BMW people moverBMW Group has unveiled a tailor-made electric one-person mover designed to help staff cover short distances within large logistics centres and assembly plants.

Suitable for carrying small parts and work materials as well as its human cargo, the personal mover (PMC) will save staff from walking up to 12km per shift. Operating at a limited speed of 12kph, it will also help them to complete tasks more quickly and therefore carry out more work.

The device will be particularly useful at larger sites, such as the Dingolfing assembly plant in Germany, where the group’s central global spare parts logistics network is based; the research and innovation centre in Munich; and the Spartanburg assembly plant in South Carolina, in the US.

“The speed of the PMC increases efficiency and prevents fatigue,” company spokesman Mathias Urban told Automotive Logistics. “Employees arrive faster at their destination and don’t spend much time walking from A to B. Even in the case that employees use the PMC only half of the time… the amount of time saved per employee per day is considerable."

Urban said the PMC’s advantages include being easy to handle and enabling items to be carried a lot more easily.

The personal mover, designed with outside help, had to meet some specific requirements. “[The device] had to be flexible, easy to manoeuvre, zippy, electric, extremely agile and tilt-proof – and, at the same time, suitable for carrying objects,” said Richard Kamissek, who heads the central aftersales logistics network at Dingolfing and whose staff were involved in the project from the outset.

After establishing that existing options would not meet its needs, BMW designed the personal mover in collaboration with MakerSpace, a high-tech workshop for inventors and researchers open to the public in Munich and part of UnternehmerTUM, a centre which encourages innovation for business creation.

The resulting prototype, made with the help of BMW apprentices, meets all the main requirements and can be implemented quickly, easily and inexpensively with the group’s own expertise, said Stephan Augustin, who heads special projects in BMW’s research, new technologies and innovations department.

With four wheels, the personal mover will not tip over, even on tight bends, and its two front support wheels rotate through 360°, allowing it to turn on the spot. The handlebar contains the entire electrical system, the battery and the drive wheel. Safety features include a bell and a dead man’s brake.

The personal mover, which features regenerative braking and a top speed of 25kph, is charged from a regular household socket using a power adapter, and can be used for a full shift in normal operation without recharging.

As well as fitting in with BMW’s corporate strategy to develop tailor-made, unconventional and innovative solutions for special areas of application, the new device could become a revenue earner for the OEM. Airports, exhibition centres and shopping centres are among those to have shown interest in it so far, according to BMW.

For now, the long-term testing phase at the central aftersales logistics network in Dingolfing is the key stage, with preparations being made to roll-out the PMC at the group’s operating sites worldwide.