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In 2010 a decision was made to change the control system in the AGVs that move the engines between the 650 stations on the five assembly lines, where they perform various assembly steps and also test start engines.

The AGVs have been in the plant since it was built 20 years ago. The communication and safety systems were becoming obsolete and access to spare parts was increasingly difficult. Volvo wanted to upgrade the technology to improve personal safety and increase flexibility and availability in the long run.

The 300 AGVs that travel around in the assembly hall receive their instructions on where to go from an internal system. The old technology, with antennas embedded in the floor, would now be replaced by flexible communication equipment to enable more information exchange between mobile and fixed equipment.

“Volvo wanted a more open communication system with an open interface so that the maintenance department would know their way around. Unlike a PC solution that can be compared to a black box that you can’t get into, a PLC solution is open and significantly more flexible,” says Roland Krantz, purchasing manager at Jernbro in Skövde who was commissioned by Volvo to implement the project.


A new graphic interface has been connected to the AGV’s. The rigid push button has been replaced by an interface that can be modified if needed.

“It is much easier to redo the layout and switch engine types. It is much simpler and flexible for the operators,” says Jesper Himmerman, a service engineer working with hardware, AGV electronics and configuration of the industrial network at Jernbro.

“Communication is faster, flexibility is greater and it’s a system that Volvo recognises and has the potential to develop further as they have their own experts that know the system. This is a big advantage,” says Per Knutsson, project manager at Jernbro.

Now when an AGV arrives at a station it knows what kind of engine is involved. There are five assembly lines, with default settings on each that differ according to the engine type and whether it runs on petrol or diesel. The carrier raises or lowers itself depending on the engine type to be transported. The system can also individually adapt the carriers so that they raise or lower themselves automatically according to the height of the fitters.


During the three-week break in the summer of 2012, Jernbro changed the system and upgraded five AGV’s every third day – at the height of production.

“It was a logistics puzzle, we worked with monthly material batches and changed the system during full production. Coordinating all suppliers was complex but we did it on time and without disrupting production,” says Roland Krantz.

“I didn’t think it would work as well as it did. We reprogrammed all 300 AGVs and it went surprisingly well,” says Martin Bratt, PLC programmer at Jernbro – and responsible for the creation and programming of the extensive data management and communication platform.

Availability is now higher and communication is faster but the absolute greatest advantage is flexibility.



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Pär Knutsson, Skövde (Southwest) Sales Manager Automation +46104831184 Email

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