The evolution of the manufacturing context is requiring to improve the capacity of the production system to adapt efficiently to frequent production changes, as well as to improve worker conditions and working environments.
This is leading to the definition of a trend, named Human Centered Manufacturing, that combines sustainability in the workplace with increased production flexibility and productivity. In order to achieve this trade off, it has emerged with clear evidence the need to address a new way of collaboration between humans and machines and a new approach to production systems automation.
In the particular perspective of Human Robot Collaboration, the harsh manufacturing environment still poses challenges of direct applicability with the necessary level of safety. However, a redesign of the workplace with new logistic flows can solve the problem.
The manufacturing world is constantly changing. A decade ago, the machining centers were managed and programmed directly on site by a specialized operator. Today the digital transition towards the Industry 4.0 concept has made factories increasingly interconnected and intelligent. Interconnections not only between the same machines but, above all, with ERP and business management systems.
In the mechanical machining sector, Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) lines have become increasingly popular. FMS is a term that identifies a new paradigm of conceiving production. A line in which a component chains a succession of processes on different stations (for example a machining center for milling, turning, grinding, washing machine, CMM, etc.), all independent from the operator.
The interface between the inside and outside of a production line is the station called loading/unloading station. The usage of this unit is overseen by the operator. The operator loads the blanks to be processed on traditional multi-clamping pallets, repeating the operation as many times as necessary. It follows that the station for its use complies with the regulations on ergonomics, while nevertheless being in the workshop, in worn environments and with minimal maneuverability space.
The management of information between the various platforms, if well used, can further improve the working conditions of an operator, moving him even further away from the machining center. From on board the machine to the loading/unloading station and now in a “new” environment.
New understood as a different conception of use of workshop spaces. A pole dedicated exclusively to parts assembly on equipment, called Logistics Station, increases comfort and safety, also equipped with the necessary space to perform operations. In this area, robotic automation supports the operator in performing the assembly and disassembly tasks of the pieces. Once the task is completed, it will be the task of a fleet of AGVs to bring the raw component to the FMS.
What is described is possible only and exclusively with the adoption of a zero-point fixing equipment. It guarantees an advantage of portability, precision, and better control of the production process. Finally, they are easily inserted into an automated process.
The workshop thus becomes a road junction where fleets of self-driving vehicles will be predominantly turning.
The reconfiguration of the performance of the usual activities carried out, impose a new workshop logistics, connecting the pole of the Logistics Station and the FMS. The answer to all this is the autonomous handling assigned to a fleet of automatic guided vehicles.
For this to work, it is essential to manage resources by making decisions with a workshop coordinator who knows all the tasks in execution and to be processed. This task is performed via jFMX software (intellectual property of MCE – MCM Software Division) on several hierarchical levels: at a lower level with Level 1 WorkArea and Sharework Module and at a higher level with Level 2 Shopfloor.
A fleet of AGVs is effective if it is properly exploited and managed. In a workshop composed of multiple production units, it becomes essential to plan the number of AGVs to be used per mission, optimize the route and missions to minimize the amount of twin resources. All these factors contribute to saving costs and space on the ground.
These degrees of freedom must be analyzed and predicted on a case-by-case basis. With this approach it becomes important to make simplified but truthful models of the workshop in all its units of composition. Such models become the input information of the simulations necessary to find the right trade-off in different situations.
For this purpose, we used the software Anylogic, the leading simulation modeling for business applications, because it allows to create tailor-suite simulation models on the customer’s needs. In the Sharework project this simulation modelling tool has been use for the definition of CEMBRE use case scenario, comprising all elements installed in their industrial plant, including the Logistic Station.
The main results expected in these analyses concern management topics, but also percentages of saturation for each individual units, sizing of intermediate buffers, anticipating possible bottlenecks and helping to generate more complex or less complex handling policies for the management of the unexpected or non-standard production.
The new workshop concept must be a strong stimulus to continue improving HRC because the world is moving in this direction. Allow me to quote the phrase of an entrepreneur very focused on the subject:
“We have become a white-collar workforce, and automation has become a necessity.”
– Michelle Segrest
 Segrest, M. (2019) – Modern Manufacturing Volume 3, An Inside Look into Game-Changing Processes (from the foreword of Randy Breaux, President, Motion Industries).
 Fogliazza, G. (2007) – Domain specific languages for the development of reconfigurable control applications, Automazione e strumentazione, November 2007 (pp. 102-111).
 May, G., Taisch, M., Bettoni, A., Maghazei, O., Matarazzo, A., Stahl B. (2015) – A new Human-centric Factory Model, 12th Global Conference on Sustainable Manufacturing in Procedia CIRP, December 2015.
 Faroni, M., Beschi, M., Ghidini, S., Pedrocchi, N., Umbrico, A., Orlandini, A., & Cesta A. (2020) – A layered control approach to human-aware task and motion planning for human-robot collaboration. In 29th IEEE International Conference on Robot and Human Interactive Communication (RO-MAN) (pp. 1204-1210).
MCM is an international company with headquarters in Piacenza, Italy specialized in the design, construction and maintenance of flexible production systems and machining centers, delivering customized solutions to the aerospace, automotive, and general mechanical industry.
Filippo Parma | LinkedIn profile
Mechanical Engineer – Technical Dept. of MCM
After achieving a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineer at the Polytechnic of Milan in September 2017, he graduated in Parma in October 2019 with a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, defending an R&D thesis concerning the development of a robot gripper for aseptic environment. He started working for MCM in November 2019 as a System Integrator and from that he has been contributing to European Research Projects in which MCM is involved in strict collaboration with its Software Division MCE. Starting from November 2021 he is working on Customer Projects, developing dynamic discrete simulation applications on FMS that are tailored to meet customer’s demands.