For four generations, Cours GmbH & Co. KG, based in North Rhine-Westphalia, has successfully established itself in the market of galvanic surface finishing. Around 40 employees at the Velbert site are dedicated to the finishing of components. These consist of a variety of metallic base materials, whereby zinc die-casting is primarily used. The company's customer base includes companies from various sectors, including lock and fitting, automotive, electrical engineering, consumer electronics and medical technology. The automation of internal logistics processes marks a significant step for the company, which recognized the generational change as the perfect time to modernize and automate its processes. 

Three robots control material transport 

The challenge in the surface finishing industry is that many work steps are heavily dependent on human labor. This applies, for example, to the preparation of surfaces and the loading of product carriers. In this context, Cours decided to use autonomous mobile robots (AMR) from Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) for material handling. The AMRs can navigate independently in highly frequented and confined production environments. The choice fell on the MiR600 and MiR1350 models, which can reliably detect and avoid obstacles thanks to their advanced safety functions, including sensors, laser scanners and cameras. 

The use of AMRs at Cours was not only driven by the need to relieve employees of physically strenuous tasks, but also with a view of optimizing processes, increasing efficiency and quality assurance. The robots complete around 300 missions a day, covering an average of 12 kilometers a day and 250 kilometers a month. Depending on the model, they carry loads of 200 to 1100 kilograms, which previously required human labor. 


A challenging environment for the use of mobile robots 

A decisive factor in the choice of Mobile Industrial Robots was the IP52 protection class, particularly important in Cours' often dusty production environments. The flexibility of the AMR enabled easy integration without structural adjustments, allowing flexible use in different production layouts. There is no need to install navigation aids such as induction loops or make excessive modifications to the existing conveyor infrastructure. Cours employees were involved in the implementation process at an early stage, which quickly dispelled any initial prejudices and reservations about the robots. Central control via the Cours Galvano system and MiR's MiR Fleet management software enables precise deployment planning, which means that the robots are always exactly where they are needed.

The partnership with MR Mobile Robots, MiR's integration partner, was crucial to the successful implementation. Despite challenges such as confined spaces and diffuse lighting conditions, the AMRs are able to meet Cours' requirements. The integration process presented some complexity, but at the same time offered employees the opportunity to diversify their areas of work. The expanded skills of the employees include troubleshooting and operating the robots, as well as other more value-adding activities. Through human-robot collaboration, employees can benefit from the advantages of robotics, such as physical and cognitive support, process optimization and increased efficiency. At the same time, they can contribute their creativity, flexibility and willingness to learn in order to adapt to the changed working conditions. Employees thus acquire new skills in robotics that can also benefit them in other areas of digital transformation

Cours 3

Numerous plus points open up new possibilities 

The use of mobile robots brings numerous advantages for Cours. For example, the flexibility of the AMRs enable rapid adaptation to new production layouts without the need for extensive infrastructural changes. The robots' advanced safety functions not only ensure smooth operation, but also promote a high level of safety by minimizing the risk of damage or accidents in the production environment. 

The interoperability of MiR's AMR systems plays a key role in Cours' overall strategy. The integration into existing software landscapes is seamless and enables efficient control of the robots. Synergies are also created with other automated processes in the company. The AMRs can easily communicate with other machines and systems, resulting in a smooth and coordinated process. 

One example of seamless integration is the loading of the electroplating system. The AMRs communicate with this specific system to coordinate processes such as picking up the MiR attachment after the robot has been released or other actions. The REST API makes it possible to control all aspects related to the robots. It also takes control of the production of the entire rack machine. The system control therefore plays a key role in the automation and optimization of production processes. 

A further benefit of AMR technology is the data that is created through integration into existing systems, such as Microsoft Dynamics Navision. Integration into operational processes enables smooth data exchange between AMR and the ERP system.

Investment in the future

More than a year after the introduction of AMRs, Cours has seen a significant increase in efficiency of around 11%. The project illustrates the effectiveness of the investments in the MiR systems and Cours' openness to innovation in a rapidly changing production landscape. Greater efficiency, reduced workload for employees and improved quality assurance are among the visible successes.  

Progress in quality assurance can be seen, for example, in the careful and accurate transportation of customer components. This leads to a significant reduction in component losses across the entire production chain. In addition, orders and components can be assigned precisely, as the MiR AMRs systematically place parts in precisely defined locations. This measure makes a significant contribution to increasing traceability and optimizes the management of components. Lastly, the automated transport processes ensure a structured and tidy working environment. This condition not only has an additional aesthetic benefit, but also promotes general efficiency and work safety. 

With the use of AMRs, Cours is a pioneer in its industry. The implementation also represents a strategic decision that strengthens the company in the long term and makes it fit for the future. Cours demonstrates that the integration of autonomous mobile robots is an investment both in the present and in long-term competitiveness.

Grant using funds from the state of NRW "Investment in growth and employment".  

Special program for the circular economy and resource efficiency - measures to combat the coronavirus crisis