The BMW Group and three partner companies from the Bavarian region of Germany are expanding the use of industry 4.0 innovations in production logistics at the OEM’s Dingolfing plant. The move comes as part of a three-year research project supported by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy.
The Autonomous and Connected Logistics research project was officially launched in September 2019. A number of industry 4.0 production technologies, including a 5G testbed, are now being tested at Dingolfing, which produces both high voltage batteries and electric engines for BMW’s plug-in hybrid models.
According to a company statement, the carmaker is contributing around €4.8m towards the trial to achieve fully connected production in which autonomous transport systems, logistics robots and mobile devices, communicate with one another and with the control system.
The BMW Group has piloted several logistics solutions, winning the German Logistics Award for its efforts in 2019. According to the company, the research project at Dingolfing is aiming to provide maximum connectivity between individual logistics solutions and integrate them into the BMW production system.
Dr Thomas Irrenhauser, responsible for innovation and industry 4.0 in the logistics division and head of the project said: “Connecting our innovative logistics solutions creates additional transparency over material and machine movements, and enables us to explore how we can best exploit the potential of fully connected production for BMW Group logistics.”
Speaking to Automotive Logistics he added: “With the Logistics Next strategy, we are aiming to rethink our entire logistics system. The goal is an agile, intelligent transport and intralogistics chain. In order to be able to easily and quickly react to changing logistics processes, we need the greatest possible transparency, which has to be monitored, steered and controlled permanently.
To bring the vision to reality, BMW created a new project department dedicated to the topic of smart logistics in 2016. “An international team of BMW Group associates, doctoral students and numerous partner companies are helping to develop our vision of the logistics of the future with a focus on digitalisation and autonomous transport vehicles,” said Irrenhauser.
Linking logistics with 5G
The testing of 5G wireless technology will be set up at Dingolfing as a trial network, with the goal of linking different logistics solutions.
According to BMW, the new mobile telecommunications standard allows large data volumes to be transferred within a short time, enabling real-time connectivity between machinery and equipment.
In its latest autonomous concept, the carmaker announced at CES 2020 that its forthcoming iNext all-electric SUV will be the first premium vehicle to carry standard 5G wireless when it launches in 2021.
Within the BMW Group, the BMW Brilliance Automotive joint venture has already rolled out the 5G wireless communications network across all its three plants. The long-term goal is to set up a 5G network at all BMW Group plant locations worldwide, the company says.
Further sub-projects will explore the use of logistics robots, mobile devices and digital displays in the logistics process, testing connectivity between different systems. Peter Kiermaier, head of logistics planning at BMW Dingolfing said: “We also want to use new technologies to increase transparency in conventional processes and enable smooth coupling of manual and autonomous technologies.”
The Automated and Connected research group is made up of three Bavarian companies alongside the BMW Group. M3connect GmbH from Rosenheim is working to set up the private 5G network at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing; Stäubli WFT from Sulzbach is developing and producing transport solutions that can manoeuvre autonomously through logistics areas, while scientific monitoring for the project is provided by the Institute for Engineering Design of Mechatronic Systems.
Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Hubert Aiwanger, said: “With this highly innovative project focused on developing autonomous and connected logistics processes and creating a 5G testbed, the Dingolfing site is presenting itself as a pioneer in the future field of industry 4.0.”
The Dingolfing plant is one of BMW’s 31 global production sites and home to production facilities for vehicle components such as pressed parts, seats as well as chassis and drive components.