We all know what they say: "Work smarter, not harder." So, as today's vehicles be- come smarter, so do the manufacturing floors on which they are built.
Automakers and suppliers are on the hunt for ways to optimize production. The need to speed up manufacturing processes is helping to drive this effort, as is increased interest in better factory logistics and predictive planning, which is the forecasting of inventory management and other supply chain metrics. Underlying it all is the influx of digital technologies known collectively as Industry 4.0.
One example is Continental's autonomous transport vehicle.
The automated guided vehicle, or AGV, is equipped with radar, lidar, camera and ultrasonic sensors and other technology typically used for passenger cars. It carries more than a ton and aligns itself to go the right way and avoid obstacles.
The supplier created the vehicle as a way to optimize the movement of heavy materials through its factories, using automated-driving technology developed in-house. Continental announced the project in December, saying testing had begun at Continental sites in Germany and Slovakia.
The company says its machine can reduce time spent manually driving forklifts and generally make factory production processes more predictable.
"Increasing efficiency in production is an important contribution to long-term competitiveness," Alexander Schmitt, head of Continental's actuation and future products segment in the hydraulic brake systems business unit, said in a statement.
"We're developing an industrial solution that optimizes our production sequences and is also an attractive business idea."
Schmitt said most transport robots on the market do not drive autonomously and move only along programmed, fixed routes.
"The market research was sobering: We did not find any autonomous transport vehicles that met our requirements."
Similarly, BMW Group has developed smart logistics robots. Using artificial intelligence and high-performance computers improves the floor robots' coordination and ability to recognize people and objects.
And much like Continental's autonomous AGV, the robots can identify and navigate obstacles quickly.
BMW's Smart Transport Robot for autonomous transportation of materials is one of five robots that the automaker is developing to improve its logistics processes and keep capacity high.
Sounds pretty smart to me.