BASF, one of the world’s largest chemical companies, achieves seamless logistics at its Swiss location with an automated guided vehicle system developed by SICK and Stäubli WFT

At the Upper Rhine location in Kaisten, located near the border between Germany and Switzerland, the world’s largest chemical company BASF produces additives that make plastics more effective and sustainable. Despite the high level of automation throughout the plant, BASF set out to implement  more cost saving measures in its logistics and material supply through the additional automation. What they came up with measures just under eight meters long and over two meters wide. It is an automated guided vehicle that fetches products and transports them beyond the boundaries of the production facility and onwards to the warehouse.

Stäubli WFT offers flexible automation

BASF can deploy this scalable-in-size vehicle at any of its locations, based on location requirements. It was developed by  Stäubli WFT, a manufacturer of mobile transport platforms. The international company offers numerous products for a multitude of industries, including automated guided vehicle systems (AGVs) for use in industrial intralogistics.

“The fully automated vehicle for indoor and outdoor use can also maneuver itself beyond the recessed tracks or thresholds. And despite its size, it is space saving due to its omnidirectional movement,” said Cajetan Kredler, Team Leader Product Development at Stäubli WFT.

The platform can move payloads of up to 20 tons. The vehicle drives fully autonomously to various stations in production and the warehouse area, where the next destination can be selected via a web interface.

“An AGV in mixed mode operation must be able to move safely both in indoor and outdoor areas. People and obstacles must be recognized early,“ said Tobias Gaschnitz, Engineer Intralogistic Design at BASF in Ludwigshafen.

SICK was involved from the beginning as a partner to come up with the best solution for the competing demands of productivity and safety. What began in the fall of 2019 with comprehensive tests and a long term study is now being successfully used in practice in Kaisten.

The outcome of the collaboration is a joint evaluation of different 2D LiDAR sensors, digital services for comprehensive condition monitoring, and, as a key centralized component for intralogistics in outdoor areas, the outdoorScan3 safety laser scanner.

A total of four outdoorScan3 devices secure the area around the vehicle during operation, while ensuring a reliable and comprehensive protection of all persons involved in the intralogistics transport at the plant. The data measured by the outdoorScan3 is also used to position the vehicle during loading and unloading.

“The outdoorScan3 monitors the surroundings of the vehicle by means of defined protective fields. As soon as a person or object comes too close to the vehicle, an emergency stop is initiated to ensure their safety,” said Michael Badeja, Strategic Product Manager at SICK.

A durable scanner for all conditions with an automated guided vehicle

The safety laser scanner has been specially developed for automation in outdoor areas. The outdoor safeHDDM® scanning technology ensures reliable operation even in hot, cold, windy, rainy, or snowing conditions.

“We were unable to find any comparable safety laser scanner on the market that can meet our requirements for driving at performance level d,” said Marco Burkhart, an Intralogistic Design Engineer at BASF in Ludwigshafen.

Michael Badeja, Strategic Product Manager, SICK AG (left), and Urs Hasler, Site Logistics Manager, BASF Kaisten (right), in conversation.

Digital services go hand-in-hand with sensors

“For BASF, we recommended from the outset the sensor components with digital services,” Badeja said.

The most important sensor data is recorded and evaluated to establish not only the operational status of the components but also information about their performance under the prevailing ambient conditions. This enables the high safety level to be maintained and the performance of the system to be continuously optimized. The SICK Monitoring Box maps this information for individual components or the entire vehicle. Thus, we implemented a digital application support for Stäubli WFT and BASF that can also be scaled up for many other vehicles.

The three partners BASF, Stäubli WFT, and SICK are working together to develop an autonomous logistics chain beyond the boundaries of production halls true to SICK’s goal of Creating Safe Productivity.

Want more information about SICK solutions for autonomous logistics? Contact a SICK representative today!