VDMA Tech Talk: "VDA 5050 for Automated Guided Vehicles"

20-foot and 40-foot – international logistics would be unimaginable without these two standard dimensions for steel containers. The situation is similar for intralogistics in factories and warehouses: A communication standard for automated guided vehicles that enables the use of a wide variety of mobile robots from different manufacturers with one control system increases efficiency, cost optimization and the flow of goods many times over.

Watch the recording of the VDMA webinar "Tech Talk: VDA 5050 for Automated Guided Vehicles" here.

Our SYNAOS CPO Dr Lennart Bochmann was also part of the panel and discussed with industry experts the practicality and future perspectives of the standardized communication interface VDA 5050:

10 Questions & Answers About the Communication Standard VDA 5050

Currently, there are many rumors and half-knowledge on the topic of VDA 5050. During the webinar, questions arose that remained unanswered. We provide clarity. We invite you to read the following ten relevant questions and answers on the topic of the VDA 5050 communication standard.  

Question 1: Are there any concrete figures on how large the VDA 5050 share is in the implementation of new projects? 

Answer: We perceive that in the automotive industry all new projects require VDA5050. This is particularly true for OEMs, but automotive suppliers also largely rely on VDA5050 for new projects.      


Question 2: Isn’t it true that the more intelligent the AGVs become, the more general the rules and standards could and should become? 

Answer: Even intelligent AGVs such as AMRs need rules and standards to meet all market requirements. This topic has a high priority in the VDA 5050 working group. So, AMRs will be much more considered in future versions of VDA 5050.  

Question 3: What about the topic of functional safety? Will specifications also be created here? The background to this is the task of entering and leaving safety areas.

Answer: The topic of safety areas could be dealt with as part of the next chapter "Maps and Zones". The implementation is planned for the next major version 3.0.0.   

Question 4: Is something like a neutral certification (authority) planned? If master control supplier and AGV manufacturer claim to be VDA5050 compliant, experience shows that interconnection must be far from trouble-free!

‍Answer: VDMA is planning an official test environment or test software that will test all basic requirements and functionalities for each of the involved sides (master control system & AGV) based on a simple message exchange. But of course, this will not replace onboarding.

A qualitative onboarding between the master control system and AGV remains an essential phase - no matter if it is initiated in advance by a partnership and strategic alignment of both parties or triggered by a joint project at a customer. That's why we at SYNAOS pay close attention during VDA 5050 onboarding to test and fine-tune many borderline cases in advance. However, VDA 5050 facilitates the cooperation between the parties enormously, because the framework is clarified from the beginning and "only" the details must be discussed. This shortens onboarding by many months. And without the standard, it would hardly be feasible.    

Question 5: In your opinion, does it make sense for an MES* manufacturer to deal with this standard? 

Answer: Yes, absolutely. Especially in projects involving the interlinking of production plants. Here, the MES already has certain information at hand and can use it well to efficiently control the transport process via FTFs. 

* MES = Manufacturing Execution System

Question 6: How can the topic of VDA 5050 be included in the specifications?

Answer: By listing it as a separate chapter. Here, customers should define as precisely as possible what they understand by VDA 5050, i.e., which version at least is to be used and with which master control systems (third-party systems) the AGV manufacturers have already worked in advance. This is because a VDA 5050 implementation that only considers the proprietary control system often includes in-house developed additions that bypass the standard.

Question 7: Keyword interoperability: How relevant will the networking of heterogeneous fleets or intralogistics in general be in the future? 

Answer: In intralogistics, there is a very clear trend towards more automation. One of the main reasons for this is the shortage of skilled workers. On the other hand, the requirements for mobile robots and process solutions are also growing more and more. Customers are always interested first and foremost in the best process solution for them. To this end, they also look at mobile robot providers that they are not yet familiar with or that are not yet part of their mobile robot fleet. For this reason alone, interoperability plays a very important role. Because the degree of automation in intralogistics will continue to increase in the future, this makes it impossible and uneconomical to operate individual solutions in isolation.

However, automation is an expensive and lengthy process that is unattractive to customers if it only involves extensions to existing systems. That is why more and more customers are interested in optimally combining new and existing automation solutions - instead of strictly separating automation areas.

Question 8: What is the concrete benefit of VDA 5050 if I, as an end customer, have two or three robot fleets from different Mobile Robot manufacturers, for example?

Answer: There are several positive effects here:  

  • First, end customers only have to operate one master control system (instead of two or three). This means less complexity.  
  • All vehicles are visible and controllable for the user in this one environment.  
  • In addition, all vehicles are uniformly controlled by one traffic management system.
  • Holistic job optimization and control is another major advantage. 
  • All IT interfaces are bundled. Instead of three systems, only one system needs to be connected. 
  • Necessary updates, upgrades, maintenance or new versions of software packages (Windows Server, SAP 4Hana, etc.) only affect this one system.  
  • Key users only need to be trained on a single master control system. This saves resources and creates capacity.  
  • The organization of support cases can be bundled. 
  • In modernization projects, fleets can be partially renewed without having to replace the master control software. 
  • Similarly, the control software can be changed without adapting the robot fleet.

Question 9: What efficiency and cost advantages does VDA5050 offer me? And hand on heart: What are the current limitations of VDA 5050? 

Answer: What efficiency and cost advantages does VDA5050 offer me? And hand on heart: What are the current limitations of VDA 5050?

The fact that AMRs are limited in their ability to act and function is currently still considered a limitation. 

Question 10: Is it possible to make existing mobile robot fleets VDA5050-compliant? 

Answer: Certainly. But here the ball is in the court of the Mobile Robot manufacturers, who must answer this question individually. The fact is that mobile robot fleets can also be retrofitted. This is often accompanied by an update of the software on the part of the AGV manufacturer. It is therefore essential to clarify with the AGV manufacturer what costs will be incurred for this. This then determines the business case as to whether a retrofit could be worthwhile.

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