Improved flexibility, agility and traceability with mobile robots for Normagrup
Published on 06 January, 2021 in Flexible Manufacturing
Normagrup, which specialises in technologically advanced lighting, needed to automate the transport of materials between three production areas, the assembly area and an automated warehouse. This involved moving through narrow spaces shared with factory personnel.
Normagrup was formed in 1971, when it manually developed an emergency light. All that was needed was a wooden mould and a homemade oven. Today, the Spanish company is a world leader in technology dedicated to the production of interior lighting. The company’s original spirit and desire to create high-quality, technological products remain intact. Its team is now able to design, manufacture and test the quality of its lights at its facilities in Llanera (in Asturias, Spain).
This team is also in charge of designing and launching the production processes of each element, which gives it great autonomy and the freedom to implement new technologies and improve efficiency year after year.
The need for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs)
When Normagrup decided to automate the transport of materials, it opted for integrating a fleet of small autonomous mobile robots with automatic loading and unloading stations. The AMRs would also be provided with everything needed to communicate via MQTT protocol with the warehouse management system (WMS). Normagrup entrusted Inser Robótica with the integration of the intelligent autonomous vehicles, which would be able to move through narrow spaces shared with the factory team.
“It was too great a challenge for the automated guided vehicles (AGV) concept that we were used to and which needed to move through more or less controlled environments via fixed trajectories,” explains Mikel Jaureguizar, CEO of Normagrup.
Inser Robótica conducted a detailed analysis of the routes between each of the three production areas, the fuel transfer machine and the automatic warehouse. The company reached the conclusion that four LD-90 AMRs from industrial automation expert OMRON would meet all of its criteria.
"These vehicles have navigation technology that allows them to move in a changing environment, such as the one proposed. They are capable of managing the routes themselves, avoiding obstacles and looking for alternatives to the planned trajectory in the face of unexpected events, such as a person crossing their path,” adds Xabier Madina, Commercial Manager of Mobile Robotics at Inser Robótica.
The robots’ load capacity would be more than enough, as each one can carry up to 90kg. The Normagrup loads are always less than 20kg, leaving a margin of 70kg for the conveyor structure, motor, sensors and wireless communication antennas.
Once the suitable AMRs had been selected, there was a need to design all the accessories required so that the boxes could be collected and delivered from the vehicles. Inser Robótica’s experience in the use of conveyors facilitated the task of integrating belt conveyors on top of the robots. The company created coupling elements to the conveyor systems used by Normagrup.
An intelligent system
Finally, the fleet had to be equipped with a ‘brain’. To facilitate this task, OMRON's Enterprise Manager was used, and an application was developed for communicating with Normagrup's WMS. MQTT was the messaging service used, due to its great versatility and robustness in machine-to-machine communications. Each of the vehicles communicates via Wi-Fi with the Enterprise Manager, and with the WMS and production ERP.
“The integration of elements as disruptive as these small vehicles generated a certain degree of uncertainty. The entire Inser Robótica team has managed to measure up and solve, with ingenuity and professionalism, each of the challenges that have arisen,” reports Mikel Jaureguizar.
Likewise, Jon Ander de Léniz, Project Manager at Inser Robótica, explains that, “It helped a lot that the client had a high level of technical knowledge and was easily able to adapt to these new technologies”.
The new robots have resulted in the improved flexibility, greater agility and enhanced traceability of items in the lighting assembly line.
“Normagrup was looking not only for a flexible system in terms of the movement of materials in the plant, but also for the integrated equipment for loading and unloading. Therefore, each loading or unloading element is integrated as an 'island', with its own built-in control independent from the rest of the equipment. This means that tomorrow, if they want to move one of the conveyors to another position, they just need to unplug it, plug it in in the new position and re-record the ARM stop position,” summarises Jon Ander de Léniz.
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