Success story: Optimizing intralogistics with BMW
The final live presentation during Greiner Assistec’s first virtual Innovation Day was given by Global Business Development Manager Florian Kepplinger, who talked about a recent success story with car manufacturer BMW.
After a short video about electro-mobility, Florian Kepplinger said: “For me, in business development and sales, it's always very important to keep a focus on our customer’s final product, and not just the solution we provide. In the end, our goal is to make it possible for a customer – in this case BMW – to do what they do best and to do what they want to do, which in this case, is building awesome cars.”
He then introduced the housing for BMW’s new electric drivetrain. At the heart of the next generation electric engine, the single housing has five variants and three different plants are involved in its manufacture. Around 460,000 units a year have so far been built.
Three plants, five variants
“Some time ago, BMW approached Greiner Assistec with an enquiry for an intralogistics solution for the housing for its electric drivetrain,” said Florian Kepplinger. “Certain criteria needed to be met. First, it needed to be efficient in transportation between the three different production plants, and to fulfil the need for automated or manual handling, coupled with the necessity for technical cleanliness to enable the production of the engine.”
Five different variations needed to be stored and transported in the box, and the design of the final part was unclear. Nevertheless, with our partner BMW, we began looking into the whole project, from the beginning to the final car.
Florian Kepplinger then outlined the main challenges for the project. The transportation path starts in the plant in Landshut, Germany, where the raw part is manufactured and then shipped to the plant in Steyr, in Upper Austria. During this stage, the part needs to be protected, delivered safely and the transport and storage needs to efficient.
The final part is then transported to Dingolfing and the challenges for the carrier unit become more complex. During this stage, the priority is technical cleanness, protecting the part from particles that might ultimately damage the finished art engine, and protecting it from corrosion and all environmental issues such as weather, rain, etc. In addition, there is a quality checking stage at the Steyr plant.
Transportability, transport security, and flexibility
“Looking at this transport route, it was very clear that one carrier unit would not satisfy our customer's needs,” said Florian Kepplinger. “If we concentrated on only the final part of the journey, the whole carrier unit will be over-engineered for the first step, but if we focused on the first part, it would not meet the criteria for the final stage. So, it was clear that we needed three different boxes to meet the three main challenges of transportability, transport security, and flexibility.
In a series of slides, Florian Kepplinger then showed how the layered packaging solution worked at each stage. Registered users can see a live recording of the presentation here.
“Transportability covers everything from logistics to handling. The unit has to work with different stacking solutions from static stacking in-plant, to dynamic stacking during transportation. This needs to be efficient and feature as many housings as possible to reduce storage costs. The unit also has offer flexible handling – either automated or manual – depending on the plant, and also had to work for the five different variations of the part.
“Next comes transport security, and this also encompasses safety, starting with considering the safety of people handling the part at every stage. Last, but not least, the solution needs to be flexible. The design of the part was not clear, there were different variations, and we needed one system to fit it all.
“At first glance, the solution developed by my colleagues at part design looks quite simple. There are three layers, and we store five pieces of the housings in each layer. There is a single gripper system to enable automated handling. There is a metal support for safety, and replaceable elements on the bottom side of the sheet, which are the only contact point between the housings on each layer. If changes are required in the design of the housings, we can then quickly exchange these replaceable elements without having to touch the main tool, and this creates great flexibility.
Florian Kepplinger then presented a short animation which showed how each layer was built up. You can see this in the recording of the live presentation. He then looked at the aspect of flexibility.
“From the start, we had to adjust to different variations, but had no final design. So, my colleagues found a very interesting solution which was closed and protected but could be handled by only one person. We introduced a partner called Magnus who offered a patented solution consisting of plastic pins that stick out of a foam matrix. This efficiently and safely holds the part in place.
To sum up the whole project, we developed three different carrier units which consisted of more than 1,000 single pieces assembled in our plant in Romania. We could call this dynamic solution a ‘living project’, while although the project is finished, we are always willing to challenge ourselves to improve our solutions. From my perspective, the real project will end after the last engine is transported from Germany and the last car drives out of the factory grounds.
A successful project
Florian Kepplinger then introduced Reinhard Großauer, Packaging Planner from the BMW plant in Upper Austria, who explained the complexity of the project, the challenges, and how many people and departments had been involved from the client side.
“We had to integrate five different components into one system and three different BMW plants were affected, each with different automated processes. So, we had to involve numerous development teams, quality departments, machinery, logistics and assembly planners, and also the safety departments.
We faced a very ambitious time-scale and very dynamic production figures for the new next generation electric drivetrain which features in the BMW i4 and i8. And of course, another priority was the need for high technical cleanliness.
“The whole project was challenging, because we needed to integrate five different components in one container and have the most flexible possible solution. All five different variants were at completely different development phases, with some parts still in the very early phase, where the design changed frequently and rapidly.
“Greiner Assistec proved to be the right partner for this project. We had already carried out many successful projects together in recent years, and the company has always been able to meet our requirements concerning quality, practicability and also flexibility. In addition, the co-operation with the innovation and creative teams was excellent, resulting in a positive and completely successful project.”
Recordings of all the live sessions from the first virtual Greiner Assistec Innovation Day are available here.