The collaboration centres on implementing an end-to-end system based on NVIDIA technologies — from training and testing through to deployment — with robots developed using one software architecture, running on NVIDIA’s open Isaac robotics platform. BMW Group’s objective is to enhance logistics factory flow to produce custom-configured cars more rapidly and efficiently. Once developed, the system will be deployed to BMW Group factories worldwide.
“BMW Group’s use of NVIDIA’s Isaac robotics platform to reimagine their factory is revolutionary,” said Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA. “BMW Group is leading the way to the era of robotic factories, harnessing breakthroughs in AI and robotics technologies to create the next level of highly customisable, just-in-time, just-in-sequence manufacturing.”
“BMW is committed to the Power of Choice for our customers — customization of diverse features across diverse vehicles for diverse customers,” said Jürgen Maidl, Senior Vice President of Logistics for the BMW Group. “Manufacturing high-quality, highly customised cars, on multiple models, with higher volume, on one factory line requires advanced computing solutions from end-to-end. Our collaboration with NVIDIA allows us to develop the future of factory logistics today and to ultimately delight BMW Group customers worldwide.”
The collaboration uses NVIDIA DGX AI systems and Isaac simulation technology to train and test the robots; NVIDIA Quadro ray-tracing GPUs to render synthetic machine parts to enhance the training; and a new lineup of multiple AI-enabled robots built on the Isaac software development kit, powered by high-performance NVIDIA Jetson and EGX edge computers.
BMW Group’s supply chain takes millions of parts flowing into a factory from more than 4,500 supplier sites, involving 230,000 unique part numbers, and in growing volumes as BMW Group’s car sales have doubled over the past 10 years to 2.5 million vehicles. Moreover, BMW Group vehicles are offered to customers with an average of 100 different options, resulting in 99% of customer orders being uniquely different for each other. This creates an immense challenge for factory logistics.
To optimise the enormous complexity of this material flow, autonomous AI-powered logistics robots now assist the current production process in order to assemble highly customized vehicles on the same production line.
“Ultimately, the sheer volume of possible configurations became a challenge to BMW Group production in three fundamental areas – computing, logistics planning, and data analysis,” Maidl said.
BMW Group’s response is to use NVIDIA’s Isaac robotics platform to develop five AI-enabled robots to improve their logistics workflow, powered by a variety of NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier and EGX edge computers. These include both navigation robots to transport material autonomously, as well as manipulation robots to select and organize parts.
Developed on the NVIDIA Isaac SDK, the robots utilise a number of powerful deep neural networks, addressing perception, segmentation, pose estimation and human pose estimation to perceive their environment, detect objects, navigate autonomously and move objects. These robots are trained both on real and synthetic data using NVIDIA GPUs to render ray-traced machine parts in a variety of lighting and occlusion conditions to augment real data.
The real and synthetic data are then used to train deep neural networks on NVIDIA DGX systems. The robots are then continuously tested in NVIDIA’s Isaac Simulators for both navigation and manipulation, operating on NVIDIA’s Omniverse platform, where multiple BMW Group personnel in different geographies can all work in one simulated environment.
Under the contract, Imperial will store the batteries at two locations with a combined footprint of approx. 25,000 sqm. At one of these sites – one of Imperial’s 17 European specialist multi-user hazmat warehouses - it will also be responsible for charging the batteries in readiness for delivery to the manufacturer’s after market network.
The bulk storage and handling of charged lithium-ion batteries constitutes a significant potential hazard, and requires specific expertise and specially-equipped facilities. Imperial’s warehousing deployed on the contract accordingly embodies extensive, state-of-the-art fire prevention features, along with numerous other safety measures.
Says Michael Pohl, Imperial Logistics International’s Vice President Commercial Chemicals: “The regulations governing the storage of rechargeable batteries are necessarily extremely strict, and our site at Rieste meets and exceeds these stringent criteria.
“We are delighted to complement Imperial’s existing automotive logistics services for this client, with the addition of our extensive specialist capabilities and resources in the field of hazardous materials handling and storage.”
Imperial’s Executive Vice President Industrial & Chemicals,Markus Kanis adds: “As the world’s automotive manufacturers accelerate their move to zero-emissions vehicle production, the demand for high-output lithium batteries will increase exponentially. Imperial is targeting this sector as a logical progression of its already heavy involvement in automotive supply chain logistics.
