At LogiMAT, the intralogistics trade fair in Stuttgart, the industrial truck manufacturer demonstrated its intelligent robotics solutions with the Hyster® LO7.0T tow tractor.
As if moved by magic, the tow tractor advanced on the Hyster stand in Hall 10. Equipped with innovative robotic technology, the truck is one of the first models offered by Hyster Europe. “Our robotic trucks use geonavigation technology developed by Balyo, which does not require complex infrastructure changes to automate logistical processes,” said Timo Antony, Area Business Director Central Europe, Hyster. “Instead, the trucks work utilising the structural features within the building.”
Hyster relies mainly on the geoguidance system for navigating the industrial trucks. Based on LIDAR technology, this system determines the position of the truck by orienting it at fixed points, such as walls, shelves or the building structure. Reflectors or other physical navigation aids are not necessary.
“These robotics solutions are based on our lift trucks from series production, and the trucks can still be operated manually,” says Antony. “This great dual advantage means robot technology can be switched off at any time, and the driver can control the machines in manual mode if necessary. The lift trucks can therefore also be used spontaneously for other tasks. This makes Hyster® robotic truck solutions significantly different from automated guided vehicle systems. This is because AGVs originally used for the transport of small parts automatically follow their specified routes and cannot be operated manually.”
In addition, some AGVs are restricted in navigation and cannot always avoid obstacles. The Hyster® robotic trucks Driven by Balyo, equipped with geonavigation technology, simply take a different route when needed. When a lift truck equipped with the geoguidance system encounters an obstacle, in most cases the software will detect an alternative route and the “robot” will be able to continue its journey automatically.
Industry 4.0 will change the entire logistics process. This is largely due to innovative robot technology solutions that can be easily adapted to the respective infrastructure. “We equip our standard lift trucks individually with robotic technology,” says Antony. “You can use a single robotic truck or a fleet.” In addition, the use of Hyster® trucks from mass production simplifies the maintenance, troubleshooting and diagnostics of the trucks.
Currently, Hyster offers several industrial trucks that use the innovative robot technology. These include the Hyster® counterbalanced stackers S1.0C, S1.2C and S1.5C and the low-level order pickers such as the Hyster® LO2.5. In addition, several Hyster® tow tractors, which are used with tugger trains for feeding production lines, can be equipped with the robotics solutions.
The route can be stored in the tow tractor and after appropriate programming, the tugger trains then automatically drive to their destinations and stop independently at the individual stations. Prerequisite: The configuration of the tugger train remains unchanged and the weight of the loads to be transported is approximately the same. Otherwise the tugs will have to be freshly programmed. If required, the robot technology can also be switched off and the tractors controlled as usual by the driver.
“This robotics solution fulfils the requirements of demand fluctuations or peaks much better,” emphasises Antony. “But what truly differentiates our solution from others is our approach. Instead of a fixed technology package, we develop individual solutions together with the customer.”
The laser-based navigation system used for Hyster® robotic trucks first records the environment using a laser, mounted on top of the vehicle. This is done by manually manoeuvring the truck through the entire working area provided. The resulting plan is then modified by an engineer, then once defined the routes are added to the map. The finished map is then uploaded to the other devices in the fleet.
During operation, the laser scans the environment and compares it to the stored map. Based on this comparison, the current position is calculated, and the automated stacker carries out its tasks. “Basically, the biggest challenge in robotics is to integrate the different solutions into existing warehouse logistics systems – and when it comes to redesigning automated systems, space needs to be maximised,” says Antony.
The costs depend on the truck type and the specific operation requirements. Generally speaking, companies should expect costs to be four to five times that of a manually controlled forklift truck. In addition, there are the installation costs. “In most cases, an automated system, regardless of size, can pay for itself in two to three years,” says Antony. “We recommend that all customers review the potential return before implementing an automated system.” In order to reduce the costs of the fleet in the age of Industry 4.0, it is also worth using a fleet management system.
With the Hyster® Tracker Fleet Management System, the material handling equipment manufacturer also supports companies during data collection – from daily maintenance reviews through to usage analysis. The system can be retrofitted in various industrial trucks and container handlers. It allows you to monitor operating costs, periodic maintenance, fault codes and impact data, and can automatically send data by e-mail in case of certain errors or impacts. This makes it easier to record and verify damage. In addition, GPS monitoring can be used to identify areas where the likelihood of accidents is increased, such as traffic jams.
Hyster® Tracker can also be used with RFID cards so that certain machines can only be used by authorised or trained drivers. To reduce fuel or electricity costs, the idle shutdown can be set to shut down the truck after a pre-set period of time, unless it is moved. At the beginning of the shift, the driver can go through a checklist and identify any problems, which can then be processed and corrected immediately. This reduces costs and reduces or eliminates potential downtime.
“Our technologies and innovations are always geared to the needs of the logistics industry,” says Antony. “Thanks to the robust and reliable forklift trucks, as well as the comprehensive service and support provided by our local competent dealers, our customers benefit from a complete solution for every step of the logistics supply chain.”