HomeAutonomous VehiclesBosch debuts autonomous factory vehicles, rejigs Industry 4.0 leadership

Bosch debuts autonomous factory vehicles, rejigs Industry 4.0 leadership

Bosch is prepping an autonomous factory transport system for launch, after testing in its own factories. It will target the likes of BMW, Osram, and Trumpf – existing customers for its industrial IoT solutions already. 

In tandem, the German firm has opened a new innovation center in Germany, and reordered its leadership team as it targets €1 billion incremental revenue per year by 2022 from using and selling its own Industry 4.0 solutions.

Bosch has set out a vision for a 5G-enabled factory where every part of the production environment is fluid, except for the floors, walls, and ceilings. Industrial machines, devices, and vehicles will be made mobile by 5G and made intelligent by edge and cloud based analytics, enabling factory owners to change their production lines according to demand. 

Its new ActiveShuttle system, shown at Hannover Messe the start of April, will work with 5G networks, as they rollout, and Wi-Fi and LTE otherwise. The new offer gives reign to mini automated guided vehicles (AGVs), which can collect and move warehouse ‘dollies’ (trolleys), equipped with Small Load Carriers (SLCs), around factories and warehouse facilities without human involvement. 

They are programmed via a hub control platform, and are able to carry SLC loads of up to 260kg autonomously through a production facility, avoiding people, other vehicles, and fixed factory infrastructure as they go. ShuttleS can be programmed to follow new routes and layouts.

Bosch said ActiveShuttle runs a number of transport concepts, ranging from cyclical to consumption-based material supply systems. The system can be implemented without adapting existing factory infrastructure, it said.

The German manufacturing outfit is seeking to deploy with industrial customers from the autumn. Its strategy is to digitise and connect all 280 of its own production plants, and sell the technologies it has honed in the process to customers.  

It reckons new industrial software solutions can boost productivity at individual sites by up to 25 per cent and reduce inventories by as much as 30 per cent. Over the past four years, it claims to have generated sales of more than €1.5 billion in revenue from the implementation of Industry 4.0 techniques in its own factories, as well as its customers’ factories. It wants to generate annual sales of over €1 billion from the same by 2022.

Rolf Najork, member of the board at Bosch, said: “The factory of the future is both a business model for our customers and a lever for us to prepare the 280 Bosch plants worldwide for future challenges. Filling key positions with Industry 4.0 experts is a logical step and provides new impetus.

Bosch is running digital software, from its Nexeed line, for manufacturing with 50-odd international customers already, including BMW, Osram, and Trumpf.

BMW’s plant in Landshut in Bavaria, where it makes components for its BMW and Rolls Royce ranges, is using Nexeed production software to monitor cockpit production in real time, it said. The software visualises live production data, reports deviations, and schedules maintenance work to minimise downtime. 

Bosch has connected 80 different machines, of various ages, at OSRAM’s plant for xenon automotive lamps in Berlin. The same performance software “coordinates, harmonises, and processes” varied streams of machine data to guide maintenance work and supply chain resources.

It has deployed tracking solutions, comprising sensors and gateways, variously with aerospace manufacturer Trumpf to give localisation and status data about drums and containers.  

In June, Bosch Rexroth opened a customer and innovation centre in Ulm, Germany, for new products and business fields related to digitalisation, electrification, and the factory of the future. By the end of 2020, the location is scheduled to provide space for up to 250 engineers to work with customers to develop smart-manufacturing solutions.

The company has reordered its leadership team to drive its sales and solutions. Sven Hamann has taken over from Stefan Assmann as head of Bosch’s connected industry business unit. He will focus on software solutions for manufacturing. 

Najork said: “More and more companies are relying on Bosch’s Industry 4.0 know-how. We now have a proven expert for manufacturing and automation with Sven Hamann, who will continue to develop the connected industry unit and its portfolio.”

Hamann said: “We are going to continuously improve the Nexeed portfolio and expand it with tailored services that help customers connect the entire value stream.”

Assmann has joined its industrial technology business unit, as chief digital officer. Assmann will be responsible for “digitalization of the business fields and the cultural change that accompanies it,” said Najork. He will act as a link between the various divisions and business units, he said, to “leverage his experience to drive Industry 4.0 in our plants”.

Meanwhile, Heiner Lang has joined the executive board of Bosch Rexroth. He will take charge of engineering at its factory automation business. Lang will “redouble the focus” on software-based, automated, and connected manufacturing solutions. Najork said he brings “expertise and spirit”.

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