New agent for control

A new control system, ProVis.Agent – which controls Mercedes C-class production – is mapping the entire production flow for the first time, providing an overall view of the impact of disruptions.

There are more than 450 automated production stations – from body-shell work to assembly – in Daimler’s C-class production plant in Bremen, and such a complex production line makes it difficult to assess the overall impact of any disruption.  

Control systems map the entire production flow and make it possible to see the whole factory at a glance. Up to now, if a disruption occurred, the control system did not indicate the resulting effects, such the existence of bottlenecks in the early shift or whether output targets would be jeopardised.

However, the introduction of what is claimed to be the world’s first agent-based production control system will, it is claimed, greatly improve the control and monitoring of the assembly lines.

“The system works out what the worker in the control room needs to do in order to achieve the defined output target: for instance by postponing a scheduled break, redeploying the workers on the production lines, or changing the sequence of the vehicles at short notice,” explains Dr.-Ing. Olaf Sauer, head of the control systems business unit at the Fraunhofer Institute for Information and Data Processing IITB in Karlsruhe, where ProVis.Agent was developed.

Conventional shopfloor software systems are not usually interlinked, which means that information has to be painstakingly collected and interpreted. “A new generation of shopfloor-related IT systems has become established to ensure that planning systems and operative control systems interact smoothly. They are known by the collective term of ‘manufacturing execution systems’ (MES) and their components are interlinked by software agents or services,” explains Sauer.

The system was recently commissioned at the press shop in Bremen. “This is the first time we have ever been able to integrate information from different press shop IT systems in the control system,” says Sauer. “There are cameras monitoring the scrap metal conveyers and the loading of wagons, and an operating data registration system monitors the presses and conveyers. The press shop uses automatically guided vehicles, a new inventory management system, and SAP for order management. Our integration platform combines all of these applications in a central control room for overarching operation and observation.”

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