Fronius, worldwide leader in battery charging, welding systems and solar energy, takes a momentous step forward in automated pallet transport. Fronius partnered with KNAPP to develop the first Open Shuttle Fork, an autonomous mobile robot used to transport pallets at their location in Sattledt. The new automation solution bolsters production supply and internal transport. Nine more of these innovative transport robots have already been ordered from KNAPP.
In Sattledt Fronius manufactures welding systems for industry, inverters for photovoltaic systems and charging devices for forklift trucks. The existing production hall with 41,000 m² (441,000 ft²) was expanded by a hall with 28,000 m² (301,000 ft²) last year. Ten of KNAPP’s Open Shuttles – a different AMR model – have been in operation transporting containers at the site for a while. In order to optimize the pallet transport involved in supplying production and to use the space in the hall more efficiently, Fronius chose the Open Shuttle Fork by KNAPP. “The KNAPP system gives a great deal of autonomy. The new automation system sets us up for making changes at our location independently, as well as being able to expand our production cells. This will make us faster and more cost-efficient throughout our operation in comparison with other systems,” states Peter Hubl, Team Leader for Logistics, Automation and Maintenance at Fronius International, on the reasons they chose to work with KNAPP.
The new automation solution currently includes 16 Open Shuttle Fork robots that automatically connect the goods-in and goods-out areas with the production cells and handle internal transport tasks. There are about 400 storage locations for pallets available at the facility, for loads up to 1,000 kg (1 short ton). 16 charging stations supply the mobile robots with power.
Innovative software for automated pallet transport
KiSoft FCS (Fleet Control System) is the KNAPP software that provides centralized control of the robots. It connects to the customer system through an interface and controls the fleet, managing the storage and retrieval movements of the pallets as well as the supply to the production cells. Transport orders are sent from the GUI stations, which are web-based and located near all the storage locations. This includes a dashboard which provides a visual overview of all the key figures for the Open Shuttle Fork and means that Fronius has oversight of all the robots in operation.
Production supply optimized for Fronius
Using the Open Shuttle Fork gives a real boost to production supply and internal transport at Fronius. Employees in goods-in repack the goods from the manual high-bay racking when needed onto a pallet. At the web-based GUI station, they then send a transport order to an Open Shuttle Fork. The AMR picks up the pallet and brings it to the production lines. Once there, the pallet is transferred either to a location on the floor or to a flow rack.
After the employees complete a step in production, they pack semi-finished products on a pallet. These are picked up by the Open Shuttle Fork and transported to the next production line. Empty pallets are also picked up by the robot and brought to their storage locations. Once all steps of production are completed, the Open Shuttle Fork transports the final product to the high-bay pallet racking located near goods-out and sets it on a floor location. Storage in these racks is currently a manual process. In the future, the Open Shuttle Fork will transfer these pallets directly to the conveyor system.
The autonomous mobile robots are used in the existing 41,000 m² hall as well as in the 28,000 m² north expansion. They travel unhindered between the two buildings, sending a signal via WLAN to the gate control system to open the gates.
Best partner for a development project
KNAPP and Fronius have a long history of working together. For some years now, Fronius charging devices have been used for the Open Shuttles. These two Austrian companies have again proved that putting their technological expertise together is a winning combination. The first commissioning of the Open Shuttle Fork is a break-through for both companies in terms of automated transport. “We are thrilled to have implemented the first Open Shuttle Fork project with a company focused on sustainability and involved as a supplier in the production of photovoltaic systems. Fronius is also the first customer to have their employees trained by KNAPP to be able to install the Open Shuttle Fork themselves, states Christian Brauneis, Vice President, KNAPP Industry Solutions.
As the technology leader, Fronius discovers, develops and implements innovative methods to monitor and control energy for welding technology, photovoltaics and battery charging. The proprietor-owned company, headquartered in Pettenbach, Austria, was established in 1945 and has 37 subsidiaries on five continents. In 2022, the company employed 6,100 people worldwide. Along with headquarters in Pettenbach and further locations in Wels, Thalheim, Sattledt and Steinhaus, the company has a production location in the Czech Republic.
More information: Fronius
About KNAPP Industry Solutions
KNAPP Industry Solutions is the specialist within the KNAPP group for tailor-made solutions for industrial, manufacturing and distribution logistics as well as for autonomous mobile robots. The Dobl location and the KNAPP campus together form the center of solution development and implementation for these sectors. As a technology partner for intelligent value chain management, KNAPP supports renowned manufacturers such as Terberg, Pankl Racing, Würth, Siemens, VW and Getriebebau Nord in their value creation.
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The Open Shuttle Fork, an autonomous mobile robot for pallet transport, automates production supply and internal transport at Fronius.
Smart technologies make the autonomous mobile robot agile and safe for use around people and other vehicles.
The Open Shuttle Fork is managed by the software KiSoft FCS. It ensures that the fleet traffic flows smoothly and optimally assigns the transport orders. Fronius is able to adapt the system by themselves.