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BMW tests ‘fully connected logistics’ system in one of its German factories

BMW is testing a range of “autonomous, connected and intelligent” technologies at its German facilities.

In fact, BMW and three partner companies from Bavaria are exploring the possibilities for making BMW Group Plant Dingolfing a smart factory for logistics.

It’s part of a three-year research project supported by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy.

The “Autonomous and Connected Logistics” research project was officially launched in September 2019 and is now entering the practical phase.

A number of innovative Industry 4.0 production technologies are being combined in an overall concept and tested under real conditions at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing.

Behind the project is a vision of fully connected production in which autonomous transport systems, logistics robots and mobile devices seamlessly communicate with one another and with the control system.

Hubert Aiwanger, Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, says: “With this highly innovative project focused on developing autonomous and connected logistics processes and creating a 5G testbed, the Dingolfing site is presenting itself as a pioneer in the future field of Industry 4.0.

“As part of the Regional Alliances Autonomous Driving research and development initiative, we are contributing around €3.23 million to support the Bavarian economy with successfully shaping the digital transformation.

“In this way, we are helping Bavaria exploit its capacity for innovation to the full in the international marketplace.”

In recent years, the BMW Group production network has piloted several logistics solutions independently of one another, winning the German Logistics Award in 2019.

The research project will now move forward with further development to achieve maximum connectivity between individual logistics solutions and integrate them into the BMW production system.

The BMW Group is contributing around €4.8 million towards the project costs.

Dr Thomas Irrenhauser, responsible for innovation and industry 4.0 in the logistics division and head of the project, says: “Connecting our innovative logistics solutions creates additional transparency over material and machine movements and enables us to explore how we can best exploit the potential of fully connected production for BMW Group logistics.”

5G testbed as a key driver

Testing of 5G wireless technology, which, over the course of the project, will be set up at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing as a trial network, will play a key role in linking different logistics solutions.

The new mobile telecommunications standard allows large data volumes to be transferred within a very short time. 5G enables real-time connectivity between machinery and equipment.

Within the BMW Group production network, the BMW Brilliance Automotive joint venture has already rolled out the 5G wireless communications network across all its three plants.

The long-term goal is to set up a 5G network at all BMW Group plant locations worldwide.

Further sub-projects will explore the use of logistics robots, mobile devices and digital displays in the logistics process and test connectivity between different systems.

Peter Kiermaier, head of logistics planning at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing, says: “We also want to use new technologies to increase transparency in conventional processes and enable smooth coupling of manual and autonomous technologies.”

The research consortium is made up of three further Bavarian companies alongside the BMW Group:

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