Manufacturing experts predict the extensive usage of hi-tech machines in the near future at large factories and warehouses. It is quite evident with the adoption of AGVs for manufacturing and warehouse automation. With Industry 4.0, new vistas are opening up on how we use such high-speed precision machines for the betterment of day-to-day operations. However, what needs to be unfolded is a roadmap to build an intelligent factory replenishment solution utilizing the versatility of AGVs.
Most of the major warehouses and logistics operations use SAP ERP applications. Smarter ERPs like SAP S/4 HANA open up their digital core easily to Industry 4.0 devices and sensors that in turn open the gates to a huge opportunity connecting the business logic schematics with the devices on the floor. Adding technologies like AI, IoT, ML, leveraging SAP Leonardo, help going further to build an Intelligent Enterprise by creating a mix that uses intelligence to control things moving across the floor.
Advancement to AGVs
AGVs have come a long way from simple tow trucks in the 1950s, which followed wires, laid on the floor to ones that followed invisible floor marked UV signs and to the most recent ones that are AMR & LiDAR AGVs (Laser guided). Other technologies like vision guidance and geo-guidance have also become popular to ‘recognize’ objects in their path, plot the course to their target using predefined path, learning routines and handle battery charging autonomously. On an average for one hour of usage, industries require 12 minutes of high speed charging. Options like automatic battery swaps, wireless charging and solar powered batteries are adopted for quicker back-to-business operations.
The digital concert
AGVs, state-of-the-art SAP S/4HANA systems and SAP’s cloud offerings are the crux for manufacturing and Industry 4.0. However, the challenge is synergizing them all. It creates an opportunity to bring in immense changes to the legacy warehouses and production lines. How can we bring this together?
ERPs have MRPs giving data-driven plans on how supply chain processes can run efficiently along with production, given sales forecasts and inventory intelligence. In a conventional manner, warehouse managers use their pick/pack list and accordingly, materials are picked up or stored depending on the nature of the transaction. The physical inventory is checked and results updated into the ERP. This process is run on a periodic basis to ensure stock consistency. Most of these activities are manual, which increases the chances of errors, lower efficiency and slow speed. Being a periodic and programmable task, such activities can be automated using AGVs so that they can run round the clock with interruption.
Similarly, entry and stocking of new goods is done uninterruptedly depending on the storage placement schematics. In such a scenario, AGVs store goods at different levels of the warehouse depending on the master data & material code. The automation can also be extended to stock movement & issues across the warehouse, using the planning / order data from SAP S/4HANA ERP. The entire activity can leverage SAP Leonardo’s machine learning capabilities to learn continuously and the application starts dishing out optimal pick / load targets for the vehicles almost in real time. SAP Leonardo can also talk to the AGV controller software using its APIs and be the central brain of the activity. This provides a digital command center for the entire activity.