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Swarm Autonomy live-demo: 7 steps toward manufacturing intralogistics autonomy.

Updated: Oct 6

Manufacturing intralogistics automation is often deemed unscalable due to each plant’s diversity and process specific needs. FARobot demonstrated Swarm Autonomy, a platform solution to handle integration, operation and optimization of equipment and robotic resources.


FARobot was built on field requirements coming from people who have tried for years to build an efficient intralogistics system. They continuously experience three main pain points:

  • Robot navigation technology and capability: Which technology is best suited for my factory, and consequently which AMR supplier should I select?

  • Integration effort: Who should support integration, the integrators, the robot supplier, the equipment supplier? Who has the best offer to solve multi-protocol, multi-IT system consolidation

  • Multi-brand fleet management: Budgets are released by batch and AMR suppliers are usually very use case focus, this leads to traffic control issue when multiple brands run on the same floor. Same goes for managing and maintaining the system itself, it is unbearable, even more when it changes from plant to plant.

This is a widespread problem of FARobot’s many customers with multiple plants and quite different set-ups throughout Asia. See below illustration of one of FARobot's customer plants footprint in Asia.


Swarm Autonomy, which consists of Swarm Core software platform and Swarm Mobile Robot (SMR) series and debuted at Automation Taipei 2022, is designed to solve such issues. For that it offers a platform to grow from basic automation such as material transport from point A to B to orchestration of complex applications done by fleets with hundreds of robots.


There are 3 industries where Swarm Autonomy, and its Swarm Core platform, will deliver best results:

1) 3C electronic manufacturing

  • PCB manufacturing:

  • Narrow alley with dynamic physical environment and human traffic

  • Recurring reel trolley transfer

  • PCB loading and unloading generate heavy traffic

  • Warehouse with pallet handling need

  • Assembly:

  • Multi-floor operations with very different environment settings

  • Takt time importance to catch-up with delivery to final customer

  • Diversity of payload, use of conveyors and palletizer at various stages

2) Automotive

  • Vehicle assembly lines

  • Complex workflow in diverse environments

  • Complex kitting and replenishment scheduling

  • Use of many kinds of automation equipment and robots including legacy AGVs

  • Heavy traffic control

3) Display

  • Display module assembly

  • High safety requirement with heavy human traffic

  • Dynamic demand in high mix setting

  • Short product lifecycle inducing regular lines update


During Automation Taipei, FARobot demonstrated what can be achieved today by any factory wishing to move from Automation to Autonomy.


We took the below constituents:

  • A standard inbound to production to outbound workflow

  • Heterogenous automation equipment composed of 5 different devices.

  • FARobot’s Swarm Core



And designed a closed-loop demo that ran uninterrupted for 4 days.

Here are the 7 steps any factory can follow and adapt to their own workflows:


 

1. Integration and workflow design – scaling in mind

How to streamline workflows? What will your workflow be like? It is recommended to plan to automate the entire workflow, from inbound to outbound, but to start only with one or two workflows to gradually integrate the system.

In this demo an inbound WIP (Work In Progress) material is sorted to a rack for storage before being moved again to a production area. The WIP material is transformed into a finished product and transferred to the outbound storage area.

The multiple workflows used in this scenario are all connected and allow the Swarm Core to plan an optimize tasks execution sequence with the end in mind.

Will you integrate old and new devices? Will there be any synchronization between old and new robots? If yes, an integration may need to be planned. FARobot provides the needed tools for the integration of 3rd party robots and equipment. Learn more FARobot's agent.

How will you upgrade and scale?

Swarm Core can handle hundreds of equipment and robots over multiple fleets. This is key for systems planned to be scaled. This includes Over-the-Air updates capability and comprehensive monitoring functions, all part of the Swarm Core offering.


 

2. Integration effort – leverage ONE unified protocol



Unified communication with Swarm Protocol 5 devices operate using 5 different protocols. A device communication protocols represent the device language and, for integration to happen, a common language needs to be used. Here, FARobot leverages its proprietary Swarm Protocol to integrate the robotic arm, the QR code reader camera, the orange robot and the grey robot. All the generated data is then shared among all devices as a common knowledge. This includes the Swarm Core’s server and thanks to that, the demo runs in real-time with high-quality package transfer in a difficult wireless network environment.