“Our battery logistics solution addresses all environmental and safety issues involved in transporting, handling and storing large-format lithium batteries – from delivery of raw materials through battery manufacture, to supplying both the assembly track and after market. The winning of this contract is recognition of the commitment we have already made to this exciting but challenging new market.”
Concludes Kanis: “Lithium batteries are a vital component for the future of automotive manufacturing. Imperial’s innovative, fully-compliant, one-stop solution is setting new industry standards for their supply chains: improving clients’ efficiency, reducing their costs and enhancing their offerings to their own customers.”
Imperial is also leveraging its combined logistics and hazmat competencies to serve other markets for lithium-ion batteries, such as green energy power storage, backup power and high-tech manufacturing.
With seaborne cargo throughput up by 1.1 percent at 136.6 million tons, Germany’s largest universal port can report an excellent result for 2019. In the face of a slowdown in worldwide trade and trade sanctions, Hamburg gave a good account of itself in a difficult environment.
“The Port of Hamburg is not only one of Europe’s top logistics hubs, but also powers jobs in Hamburg and a much larger area,” said Senator Michael Westhagemann. “A total of up to 165,000 workers directly and indirectly employed there ensured that we were able to start the year with these very gratifying figures. The marked increase in container handling, growth in total seaborne cargo throughput, and the disproportionate leap in environment-friendly railborne hinterland traffic, all show that the Port of Hamburg is on the right course. Yet it is also obvious that we cannot rest on our laurels. We are therefore continuously stepping up the port’s performance: Such major projects as the fairway adjustment and replacement of the Rethe and Kattwyk bridges represent vital assets for our port customers all over the world.”
In the seaport-hinterland transport segment of such importance for the Port of Hamburg, it was environment-friendly container transport by rail that achieved double-digit growth. In 2019 a total of 2.7 million TEU were transported between the terminals in the Port of Hamburg and those in the hinterland. That represents an increase of 10.4 percent, setting a fresh record for Hamburg’s Port Railway. In 2019, this handled some 62,000 freight trains with around 1.7 million boxcars. Total freight volume transported was up by three percent at 48.2 million tons.
In 2019, 5.8 million TEU – up by 7.8 percent – and 97.5 million tons – up by 0.8 percent – were shifted in seaport-hinterland transport by rail, truck and inland waterway. The rail share of hinterland transport to/from Hamburg was 46.3 percent for containers, and one percent up at 49.4 percent by tonnage. The corresponding share for trucking was 41.4 percent and for inland waterway craft, 9.2 percent. “In achieving a new record, Hamburg further extended its position as Europe’s leading rail port. Transferring freight shipments to rail and inland waterways helps to relieve pressure on roads,” stressed Ingo Egloff, Joint CEO of Port of Hamburg Marketing. This strong position is very largely based on the significant number of more than 100 liner services linking Hamburg with the great majority of over 1,000 seaports around the world. “Along with the inauguration of four new transatlantic liner services bringing us substantial growth in container transport with the USA and Mexico, a new service to Asia and one to India, along with two multi-purpose services, produced additional cargo. We are maintaining this upswing in 2020,” explained Axel Mattern, Ingo Egloff’s colleague on HHM’s Executive Board.
“Twelve months ago I said at this point that the Port of Hamburg was on the offensive again. The figures we now have for 2019 provide impressive proof – and should also convince all those who are otherwise inclined to look to the future with scepticism on the subject of the port,” stated Jens Meier, CEO of Hamburg Port Authority. “We are continuing dedicated investment in infrastructure and digitalization to keep the port on the successful course we have adopted. In recent weeks, for example, HPA achieved important milestones with the construction of the new Kattwyk rail bridge and the new Burchardkai link. Both will make our port more efficient and fit for the future.”
In 2019 a total of 2.6 million TEU – up 1.7 percent – were handled in seaborne container traffic with China, Hamburg’s most important trading partner. “For the moment it remains impossible to be precise about the repercussions of the corona virus on volumes in foreign trade with China. Depending on how long restrictions last in the Chinese economy, a marked downswing could occur. With some delay, that would then be reflected in freight handling to/from China in Hamburg. We can only assess the position at the end of the quarter, at the earliest,” estimated Mattern. HHM’s Executive Board assumes that downturns in rail transport between China and Hamburg can also be expected. The new Silk Road meanwhile offers more than 200 overland services per week in addition to daily services with China by sea. By comparison with other centres in Europe, the total number of containers handled by sea and land in Hamburg makes us the leading hub for China freight by a wide margin,” stated Mattern. For both the maritime and overland Silk Road, Hamburg is the central hub for handling freight services.
