Continental brings its Autonomous Mobile Robots to the Shopfloor with strong Partners
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) as an end-to-end solution out of one hand
Technology company Continental will present for the first time in public its Autonomous Mobile Robots for the external market at the LogiMAT 2022, the international intralogistics tradeshow, from May 31 to June 2 in Stuttgart, Germany (hall 2, booth number EF15). After an internal test phase in Continental production locations worldwide, the AMRs are now ready for the external market entry with improved and new features as well as the handling of new use cases. Building on the company’s years of extensive research in the robotics field, Continental is including these solutions now into its product portfolio in the newly established area of Continental Mobile Robots. “We are pleased to confirm that from now on volume production of the AMRs has started in Continental’s Rheinböllen plant in Germany with the first external customer projects slated to be delivered,” says Pierre Pomper, Head of Autonomous Mobile Robots at Continental. “Continental complements its in-house capabilities with a partner ecosystem of technology leaders Kinexon and ROEQ to provide customers a leading edge AMR solution out of one hand.”
Autonomous Mobile Robots make it easy for the customer – new features and use cases
Since 2020, Continental’s AMRs have been successfully deployed at several own production locations worldwide. The company built its Autonomous Mobile Robots in-house to meet the demands and challenges of the future factory, since such a solution was not readily available in the market. The experience gained has now been incorporated into the AMR version for the external market. Due to the load density, the electric vehicles are as small and compact as possible, but can carry very heavy weights. With measurements of only 1,455 mm length, 630 mm width and 225 mm height, the AMRs can carry significant loads up to 1.2 tons at a speed of up to 2.0 meters per second. Thus, they are versatile, while also being maximally maneuverable. Increased torque, shorter turning radius, optimized sensor coverage, improvements to its lifting mechanism design and accessibility of controls as well as the easy equipment for the transport of carts, pallets and top rollers are additional features.
Kinexon provides software for Fleet Master Control and an optional UWB system
Customers can benefit from a partnership between Continental and Kinexon. The fleet management software of Kinexon which is offered optionally turns an AMR fleet into an intelligent and perfectly coordinated swarm. The creation of orders and routes as well as the management of the AMRs will become much easier and more standardized (e.g., using the VDA5050 protocol). “We developed a reliable and scalable fleet management software in collaboration with Continental, which increases the flexibility and performance of our customers AMR fleets. Additionally, we offer an Ultra-Wideband (UWB) system for connecting relevant things of the material flow such as AMRs. Our holistic fleet management software combines this information in real time to optimize supply chains, material flow and industrial automation even more,” says Dr. Alexander Hüttenbrink, Managing Director at Kinexon.
ROEQ: Strong partner for a unique portfolio of mobile robotic equipment and accessories
Continental is able to offer its AMRs with different top modules. Customers can choose between cart/rack and lifting unit use cases. Due to the close collaboration with ROEQ, a leading expert for robotic equipment, Continental can now also offer top roller modules, for transferring loads between AMRs and conveyors. The number of options offered is what makes Continental’s offering so unique. At LogiMAT, an AMR with top roller module from ROEQ will be shown as a world premiere. “We are excited to team up with a strong partner like Continental,” says Michael E. Hansen, Managing Director at ROEQ “We are on a path of significant growth and I am convinced that our collaboration will provide customers with a wider choice of better and more robust solutions to meet their logistic challenges.”
End-to-End AMR solution for several industries
The AMRs are an attractive shopfloor logistics solution for several industries including logistics and warehousing, automotive, food and beverage as well as electrical and electronics. They work hand-in-hand with humans, reduce manual activities such as driving forklift trucks, speed up transport and provide an accurate overview of shopfloor inventory and its storage location. Continental offers everything from a single source, which is not quite common in the market and a big benefit for the customers: From consulting, sales, integration, service and support to maintenance contracts and a 24-hour support – everything out of one hand.
Continental, German Production Sites in Mobile Fluid Systems Area to be Transformed
Between now and late 2025, Continental will reorganize its German hose sites in Waltershausen, Korbach, and Northeim as well as the Oedelsheim/Hann. Münden production network. In this way, Continental will rigorously align the Mobile Fluid Systems (MFS) business area with the requirements of the automobile and commercial vehicle market, which has been undergoing constant change for several years, while at the same time securing its German production facilities as innovation drivers for the business area. “As a development partner and original equipment manufacturer to the automotive industry, we want to use our material and process expertise in such a way that the business area for automotive hoses and lines is ready to face future competition in the field of e-mobility for cars and trucks,” says Philip Nelles, a member of the Continental Board and head of the ContiTech group sector.
The transformation has accelerated enormously due to the current overall economic and political situation. In addition to overcapacities for rubber hoses for combustion engines, another reason for the reorganization is the high cost pressure and the associated need to secure the competitiveness of its hose business. At the same time, new growth opportunities are appearing. For example, battery and fuel cell vehicles require innovative solutions for hose components and complex line systems for thermal management. “In the future, we want to concentrate on these promising applications,” Nelles says.
Strengthening core skills
Within the business area, Continental researches, develops and produces lines, hoses, and clutches at more than 30 locations worldwide for manufacturers of electric, hybrid and combustion vehicles, as well as trucks and busses. Among other things, its products are deployed for thermal management and emissions reduction.
“Germany is perfectly suited as a location at which innovative products for a changing market can be both developed at our research centers and sent for production nearby,” Nelles adds.
In the coming years, the Waltershausen, Korbach and Oedelsheim sites will be developed into centers of excellence for the manufacture of hose connection applications for the auto and commercial-vehicle industry.
