The Evolution of the Smart Factory

Interview with Alfred Pammer, Authorized Officer/Head of Sales and Marketing at cts GmbH

cts mobile robot

After the automation specialist cts GmbH from Burgkirchen in southern Bavaria has already successfully developed and implemented intelligent automation solutions for warehouse applications under the motto 'Smart Warehouse', it is now taking the next logical step and turning towards the material flow in the entire production process. Under the motto 'Smart Factory', the company expands its proven combination of hardware and software into solutions that meet its customers' needs for more efficiency and productivity. In an interview with Wirtschaftsforum, Alfred Pammer, Authorized Officer/Head of Sales and Marketing at cts GmbH, describes the development of the intelligent factory of tomorrow.

Economic Forum: Mr. Pammer, what is the idea behind the Smart Factory?

Alfred Pammer: The goal of the Smart Factory is to make work easier for employees, to make work time more efficient, and to avoid errors. For us, it's about closing existing gaps in the automation of the production process. In doing so, we build on our existing portfolio with new solutions.

Economic Forum: What will the Smart Factory of tomorrow look like?

Alfred Pammer: The core of the Smart Factory are our storage and buffering solutions, which we have been successfully implementing in the electronics and semiconductor industries since 2019, in order to store the required production material in a space-saving manner and close to production. Our cts Smart Warehouse was designed to create as much storage capacity as possible on as little floor space as possible. In its largest configuration, we can accommodate up to 1,100 circuit board magazines on a footprint of only 20 x 4.5 m.

Alfred Pammer, Authorized Signatory / Head of Sales and Marketing at cts GmbH
Alfred Pammer, Authorized Signatory / Head of Sales and Marketing at cts GmbH

We achieve this by going up 4.3 m in height. Depending on the need, however, the size of the Smart Warehouse can be customized.

Economic Forum: How is the content of the Smart Warehouse supplied to the production flow?

Alfred Pammer: We have been engaged with the topic of mobile robotics since 2015 and have developed solutions for the transport of PCB magazines, KLT boxes, stackable containers, as well as pallets. With so-called AMRs (autonomous mobile robots), the needed goods are brought to the production line with utmost flexibility. In conjunction with the Smart Warehouse, the AMRs ensure the automatic supply and disposal of the production line.

cts AMR delivers production parts
cts AMR delivers production parts
cts Packaging System
Stationary robots package the semiconductor wafers 100% airtight

Economic Forum: Are such solutions also profitable for smaller businesses?

Alfred Pammer: In response to the increased inquiries from small and medium-sized customers for smaller solutions, we launched our Mini Smart Warehouse in 2021. It fills an important gap in the market and is aimed at businesses with a storage requirement of less than 300 magazines. Due to its octagonal shape, this is achieved on a particularly small footprint of only 4.2 x 4.2 m or 4.8 x 4.8 m. In this case, the internal handling unit does not move from left to right as with the big brother, but in a circle to reach all storage compartments.

Economic Forum: What gaps still need to be closed?

Alfred Pammer: Especially in the electronics industry, the overall package is important. Very recently this year, we launched our new Gigaflex Reel-Storage Center. When equipping circuit boards, the components are delivered on rolls. These must first be temporarily stored. Through intelligent automatic picking, they are made available just-in-time from the component roll storage. Our solution builds on existing knowledge and stands out by vertical instead of horizontal storage of the reels. Thus, we can store 50,000 7"-reels on approximately 50 m² of floor space, thereby closing the last gap to a fully automated system.

cts Big Smart Warehouse
Smart Warehouse with mobile robots: The storage and retrieval is completely automatic
cts Mini Warehouse
The octagonal Mini Warehouse offers the highest capacity in the smallest space

Economic Forum: Where do the various threads of the Smart Factory come together?

Alfred Pammer: Our cross-platform middleware sloXis® unites all elements in the production environment and acts as an intelligent data hub. Furthermore, the software is designed to be open, allowing for easy integration of third-party hardware.

Economic Forum: What has been the response so far?

Alfred Pammer: The new system is already in operation in many places, and the feedback is very positive. The further order situation is very good. Therefore, we are pleased to be able to move into our new manufacturing facility in the first quarter of 2024. There, we will have expanded capacities to meet our customers' requirements even more quickly.