Co-creating the digital enterprise with TIA
Goods arrive and are received and stored, picked and packaged, and finally shipped – all without manual intervention. It was this vision that fascinated Franco Togni, who founded Automha S.p.A. in 1979 in the northern Italian city of Bergamo – and the fascination lives until this day.
“We are one of the few companies that can offer complete warehousing solutions – and by this we mean that we can build a huge complex, sometimes up to 50 meters high and 150 meters long, that can handle tens of thousands of pallets, often in extreme conditions well below freezing,” explains Giuseppe Stefanelli, CEO of Automha.
To date, the company has commissioned more than 300 warehousing solutions all over the world, in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, fulfillment, fresh and frozen food, and, lately, vertical farming. “Every warehouse we build is unique,” Giuseppe Stefanelli continues, “so in a way, our warehouses are all tailor-made products. This is why we need to be innovative by default. We think differently, anticipating our customers’ needs and developing solutions in time.”
Every warehouse we build is unique. This is why we need to think differently, anticipating our customers’ needs and developing solutions in time.Giuseppe Stefanelli, CEO, Automha S.p.A.
Such complex and unique projects need a reliable foundation, adds Walter Danne, Head of Automha’s Research and Development Department: “Since we developed the first automatic stacker crane in 1997, Siemens has been our partner for warehouse and industrial automation. With Siemens, we have all the options we need: a broad portfolio of automation hardware and an exceptional degree of integration that allows us to integrate and manage all automation systems in one coherent solution, including motion control and safety.”
This high degree of flexibility and integration benefits not only Automha but also the warehouse operator, confirms Walter Danne. By using features of Totally Integrated Automation such as Safety Integrated, Automha can ensure a consistently high level of safety for all its solutions and using inverter technology for drives helps to significantly cut operational expenditures. “We are able to reduce and control motor peak loads – all these measures helped us to reduce the power consumption of our solutions by up to 50% in some cases,” Walter Danne explains. Moreover, Automha can optimally support its users remotely during operation by using the SINEMA tool for remote services.
This integrated automation platform helps Automha to achieve complete horizontal integration of all automated systems and modules and provides the ideal foundation for standardization. Walter Danne continues: “With TIA Portal, we are able to standardize our project while maintaining optimum flexibility. We can specify the optimum hardware and software for modules and units, which streamlines our entire design and engineering process.”
With TIA Portal, we are able to standardize our project while maintaining optimum flexibility.Walter Danne, Head of Research and Development, Automha S.p.A.
Paving the way for OT/IT integration
“Even though each solution is unique, we are able to reuse the know-how we have built and integrated into our libraries. That benefits us throughout the entire process and makes it easier to choose the best components for the specific requirements” says Marco Mazzucchelli, Mechatronics Engineer at Automha.
Having a standardized automation platform greatly facilitates the use of state-of-the-art tools for virtualization and testing. This is especially helpful when designing flexible solutions that can be reconfigured during operation, which is a requirement that Automha encounters more and more frequently, says Marco Mazzucchelli: “This is where we can use simulation of our solutions to identify bottlenecks or issues.” For this purpose, Automha uses plant simulation to detect bottlenecks and by the usage of SIMIT and NX MCD it is possible to create a digital twin of the machine. This digital twin is used to verify design studies and test the automation software very early in the project and enables co-creation of the optimum technological, mechanical, and electrical solution. “As a result, we save a lot of time that we previously spent on prototyping and testing during the engineering phase and are up to 35% faster thanks to simulation,” says Marco Mazzucchelli.
Automha relies on standards for networking its systems, using Profinet communication and data integration with OPC UA for both machine-to-machine and OT/IT communication. This allows Automha to easily integrate its solution with the enterprise resource planning level, providing a degree of transparency that plant operators greatly appreciate. “Our customers know how well their warehouses are operating, as they get detailed insights into any issues they might have and can monitor process performance on all levels, including via mobile devices. This gives them confidence in our systems,” explains Giuseppe Stefanelli. “Basically, the more information we provide, the happier our users are.”
Thanks to simulation, we save a lot of time that we previously spent on prototyping and testing during the engineering phase and are up to 35 % faster.Marco Mazzucchelli, Mechatronics Engineer, Automha S.p.A.
Co-creating for the Industrial Internet of Things
Automha does not intend to stop there. The company is currently developing new solutions that will make its systems even more flexible, including robotics and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Again, working with Siemens helps Automha deploy innovative solutions rapidly – for example, by using dedicated libraries to easily configure robots in the automation program or for AGV development, says Marco Mazzucchelli: “Using the SIMOVE library has greatly accelerated prototyping for the AGV and helped reduce the time to market significantly.”
The next step will be introducing technologies for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), such as 5G. “Innovation is in our DNA. We are always keen on testing new technologies – and we are looking forward to deploying the first IIoT solutions in our plants and systems,” says Marco Mazzucchelli.
Since 1979, Automha has developed the experience and know-how that have enabled the company to become the leader in the automated warehouses sector. For more than 40 years, Automha has engineered innovative solutions for many different storage applications that are tailored to specific customer and product requirements, serving industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, food and beverage, fresh and frozen goods, textiles, and even vertical farming. One of the company’s key areas of expertise is fully automated warehouses that require no or only minimal manual intervention.