A unique opportunity for SMEs to use robotics
The L4MS initiative opens the door for SMEs to utilize robotics and other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtualization – a big chance for the European industry. In this initiative, Fraunhofer IML is responsible the technical lead and the coordination of developing a central IoT-Platform. Ali Muhammad, the project coordinator, explains the benefits of the project.
In a typical factory, the transport of parts and components accounts for 25 percent of employees, 55 percent of factory space, and 87 percent of the production time. While large manufacturers are quickly adopting mobile robots to increase productivity and flexibility on the factory floor, less than two percent of European SMEs use advanced manufacturing technologies. With SMEs representing 98 percent of the manufacturers, European industry is in danger of being left behind.
This where the L4MS (Logistics for Manufacturing SMEs) initiative comes in. It is an acceleration program for European Manufacturing SMEs and Mid-Caps to automate the intra-factory logistics. The vision is to unleash the full innovation potential of European manufacturing industry by addressing their intra-factory logistics challenges. L4MS is focused on providing inexpensive and flexible logistics automation for SMEs, which requires no infrastructure change, no production downtime and no special expertise. This will allow automation suppliers to develop and deploy logistics solutions 10 times faster and cheaper than the current price. This will give never-before-seen flexibility and agility to SMEs for small batch production and will double their productivity.
Fraunhofer IML makes an important contribution
On top of its renowned logistics expertise, Fraunhofer IML contributes know-how in both technology and developing software to the project. Besides the project management, the Dortmund researchers are responsible for the development of a key component of the IoT platform OPIL (Open Platform for Innovations in Logistics).
OPIL will contain the latest navigation, localization, mapping and traffic management services for rapid and cost effective deployment of logistics solutions. On the one hand OPIL will support the automation suppliers to develop and display the optimum logistics solutions to SMEs. And on the other hand virtual factories will support the decision-making process of manufacturing SMEs in selecting the best solution. This is a unique opportunity for the SMEs to use robotics and enter the world of artificial intelligence as well as to network at the European level.
Fraunhofer IML develops the TaskPlanner in OPIL, the head of the platform, so to speak. This TaskPlanner will include to more components for which the Dortmund researchers are responsible. The first component is about a heterogeneous, scaleable and agent-based fleet management system. Routes for freely navigating vehicles can be calculated on request during operation. Special attention is paid to the integration of human beings into the processes. The second component is a TaskLanguage for material flow tasks that supports employees of the production department in easily describing which goods are to be transported from where to where.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ali Muhammad, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is responsible for the project coordination of L4MS.
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