Mobile robots made in Slovakia take automation at automotive plants to the next level

Yellow-black automated guided vehicles supply production lines with components, assisting in warehouses or serving as an assembly line.

The test hall of the technological company Asseco CEIT in Žilina looks a bit like a playground.The test hall of the technological company Asseco CEIT in Žilina looks a bit like a playground. (Source: Courtesy of Asseco CEIT)

Entering the test hall of the innovative technological company Asseco CEIT in Žilina, one is quickly overhelmed with all the beeping and flashing of the yellow-black flat angled devices whirring around, closely watched by engineers in boiler suits. The robots are quick to warn any visitor who steps into their area: they stop at a secure distance and intensively flash their lights, later intensifying their beeping to force the intruder out of their way.

“It has not happened yet that it didn’t stop,” said Andrea Chudá, CEO of Asseco CEIT, as she steps out of the way of an automated guided vehicle (AGV). Today, robots can handle everything that their designers and programmers can. “What they can’t do, for now, is improvise, or act without an algorithm written in advance.”

One of tested devices is an enhanced autonomous AGV forklift that lifts wooden pallets off the ground and places them on a rack in the corner.

“By developing an autonomous AGV forklift, we have extended our AGV portfolio and, at the same time, responded to a challenge on the market – the lack of qualified forklift operators,” said Chudá. “Due to the coronavirus-instigated boom in e-commerce, we are already registering potential customers outside the automotive industry.”

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In the hall, her company tests all the devices and solutions it develops and supplies to its clients, including those it is developing as prospective products that will be in demand on the market in the future.

It started with an offer from a carmaker

The company started as the Slovak Centre of Productivity in 1998, the commercial initiative of three professors from the University of Žilina. At first, its scope of activities was quite extensive, with the main focus on industrial consulting.
The breakthrough moment arrived in 2007, when a top manager of the Slovak arm of the German carmaker Volkswagen in Bratislava approached them with the idea of developing an automated guided vehicle for intra-logistics.

The company took up the challenge and designed a prototype with the required characteristics. After the prototype proved its qualities at production, the yellow trucks for automated material transport gradually became the flagship of CEIT, making it an important Slovak player in the modernisation of industrial plants.

Now 363 AGVs autonomously supply production lines with components and serve at warehouses in Bratislava’s Volkswagen plant. Fleets of AGVs are deployed in other plants of the Volkswagen group, for example at Škoda in Mladá Boleslav, Kvasiny and Vrchlabí, the Czech Republic, Audi in Győr, Hungary, as well as in Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany.

“There is already a fourth generation of AGVs,” said Chudá.

Vehicles running production lines

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