Best possible support for employees
Up to 870 jobs in the MFS business area are expected to be impacted by the realignment. In cooperation with worker representatives, Continental is trying to find individual solutions on the internal and external labor market for employees at affected locations. Internally, Continental is very conscious of enabling as many affected employees as possible to move to other areas within the company.
The in-house Institute for Technology and Transformation (CITT) is offering employees tailored courses, seminars and training for targeted qualification. Continental is also working with other companies in the regions around the impacted sites to support employees in searching for new jobs.
The planned reorganization of the Mobile Fluid Systems business area followed talks with worker representatives with the aim of providing perspectives for the relevant locations.
Continental is already investing in the remaining sites in a targeted manner to give them the best possible foundation and capitalize on the growth potential presented by products and applications for other promising industrial sectors.
Information on the measures decided for the different sites
Korbach: Approximately 3,300 people are currently employed at the Korbach site. In addition to a tire plant, three other ContiTech business areas, including MFS, are also located there. The business area is working to further expand expertise in the processing of rubber piece goods. Close ties with the MFS research centers also enhance the business area’s innovativeness. At the Korbach site, Continental is diversifying its product portfolio for applications in various industries, for instance for pump manufacturers. To strengthen its industrial hose business, the company plans to invest EUR 4.5 million in Korbach. Bundled expertise in materials is clearly upgrading the location in the German state of Hesse.
Waltershausen: Waltershausen is what is known as a “zebra location” of the Continental Group. A total of about 1,000 employees produce there for three ContiTech business areas. Among other things, they manufacture rubber compounds, printing blankets for the print industry, manifolds, and air-conditioning hose lines, as well as plastic hoses for the automotive industry. Since 2018, Continental has invested some EUR 8.3 million in Waltershausen. Firstly, approximately EUR 4.3 million was invested in modern mixing technology and additional storage capacity at the site. Approximately EUR 4 million more has been spent on plastic manufacture alone since 2018. Due to the existing expertise, Waltershausen’s role as a center of excellence for plastics processing is being enhanced significantly. As part of the reorganization, air-conditioning hose production will be moved away from Waltershausen. This is expected to affect up to 190 jobs at the site by the end of 2025. At the same time, initial and continuing staff training will continue to be an important building block for the development of the site, which boasts attractive and demanding jobs.
Oedelsheim/Hann. Münden: The previous production network spread across sites 25 kilometers apart is to be merged in Oedelsheim. The sites currently employ a total of about 750 people. Continental will expand the remaining sites in such a way that a significant proportion of the jobs in Hann. Münden can be transferred. Whereas the Oedelsheim site will be underpinned and grow by focusing on silicon manufacture and charge air hoses, the closure of production operations in Hann. Münden will affect a total of about 300-350 of the approximately 560 jobs.
Northeim: In Northeim, more than 1,650 employees currently produce at four ContiTech business areas, including MFS. According to the plans, the manufacture of auto hoses will be phased out by late 2024 due to the technological transformation of the automotive industry. More than 300 jobs are expected to be impacted by the move. The production of conveyor belt systems, elastomer coatings and precision seals as well as molded parts for brakes, steering and axles will remain in Northeim. Approximately 1,350 people will be employed at the site after the measures announced today have been implemented.
In a next step, Continental plans to start a dialog with the respective local employee representatives on the basis of the Framework Social Plan that was approved in March 2022.
Smart factory: Continental plans largest investment in a decade in Korbach hose production
Automated and networked plant will optimize existing manufacturing and enable production of new products
New production technologies, new applications, new customers: Continental plans to invest around five million euros in a new plant for the production of industrial hoses at its Korbach site. The production line, which will operate around the clock seven days a week, is scheduled to start up at the end of 2023. This is the largest investment in Korbach in over ten years.
With the new line, the technology company can manufacture existing products even more efficiently, while at the same time expanding its portfolio and increasing its competitiveness. Goals: To optimally position the Korbach site for the future and further expand the business areas, particularly in the industrial sector. “The new line will improve our manufacturing process enormously. We are producing more sustainably, more flexibly, more safely and more ergonomically,” emphasizes Torsten Dietmann, head of the hose plant in Korbach, adding: “Networked and automated plant elements based on a smart factory approach guarantee energy-efficient production and ideal value creation in the process.” ContiTech reacted very prescient to house the new S-Line. Trough efficiency measures in one of the production halls space for the new plant and thus also for innovative technologies was already created at an early stage.
More efficient, flexible and sustainable production
With a capacity of around five million meters per year, the new production line in Korbach in northern Hesse will soon be able to manufacture industrial hoses with an inside diameter of up to 38 mm – for food and water, but also for fuels or coolants.
A major plus of the new line is its flexibility: It can produce hoses using different techniques, with inner layers of either rubber or plastic. Thus, both rubber hoses and hybrid hoses made of these two materials are produced on it.
“This gives us tremendous flexibility. On the new plant, we are continuing to manufacture standard products, but also adding new applications. This enables us to better adapt to rapidly changing market needs and expand our product portfolio in a focused manner,” says Dietmann.
Continental’s investment is not just about greater product diversity and increased competitiveness – it also focuses on the issue of sustainability. Thanks to the additional materials expertise and various recycling options, the Korbach site is taking an important step toward climate-neutral production, in line with the Group-wide strategy.
Similarly, the topic of sustainability is an important component of the new “Site Perspective” company agreement, which came into force in January. Following this, the Korbach site is striving for sustainable and self-sufficient production. To make the tires of the future even more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly in terms of production, use and recyclability, Continental is systematically investing in research and development of new technologies, alternative materials and environmentally compatible production processes. The company’s own cogeneration plant, which supplies the entire production facility with climate-friendly energy and heat, is just one of the projects that has already been implemented. Energy generation is based on recycling waste, which makes it possible to save fossil fuels and conserve natural resources.
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