyor technology
Mr. Considine, the logistics sector is reinventing itself in the course of digitization. What role do automated guided vehicles play in this context?
We can clearly see that the logistics sector is increasingly relying on process automation. The reason is simple: it makes logistics workflows plainly more efficient. Short turnaround times, low stocks and a high degree of flexibility is what counts – in production as well as in distribution operations. This requires intelligent technologies. So-called automated guided vehicles and systems (AGV) play a key role in the automation of the internal material flows. Think of mobile robots, for example, who can navigate autonomously and independently select the most effective route to each target. This streamlines work flows and unleashes personnel resources, which promotes productivity and reduces costs. A further example are automated high-rack forklifts transversing in warehouse aisles in full automatic mode, reliably processing the assigned transport and warehousing tasks – continuously around the clock. Turnover performance can be increased by up to 25 percent with this measure.
The benefits are obvious, but what considerations have to be made regarding safety when it comes to AGV?
Safety is the highest priority, because AGV move around operating or warehouse facilities with persons sharing the space. A further collision risk are parts of machinery, equipment or other vehicles intruding their way. The VDI guideline requires manufacturers to build their vehicles to fulfill the basic safety and health requirements stipulated by the machinery directive. The integration of safety has to be considered as early as the design phase. The AGV can only be put on the market in the European Economic Area after is has obtained an EC conformity declaration and is marked with a CE marking, confirming that it fulfills the mandatory requirements. And this is where we as Wieland safety experts come into play.
What solutions does Wieland offer for AGV safety?
Our Samos Pro Compact safety PLC is ideal for use in automated guided vehicle systems. Its integrated motion functionality offers the "Safe direction" (SDI) and "Safe speed range" (SSR) functions relevant for AGV at very compact dimensions – a huge advantage for applications for automated guided vehicle systems. As a plus, the SENC incremental encoder can be very easily connected to the controller without the need for sophisticated cabling. The reliable and very robust HTL encoder measures the speed and angles at the axes, achieving safety levels up to PL e. This is particularly important considering the imminent introduction of the European safety standard EN ISO 3691-4 requiring safety level PL d for AGV. And finally, our unlicensed and user-friendly programming tool Samos Plan6 facilitates validation and verification of the safety application and supports the user to create an error-free configuration. The software can be adapted to the requirements of the individual application which saves a considerable amount of time.