Integration made easy with the Swarm Wrapper To make the device data available and be able to control the device, FARobot uses its now available Swarm Wrapper. The Swarm Wrapper is a program which can be configured with the specific device behavior and data need. It can also be extended in logic through a simple and short programming effort. Each device has its own wrapper which leverages the Swarm Protocol to communicate smoothly with the Swarm Core.



 

3. Agile Operation – IT and OT joining hands



IT and material physical flow alignment Being Agile means being adaptable to changes in business needs and field constrains. To be agile, a better IT and OT integration is necessary.

FARobot shows how a simple storage cell occupancy and material status monitoring function bridges IT and OT.

The racks are assigned to specific storage cells according to their current and future use. In the case of WIP material transfer, the sequence of workflow is consolidated by the Swarm Core. The Swarm Core books the different racks and warehouse cells and generate tasks to orchestrate the material flow between the specific starting and ending points.

The Swarm Core can then update the WMS precisely in real-time about the material location and arrival time.

Workflow correlation for parallel execution The same functionality will allow the Swarm Core to anticipate task execution when they are linked. For example, the racks receiving the payload will be moved next to the robotic arm before the robotic arm pick the cargo. This reduces idle time for the cargo, the robotic arm and the AMRs.





4. Agile Operation – Let Swarm match-making be


Workflow requirements <> capability match FARobot is introducing Swarm match-making, a novel robot-task matching function to reach higher robot occupancy and reduce material idle time. Behind every workflow and connected tasks there is a set of requirements in time, cargo type, safety and accuracy.

At Automation Taipei 2022, FARobot demoed how the system automatically cherry-picks the right robot for each task, and adapts the interaction parameters of the robotic arm:

  • The grey robot is called for duty due to its small footprint allowing it to fit in the narrow elevator.

  • The grey robot height is different; the robotic arm automatically be reconfigured to adapt to it.

This demonstrates how the Swarm match-making can make multi-dimensional decisions to select the best suited robot and avoid material idling.

This is not possible with traditional AGV an AMR fleet management system, which require assigning robots to specific tasks.





5. Agile Operation – Take advantage of dynamic sequencing


Better OEE thanks to forward planning Traditional AMR and AGV platforms will provide very linear task sequencing and execution and do not take OEE into account. Swarm core has the capability to sequence tasks dynamically including connected tasks. This is not only about timed workflow sequencing but also about prioritizing the right robots.

In this demo the grey robot will bring the cargo to the robotic arm, during this time the SMR prepares the rack, and the orange robot is charging. This perfect sequencing benefits the system throughput.

Auto rescheduling around unforeseen events

Should one of the robot or equipment be down, the Swarm Core will trigger rescheduling at the lowest cost (idle time, AMR use, delivery time) through its Swarm Plan module. The readjustment may be made at two levels:

  • Match-making: robots may be reassigned to different tasks and dispatched differently.

  • Route planning: it will compute a new route to workaround the event or reallocate the material to an alternative location to avoid bottleneck and idle time.



6. Agile Operation – Enable great traffic control


RtoR communication Conventional solutions will generate silos of communication between robots. The end-effect is the physical separation of the robots to avoid conflicts. In a space constrain factory, multiple robot types, multiple brands, and many of these robots, may cohabit and may even need to collaborate.

FARobot’s solution is a game-changer thanks to its robot-to-robot low-latency communication. It allows a real-time high granularity traffic control in between Swarm-ready¹ mobile robots and equipment.

Multi-brand traffic control Further to smooth traffic control, FARobot demoed its multi-brand fleet orchestration technology. The three mobile robots coming from three different brands executed tasks in a safe and efficient ballet. The highly praised result was only made possible by the collective result of all the previously mentioned functions.

¹ Swarm ready robots: mobile robot that implements the Swarm Protocol natively without need of any additional HW or SW




7. Agile Optimization: unleash the beast


A global optimizer At any given point the Swarm Core will search for optimization by Swarm-Matching, continuous traffic and route optimization and Smart planning or rescheduling.

The virtuous loop runs constantly and thrive to improve OEE by up to 25% and decrease robot maintenance by up 50%.





Agile operation: the goal for factories



  1. One common integration tool for protocol homogenization.

  2. One common configuration and operation interface.

  3. Enabling continuous optimization and scalability.





For further product information, download your free Swarm Autonomy brochure.



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