New factory logistics insights for Cyprus-based toy manufacturer
Engino.net, a manufacturer of educational plastic construction toys based in Cyprus, looked to improve its factory logistics with the help of robotics. Engino participated in a Pilot Application Experiment under the L4MS (Logistics for Manufacturing SMEs) programme to find ways of meeting increasing demand while improving productivity and eliminating dependence on human labour difficult to recruit.
Currently ENGINO operates from a 2,000 m2 factory with the entire production on a single level. To meet increasing demand, a new factory is being built on a 5,000 m2 plot and automation is provisioned across the board.
Human workers are employed in all areas of the production at all times, because even though the machines are automated, replenishing, moving stock and quality control require human input.
What needed to be achieved?
The goal of robotising factory-floor logistics was to reduce production errors while increasing productivity by freeing up human resources from moving materials and finished products between storage areas, production and dispatch.
One of the main issues was to allow seamless human-robot collaboration. Humans and robots must share work areas and pathways. Humans should also be allowed to do the tasks that are usually assigned to robots without disrupting the automated workflow. Most of the tasks would need both humans and robots to be completed, such as transporting raw materials to the injection machines from the warehouse (robots) and loading the machine (humans).
The factory process involves several stages. Raw materials, stored in the warehouse, must be made available to parts production. When the parts have been manufactured, they are moved to the packaging area for bagging after having been stored in the warehouse in bulk. The bags, again, are stored in the warehouse awaiting dispatch boxing. At the time of delivery, the bags are transported to the packaging area for boxing, and the finished boxes taken back to the warehouse. The loading of delivery trucks from the warehouse is outside the scope of the experiment.
Three test cases were therefore set up for the traffic flows: 1) raw materials from warehouse to production and back; 2) finished parts from warehouse to bagging and back; 3) bags from warehouse to boxing and back.
Solution developed with digital twin combined with real-life mockup
Extensive IT infrastructure development in the areas of warehouse management systems (WMS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES), together with the necessary hardware, was undertaken. This development work was complemented by mobile capabilities to allow control by handheld devices over WiFi.
Researchers at CUT testing OPIL components in their testing laboratory
A virtual factory was built in simulation software by Finnish KINE Robotics, ready to be ported to actual factory environment when ready. Finally, to test the solution, a physical mockup of the routes was built in the programme’s RCDS (Robotics, Control, and Decision Systems) at Cyprys University of Technology (CUT), local Competence Centre.
During the simulation and testing, several Key Performance Indicators were followed. These included important productivity issues such as deadlocks, collisions, transfer failures and robot function.
Valuable lessons all the way from factory layout to algorithms
The Pilot Application Experiment had three main goals: improved productivity, reduced production errors and mitigating personnel shortage.
Automation, through using robots, was expected to help address these issues. Working with L4MS, it became clear that robots on their own are not the answer. A fundamental redesign of how the company’s operation is required.
The primary redesign targets are
- A redesign of the new factory layout to make it automation-friendly
- A new integrated IT system (to include complete WMS and ERP software systems)
- A significantly expanded and automated production process data collection
- A redesign of material flows and warehouse processes with a focus on automation
The knowledge gained from the L4MS programme will help the company increase productivity, reduce production errors and deal with personnel shortages, resulting in increased profitability.
- How to increase productivity
- How to reduce production errors
- How to deal with personnel shortage
- IT system design
- Factory layout design through virtualisation
- Equipment selection and testing
- Insights into production design
- Increased understanding of requirements for automation
Partners in the Experimentation
Competence Center resposible of testing OPIL components in a testing facility
System integrator responsible for the 3D simulation