With the VDA 5050 standard, an interface has been created that pushes the logistics industry to the next level. The big vision behind it: to control driverless transport vehicles independently of their manufacturers.
The standardization of communication between hardware (the AGVs) and software (control system) enables the operation of manufacturer-independent fleets. On the shop floor, AGVs, AMRs and other vehicles from different manufacturers can perform their work together – controlled and optimized from a central location. Increased heterogeneity offers many advantages for the user, for example by enabling financial savings and optimal flexibility. Simplification and unification offer additional advantages by increasing efficiency and quality.
The VDA 5050 specification can be described as a common approach for standardizing communication. This project was initiated by users, specifically by the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). Installations have continued to grow, but no solution on the market was able to cover all the requirements. The new interface makes “Plug & Play” a reality even for intralogistics and production: A new vehicle should be hooked into an existing system quickly and take on transport jobs rapidly. High implementation costs are eliminated.
Plug and Play for the Industry
In many areas of consumer electronics, this has already been the case for a long time: Users can easily plug a new printer into their PC via USB. They do not have to worry about the cumbersome process of driver installation and configuration because the operating system takes care of it. New AGVs and other vehicles and robots that are integrated into an existing fleet need to be up and running as quickly as possible. This makes it possible to create a heterogeneous fleet in a short time and expand the fleet easily as needed. A national standard – which will be recognized internationally at some point – should also strengthen German manufacturers and leave them in a better position globally. After all, the goal is to rapidly commission AGVs from German manufacturers even in China.
The VDA 5050 is a standardized communication interface between the automated vehicles and the backend software, that is, the master control system. The standard provides a unified data language and defines specifically how jobs, map information, the status of AGVs and errors are communicated. In addition, the VDA 5050 even prescribes technical implementation: For example, communication is defined via the robust MQTT standard (Message Queuing Telemetry Transport).
Apart from automotive manufacturers, AGV manufacturers are also involved in developing the VDA 5050 standard, specifically the VDMA Materials Handling and Intralogistics trade association. Experts are developing the standard on a joint project team, including the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and SYNAOS.
VDA 5050 at SYNAOS
At SYNAOS, VDA 5050 onboarding is a crucial element of a typical project process. This structured process allows hardware manufacturers to implement the VDA 5050 for an AGV with a high degree of efficiency and quality. SYNAOS also develops validators to analyze and check whether communication is actually VDA 5050-compliant. SYNAOS has built up a wide network of AGV partners for improved synergy and distribution of VDA 5050.
The new interface passed its first public live test in March 2021 at the AGV Mesh-Up. This multi-day test was part of the IFOY TEST CAMP in Dortmund. There, a central control system controlled the automated vehicles of six different vehicles and guided them reliably across an activity space. This supplied important evidence of the capacity for interoperability. At SYNAOS, we began successfully controlling automated vehicles from the cloud using VDA 5050 on our own premises in late 2019.
The number of intralogistics providers who use the VDA 5050 standard has already grown considerably. In the future, stakeholders aim to further pursue and reinforce the open-source and community approach of VDA 5050. For example, the source code will be published openly on the development platform GitHub to promote rapid further development. Another important goal is for the VDA 5050 standard to be incorporated into the DIN and ISO standards and thus find international recognition. The potential of this new standard is far from exhausted, and the prospects are highly promising.