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    Commissioning AMRs at arculus: This is How We Do It

    Commissioning a technology is an important part of its efficient deployment. This also holds true for an innovative product like an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR). In this blog post, Thorsten Mersdorf, our Production Manager explains how arculus commissions its AMRs (arculees) to ensure their seamless operation, especially in intralogistics.

    Intralogistics is continuously growing, with more automated solutions and advanced technologies surfacing. One category of product at the forefront of this revolution is the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR). Deploying an AMR involves multiple stages, with commissioning being an essential step of the process.

    What Makes Commissioning Special?

    Since the final testing and configuration come after the main robotic assembly, commissioning is chronologically, the last part of the production process. However, from AMRs development to sales, Thorsten Mersdorf, Production Manager at arculus, believes it to be the central step in the AMR’s production cycle.

    According to Thorsten, “ Without first commissioning, it is impossible to test an AMR for performance, functionality, and durability. In short, it is the measure of quality delivery.” He further emphasises that this is the stage when the test engineer knows that all the features of the AMR, such as navigation, lift, drive, and safety, are working correctly. This also includes setting up the environment for the customer’s operation site before handing over the robot.

    Commissioning guarantees the Customer Success team receives an AMR that is ready to use on-site. The more diligent the processes, the easier and faster it is to integrate the robots at the client’s site. The production team at arculus ascertains this diligence by identifying specific standards and applying them to the testing procedures.

    AMR Commissioning in Intralogistics

    Commissioning of AMRs includes different key steps. Thorsten summarises them as follows:

    • Calibrating the Scanners: This involves fine-tuning the scanning systems within the Automated Mobile Robots (AMRs) to ensure accurate detection and interpretation of surroundings.
    • Calibrating the Drives and Lift: Here, the team calibrates the AMRs’ drive and lift mechanisms to optimise performance. This guarantees smooth movement and precise positioning of the robots at the facility where they will operate.
    • Performing Dry Runs: After calibration, the production team runs tests to make sure everything functions correctly. This allows them to observe how the AMRs operate in a controlled environment before deployment, helping to identify any issues and further fine-tune the system.
    • Flashing Safety and Software Release: This phase ensures all safety protocols are properly configured and activated within the AMRs. Safety features are critical to preventing accidents and securing the protection of personnel and equipment on-site.
    • Brake Tests: The brake tests evaluate the effectiveness of the AMRs’ braking systems under different conditions. Testing both with and without a load, ascertains that the robots can safely come to a stop, even when carrying cargo.
    • Performance Testing Based on Customer Use Case: Finally, the performance of the AMRs is tested based on the specific requirements of its future operation scenario. This includes evaluating factors such as speed, accuracy, and efficiency in completing tasks relevant to the customer’s workflow.
    Thorsten and Diego at the production area taking care of AMR commissioning processes
    Thorsten and Diego at the production area ensuring the arculee functions properly

    The Standards of AMR Commissioning

    According to Thorsten:

    “Creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) is the start of the production process. They offer a consistent strategy for test engineers to follow in the future. When test engineers prepare an AMR for user operation, they use the pre-defined strategy. This approach saves time during commissioning and delivery, since the team doesn’t have to develop procedures from scratch.”

    Finally, staying in touch with the latest innovations is necessary. As Thorsten explains: 

    “The half-life of safety and software releases is very short. Therefore, maintaining a close interface with development is important to react quickly and appropriately to the latest advancements. This includes evolving the test routines and procedures accordingly, as well as improving the error correction mechanisms for our test engineers.”

    Commissioning AMRs for Warehouses

    Commissioning a robot also depends on the specific application scenario. According to Thorsten, even commissioning AMRs for warehouses can be dynamic in some ways. For example, the commissioning may vary depending on whether the use case will be table pallet transport or backpack transport. At arculus, we plan the corresponding commissioning processes based on these practical implications.

    Commissioning Challenges and How to Solve Them

    Commissioning autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for intralogistics poses several challenges that need innovative solutions. Thorsten talks about some common hurdles:

    • Shorter Delivery Times: In some cases, the finished product needs to be delivered quickly. Due to this time shortage, managing commissioning processes in such scenarios can sometimes require extra effort.
    • Use Case Diversity: The diversity of use cases poses another significant challenge. Tailoring configuration, testing, and other routines to specific customer operations is necessary. Therefore, when diverse applications are required, the team adjusts these commissioning processes accordingly.
    • Increasing Safety Requirements: From ensuring compliance with industry protocols to catering to the safety requirements for specific use cases, AMR commissioning can get tricky. However, arculus has safety standards in place to effectively address these needs.

    Innovative Solutions in Action

    Since challenges are part of the job, Thortsen talks about how the production team at arculus addresses them. “For example”, he explains, “working with the scanners of the arculee S initially required more time and energy. We implemented an improved installation and adjustment process for them to address this, thus accelerating and stabilising the commissioning significantly.”

    Thorsten and Federica working on an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR)
    Thorsten and Federica working on an arculee S

    Future Trends and Innovations

    The production processes of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for intralogistics are evolving rapidly, driven by technological advancements and shifting industry demands. Thorsten explores these future trends and innovations that are shaping this domain:

    • More Automation: There’s a clear trend towards automating commissioning. The goal is to reduce setup time while ensuring higher quality assurance. Efficient data management is thus crucial to derive insights for future software and hardware improvements, ensuring better commissioning efficiency and reliability.
    • Integration from Production to Customer Sites: As AMRs transition from production facilities to customer sites, there are always a few challenges to navigate. Moreover, growing customer and industrial demands sometimes result in delays. While arculus has established stable processes to handle these anticipated issues, ongoing innovation and optimisation are consistently pursued to further enhance efficiency.
    • Fleet Management and Host System Integration: Effective fleet management and integration with host systems are crucial for optimising AMR operations. Expending energy to improve the AMR alone is never enough. Even if the most advanced technologies are used to optimise the robots, implementing robust and powerful interfaces to the supervisory system is also necessary for smoother commissioning.
    • AI-driven Commissioning: Finally, artificial intelligence (AI) has significant potential in AMR commissioning. AI algorithms allow faster calculation and prediction, thus efficiently designing tests and automating production processes. However, one must be careful with its long-term usage to ensure consistency and quality. In this regard, continuous monitoring, checking and optimising AI technology will be the key to successfully implementing and automating AMR’s production processes.

    Thorsten is positive that arculus is prepared for this evolution of commissioning. As he puts it:

    “One way arculus is addressing the technology revolution is through the continuous development of the product. From the central hardware components to the software features of the robots, there is a constant process of innovation. This is valid for our DevOps processes, too. However, in order to be a technology leader, we also need the best talent on board. In other words, employer attractiveness plays a role here. The good news is that arculus works on this every day.”