​Automation with AGVs and smart predictive applications
Dr. Eduardo García Magraner, Manufacturing Manager of Body & Stamping at Ford's Almussafes factory

​Automation with AGVs and smart predictive applications

AutoRevista's 5th Conference on Digitisation and Automation
Dr. Eduardo García Magraner, Manufacturing Manager of Body & Stamping at Ford's Almussafes factory. Photo: Utopia Filmmakers

Dr. Eduardo García Magraner, Manufacturing Manager of Body & Stamping at Ford's Almussafes factory and the person in charge of all plant maintenance strategies, began by talking about "AGVs whose implementation is relatively simple in a new plant, but when we talk about a factory with many years of activity, it becomes an external element that must coexist with other industrial networks different from the plant”.

“Currently, the AGVs at the Valencia plant already receive material orders from the team leaders and are distributing the spare parts at each point on the line where they are needed. We designed a schedule that will inform which line is demanding supply, where the AGV has to go, who it has to deliver it to and how it should notify. We incorporated a parallel PLC into the AGV to execute the operations we needed; a series of sensors and lights to notify the forklift operators of their presence, and a GSM module to send messages to the operators' mobile telephones. Now we already have six AGVs in the factory that provide services to the stamping plant and the three bodywork plants. Regarding wire-guided AGVs, we previously carried out a simulation to determine the type of AGV needed, with the premise that there cannot be a bottleneck in a line and that they have to communicate with the OT teams, which implies interacting with through IT, which is sometimes complicated”.

Addressing problems that an AGV circuit can present, García Magraner explained about the Moses Project, as a response to the fact that “innovation in technology poses new challenges that require achievable solutions. In the event of a serious accident involving an employee at their workplace that requires an ambulance to enter the plant or an outbreak of fire, the AGVs presented a serious blockage problem in the manufacturing plant. After analysing the regulations in the United States, Europe, Spain and Ford internally, we saw that this situation was not foreseen and we decided to develop our own standard. As in this type of situation every second is vital, we identified all the areas through which the AGVs could escape and we programmed some coordinates in x and y, in connection with a totally free Lora 868Mhz frequency with the medical and fire departments, so that the AGVs change their route and move away, hence the name Moses, leaving the way free, following an order that takes precedence over any other of the normal logic of the program. The Moses Project has won the Ford Safety Innovation Awards worldwide among all the company's plants in the world.

In the second part of the presentation, García Magraner focused on the field of the predictive world, taking into account that “in order to monitor thousands of pieces of equipment with massive data use in real time, we require a high investment. We need a predictive system without errors or false positives, that is robust and reliable. We are talking about high connectivity for a dynamic and real-time flow. From there the Miniterms concept was born, based on my doctoral thesis, which we have implemented as a standard first in Valencia and later worldwide. We are talking about a micro time of action that measures the status of any equipment in the factory, which generates IT information that we transfer to a computational level to manage thousands and thousands of pieces of data. We act on the type of cycle of the PLCs, predicting breakdowns or incidents in tenths of a second. All minitimes have variability, standard deviations, with which we can measure, detect and predict. We have 200 families of catalogued equipment and more than 24,000 monitored critical equipment, almost 90% are with miniterms, and the rest with sensorics at the Ford Valencia plant”.

“When a small deterioration is detected, the equipment sends a warning alarm and when it is greater it sends a second alarm. There are also teams that do not have connectivity for which we have developed an 868Mhz free frequency antenna with temperature and vibration sensors to be able to monitor possible incidents”.

“In 2019, we were authorised as a PLC standard for Europe and at the end of that year for the whole world, which means that any plant that makes a new Ford model will leave some reserves of the PLCs to be able to program the miniterms. Everything is managed through IT with the algorithm that monitors possible deterioration for 24 hours and the alarm management dashboard. Three types of alarms are sent, being the same, with simple graphics and easy interpretation. Also by email only to the personnel responsible for the maintenance and production of that specific area. When we talk about Big Data, in this dynamic of mini-terms, it is essential to look at the 5 Vs (in Spanish) of data: volume, speed, variety, veracity and value, standardising everything, with algorithms, some of them are our own, which is being translated into high levels of cost savings, time and minimisation of errors. We won the Henry Ford Technical Award in 2019 in competition with all Ford plants globally, who adopted it as a concept. At the research level, we presented it at the international congress on computer control, robotics and automation (ICINCO), where we were awarded the Best Industrial Paper Award, which values the work of my team. Each alarm issued warning of future deterioration is a failure that we have prevented from happening”.

Presentation published in 2.375 issue by AutoRevista

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