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Toyota enters new era in Australia with ground-breaking robotics warehouse technology

Toyota enters new era in Australia with ground-breaking robotics warehouse technology article image

Toyota is set to unveil the most advanced automotive distribution centre in Australia as it transitions from carmaker to vehicle and parts distributer.

The world’s leading car manufacturer has built a multi-million dollar facility at Kemps Creek – an emerging new industrial hub in Western Sydney.

The 44,000 sqm two-level Toyota Parts Centre, which is scheduled to open later this year, will carry more than 100,000 automotive parts for local and export markets.

Toyota has partnered with Omron, a global leader in automation, to develop an innovative warehouse solution using the latest automation technology.

For the first time, Toyota will use a fleet of five Omron LD 90 mobile robots (Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles AIVs) to move parts around the new facility.

Under the new system, up to 100 mobile robots can be deployed using a single enterprise manager Fleet controller.

The mobile robots replace the traditional Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which follow a fixed path using buried wire and magnetic floor tape.

Greater speed and dexterity

According to Omron, mobile robots provide more flexibility than AGVs.

They are nimble and offer greater speed and dexterity to improve throughput – and they can safely operate alongside people and avoid obstacles.

Also, AGVs can be costly and time-consuming to install and only follow pre-programmed paths. They’re also inflexible – they can’t drive around obstacles and obstructions.

AIVs have the intelligence to choose the best path for each individual job.

And Omron’s LD Series mobile robots can operate up to 15 hours on a single charge.

Safety warnings

At the new Toyota facility, the robots will carry payloads of up to 50kg and will travel at speeds of 3.8km/h or 1m per second.

They can be programmed to play music or broadcast spoken safety warnings such as “moving forward, reversing and stand clear.”

The robots are fitted with fully integrated roll-tops so that plastic crates with parts can be seamlessly picked up and transferred onto fixed conveyors.

Omron-Adept AIVs were chosen for the project based on a proven track record spanning nearly 17 years.

Toyota believes they are the perfect design for this type of application. They’re also extremely reliable and easy to install.

Omron says it’s the only company that provides a total robotics/automation integrated solution for projects of this kind.

Most advanced of its kind

The automation package for the Toyota facility has been nearly two years in the making.

And Omron believes the system is the most advanced of its kind in the world.

Using the latest technology available it will be the most efficient automated facility in Australia for parts warehouse picking.

The new technology has been trialled for the past 12 months from proof of concept to ensure the functionality is met.

After two more trials the new technology will be officially launched – subject to passing the necessary criteria.

The new system incorporates latest state-of-the-art NJ and NX controllers, HMI/SCADA software, Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) and safety systems – all controlled by one platform – Omron’s Sysmac Studio automation software.

The new system can be accessed from anywhere in the world via tablet or PC.

Fastest and most reliable network

It features EtherCAT industrial fieldbus technology – an essential part of Toyota’s new IoT deployment strategy.

In May 2016, Toyota Motor Corporation selected EtherCAT as its industrial Ethernet technology of choice and its new factories around the world are based on EtherCAT – recognised as the fastest and most reliable network for plant automation.

Omron says the new system will increase productivity while delivering improved quality, traceability and safety.

It also delivers reliable parts transfer with greater accuracy, which will boost throughput. Overall Equipment Effectiveness is achieved.

The mobile robots don’t just ferry boxes, they deliver Smart Factory Industry 4.0 automation, says Omron.

Job information issued from MES/ERP/WMS (Manufacturing Execution Systems/Enterprise Resource Planning, Warehouse Management System) is propagated automatically to the fleet in real time. The ‘Enterprise Manager’ selects the most suitable robot from the fleet.

Tracking the payload type

Every robot’s status information is communicated between the Fleet and the IT Systems MES/ERP/WMS.

The Enterprise Manager also enables mobile robot jobs to be reprioritised on the fly, ensuring throughput is optimised.

The actual payload type on each LD mobile robot – this data is now real-time traceable up to MES/ERP/WMS IT systems. Job payload data (eg SKUs) travels with the mobile robot.

Single robot operation is fairly simple – there are no other robots that could get in the way.

But controlling a fleet of mobile robots and managing the 100s of tasks among a fleet is a complex task.

This essential function is where other mobile robot technologies struggle, Omron says.

Mobile robots without an effective fleet management cause traffic jams, congestion and ultimately slow throughput.

Omron’s Enterprise Manager is an intelligent Mobile Robot Fleet management system. It automatically handles all coordination and decision making to ensure the fleet is operating at peak efficiency.

It monitors each robot’s status and adapts to facility changes. It reduces wasted time and movement by continuously looking ahead to anticipate which robots will be best positioned for upcoming tasks.

Not just a transport system

It is also a traffic cop. The Enterprise Manager notifies converging robots of their predicted paths, allowing them to re-calculate to avoid collision and congestion in the most efficient way.

Omron mobile robots are not just a transport system. They also integrate with Omron’s Smart Factory.

The mobile robots communicate with Omron’s NX Controllers and distributed EtherCat system.

They control the movement of fixed conveyors on the plant floor, notifying conveyors when a mobile robot has arrived ready to automatically pickup or drop off payloads.

Omron’s PLC Controller like the NX102 have a built-in SQL database and OPC UA to enable machine floor data to be shared with IT systems, IoT and cloud.

During the past year Omron has provided extensive consultation and training for Toyota staff and the system integrator.

Proud history

Toyota has long been recognised as an industry leader in manufacturing and production.

The company has had a presence in Australia since 1963 – with Australia one of the first countries to assemble Toyotas outside Japan.

It was the last of Australia's major automakers to cease manufacturing in Australia, following similar moves by Mitsubishi, Ford and General Motors Holden.

Operations at Toyota’s national parts Eastern Regional Office at Caringbah in southern Sydney will be transferred to the new facility in coming months.

When completed, the showcase Kemps Creek facility is expected to provide employment for up to 140 people over two shifts.

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