Enlargement of the fairway on the Lower and Outer Elbe is also making good progress.
Work on widening two sections of the fairway adjustment has been completed. On the segment of the Elbe widened by the WSV – Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration – as far as the Hamburg state border, known as the ‘passing box’, since 29 January 2020 vessels with a combined width of up to 98 metres have been able to pass each other safely. Until now the limit was 90 metres. The widening of the passing box along the remaining stretch of three kilometres, on Hamburg territory, will be completed by mid-year. On completion of this measure, the permissible breadth of the ships will be further raised. “With the initial fairway widening of the Elbe meanwhile completed, we are on a good course, immediately improving the conditions for calls by mega-ships,” said Axel Mattern. “For the shipping industry and our port customers, this is really gratifying news for the start of the year.”
For shipowners, the fairway adjustment not only simplifies calls at Hamburg, but facilitates transport of extra cargo. “Greater draft and an easier situation for passing on the Elbe permit improved utilization of transport capacity on the ships,” explained Mattern. Once the Elbe has been deepened, large containerships or bulk carriers will be able to bring or take away around 18,000 tons more cargo to/from Hamburg. In 2019 the Port of Hamburg recorded a total of 684 calls by ULCs – ultra-large containerships – with slot capacities of more than 10,000 TEU. Last year, 165 of these were in the 18,000-plus TEU category. This represented growth of ten percent, underlining the necessity of adjusting the fairway. The port and its handling terminals are already handling mega-carriers with slots capacities in excess of 21,000 TEU. Looking to the future, they are also preparing to safely handle arrivals and departures by even larger vessels. “With the ‘HMM Algeciras’ in May, we are expecting the first call by a mega-carrier with a slot capacity of 24,000 TEU,” said Mattern.
For 2020, the Port of Hamburg’s marketing organization anticipates a stable result on container traffic and a slight increase in bulk cargo handling.
With a rise of eCommerce giants such as Amazon, with Prime, Click and Collect and even delivery within a few hours of ordering, are we, as consumers, and as vehicle brands, being blinded by a trend for instant satisfaction?
There is a general trend across all industries, not just automotive aftermarket, toward service lead by consumer demand for convenience. Are overnight, and even same day, delivery standards making retailers stock less? Does this, ironically, translate into a worse service for customer as retailers cease to hold stock themselves?
The speakers will discuss how to become more cost-efficient while improving supply chain resilience against a backdrop of highly uncertain market conditions over the next year.
To register for free and be part of the interactive Q&A visit eVirtual.live
Building upon the e-commerce services that DSV already provides, DSV is launching e-Commerce Solutions, a comprehensive set of e-commerce services for shippers that serve end customers directly. The new service combines a standardised warehousing process, off-the-shelf automation concepts, IT integration and implementation into a streamlined service.
“The beauty of DSV e-Commerce Solutions is that it offers a seamless suite of services for e-commerce, giving customers visibility and control over their operations, stock levels and last-mile delivery to their end customers. The service includes a templated process, off-the-shelf automation modules, operational optimisation algorithms that bolt onto the central Warehouse Management System (WMS) and a pre-configured Distribution Management Platform for last-mile delivery,” says Hugo van Daal, Director e-Commerce of DSV’s Solutions division.
“Over recent years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of orders shipped directly to end customers. More and more shippers are asking for integrated solutions and DSV, as one of the world’s largest transport and logistics providers, is ideally equipped to offer these,” explains Van Daal.
“DSV’s activities in setting up sizable e-commerce operations for major consumer brands have gathered pace over the past few years, and we now run multiple mega-sized e-commerce facilities around the logistics hotspots in Europe, North America and Asia,” continues Van Daal. “Our new e-Commerce Solutions extend these capabilities from mostly dedicated warehouse operations into a true multi-user environment. This gives our customers much more flexibility and significantly reduces implementation times.”
Ronald Poort, Chief Commercial Officer of DSV’s Solutions division, adds: “We manage multi-channel operations for the majority of DSV’s long-standing e-commerce customers. It is the combination of retail flows – with the direct-to-consumer flows and notably the fluctuations and shifts or migrations from one channel to the other – that creates complexity. We have now combined our system capabilities with our specialist expertise to tackle these challenges.”
“We expect double-digit growth in single-line and small orders to continue for a number of years, and thanks to DSV e-Commerce Solutions we are now in an excellent position to scale our service offering across the worldwide DSV network,” concludes Poort.