Global networks are still among the big challenges of modern logistics. In the »BMW Enterprise Lab for Flexible Logistics« the automobile manufacturer BMW and logistics experts of Fraunhofer IML work together on adaptable technologies and network models for the supply chain – not least a contribution to the competitiveness of the European economy. Which benefits does the Enterprise Lab offer to the automobile manufacturer and what topics are dealt with – a testimonial by Dr. Dirk Dreher, BMW Group.
Trade restrictions like customs duties, certificates, licenses, regulations on local sourcing, local crises, regional-specific high fluctuation of personnel in logistics centres of logistics service providers and shifts in the mixture of global target markets face worldwide supply chains with bigger and bigger challenges. Flexibility and speed become key factors for agile production and logistics networks. BMW Group’s Foreign Supply permanently works on the optimisation of internal and external processes along the entire production network and the global value stream. Material and information flow will be designed as transparent as possible with optimal orientation towards the volatility of the supply chain by means of flexible scalable processes and innovative technologies. Since September last year we have been heading for that together with Fraunhofer IML in the new »BMW Enterprise Lab for Flexible Logistics«. Our key topic is to test and develop cross-supply-chain enabler technologies in a new, agile and interdisciplinary form of cooperative research and development and at the same time to build a bridge to the future topic Industry 4.0.
The flexibilisation of the Foreign Supply network with long, global value stream is one of the essential objectives of the lab. In particular, macro-economic changes have dynamic effects in the international goods traffic. That causes fluctuating demand to which logistics has to react with volume flexibility and adaptable capacities in the production plants and both supply and consolidation centres. However, import and export regulations also change constantly with tariff and non-tariff trade regulations. In the »BMW Enterprise Lab for Flexible Logistics« we therefore work on innovative technologies for network design which meet the requirements of an agile supply chain. Specific planning and simulation tools as well as algorithms help to increase flexibilisation and predictability of international supply chains. In spite of various unpredictable external influences we expect further increase in transparency and efficiency of our worldwide supply chains.
Another important task of »BMW Enterprise Lab for Flexible Logistics« is the development of smart logistics technologies for intralogistics. In this context, real innovations are developed and implemented with Smart Transport Robot (STR). Because of the intensive and constructive cooperation between business and science in the Enterprise Lab we succeeded in working out the concept for the autonomous robot in only four months. It could be implemented prototypically and the cooperation helped to gain important experience in controlling and flexibly navigating in an industrial environment. The Lab structure helped us to customise STR optimally according to the requirements of our BMW logistics. At the same time, we could integrate internal BMW components for the STR within these research activities. A BWM lithium-ion cell can – alternatively – be utilized as used module for our STR in a second life cycle after several years of operation in a BMW i3. A nice sustainable contribution to the resource efficiency and recycling of innovative BMW technologies.
The development of STR is a significant milestone for us as to digitalisation and autonomisation in intralogistics. This innovation project is an important contribution to an agile process and IT design. Fast adjustments to changed basic conditions and simple integration into the work organisation become possible like that. After twelve months we are now in a position to realise the next step with STR: Our first low volume production will start at the end of 2016 in our innovation park Wackersdorf.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Dirk Dreher is Vice President Foreign Supply at BMW Group.
MORE ABOUT THE TOPIC
»Fraunhofer Enterprise Labs« have proved to be a success story: Beside DB Mobility Logistics AG, Sick AG and Würth Group, the BMW Group is already the fourth company that decided on joint research of science and industry. Within that cooperation the company can access the »Enterprise Lab Center« with the connected workshops of Fraunhofer IML. This shall on the hand accelerate the development of prototypes and on the other hand help to do road test on them.