Driving the Robotics Revolution

December, 2021

For the following interview we [LoB] came together with Adrian Litterst [AL] from idealworks to get a new perspective on the robot revolution. He talks about automation readiness, idealworks and why a standardized communication is important to reduce complexity.

LoB: Mr. Litterst, thank you for taking the time for this interview. You are Partner Manager at idealworks. Would you mind to introduce yourself, sharing some details on your background?

AL Many thanks for the opportunity of introducing our company idealworks and myself. My name is Adrian Litterst, I grew up close to the beautiful Lake of Constance and have been engaging myself with collaborative robotics in logistics since I started to write my master’s thesis at the BMW Group a few years back. As Partner Manager at idealworks, I am responsible for the integration of robots into our fleet management software AnyFleet, among other things.

LoB: How do you assess the current state of industrial robotics, especially mobile robots, in Europe?

AL: I am happy about every single automated use case where we can free people from monotonous, repetitive tasks to win them over for even more value-adding activities. Mobile robotics is accelerating this development even more so — even if many companies still need to work on their automation readiness. Considering the developments of recent years, caused by the shortage of skilled labor, the threat to competitiveness, etc., automation is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity.

LoB: idealworks, as an independent company, was founded in 2020 and is thus a very young competitor in the mobile robot market. What convinced you about the vision of idealworks?

AL: Well, this is not quite correct: Although we have only started to offer our solution portfolio on the external market at the end of 2020, the start of the development and the corresponding learnings already took place within the BMW Group way before the launch of our spinoff. I was particularly impressed by the holistic know-how idealworks offers, from the hardware on the shop floor to the overall fleet management software in the cloud. Within the BMW Group, we gained countless insights and were able to gather the much-needed experience in the time leading up to the launch of idealworks, which we can build on today. AnyFleet as a central control system for various mobile vehicles to optimize the material flow convinced me immediately. Without such a solution, the successful automation of intralogistics processes would be impossible.

LoB: We currently see many manufacturers in the market, with little differentiation in hardware within the same application area. Often the focus is also not on the hardware, but on the suitable software. Do you think that solutions based on software and compatible hardware assert themselves on the market?

AL: Absolutely — to a large extent, our AMR iw.hub also consists of standardized industrial components. However, central components, such as the industrial PC, our iw.brain, are crucial. The software on the device in combination with a future-proof fleet management system is what makes the difference. It is important to allocate the intelligence of the overall system wisely to both the fleet management system and the robot to be able to offer a scalable system. At idealworks, we offer exactly that.

LoB: There are AMR/AGV manufacturers, especially in the German-speaking area, which focus on the standard VDA 5050. The iw.hub is also equipped with this interface and idealworks’ fleet management software AnyFleet is based on it, too. Do you rate VDA 5050 as indispensable in the future, not only in the German-speaking area, but also globally?

AL: Standardized communication between the robot and the fleet management software immensely simplifies cooperation with partners. Even if the path to the standard is sometimes tedious and time-consuming: without it, my job as Partner Manager would be much more complex. We would first have to find a common basic understanding with each individual manufacturer. In the US, for example, there is a parallel development of other standards. It is safe to say that there’s a worldwide interest. Besides VDA 5050, other approaches which can be used for a connection to AnyFleet are therefore also conceivable.

LoB: What makes AnyFleet unique as a tool for fleet orchestration? Is VDA 5050 important when it comes to the integration of third-party hardware?

AL: Changes in processes, transport routes or even pick-up and drop-off points sometimes occur on a daily basis in logistics. This is precisely where one of the greatest advantages of our AnyFleet control system comes into play in its ease of use and configuration, in that the user can make changes independently and fully free of charge. Currently, we are working on a broad portfolio of integrated robot types and IoT devices to enable and facilitate the selection of suitable automation solutions for our customers.

LoB: How do you envision the importance of robots in warehouses and production facilities in the future? What role should idealworks play in this scenario?

AL: Up to now, quite often only automation processes with the greatest possible potential have been implemented. A rollout of additional solutions is often refrained from, also due to the lack of overarching solutions such as AnyFleet. In order to operate mobile robots from different manufacturers in the same area, orchestration is required not only to enable efficient traffic flow, but also for the collaboration between the robots. At idealworks, we are excited about what the future holds and we look forward to the journey, together with our customers and partners.

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