What is VDA 5050? How will it work? And do you need to keep it in mind when investing in automated guided vehicles today? Let's delve deeper.
What is VDA 5050?
VDA 5050 is - or will be when complete - a standard interface for AGV communication. It concerns the communication between AGVs and a master control (in other words a fleet management software program).
Who is developing VDA 5050?
VDA 5050 comes from Europe, specifically from the German auto industry. It is the result of a collaboration between the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and the VDMA Materials Handling and Intralogistics Association.
What does VDA 5050 aim to achieve?
The problem that VDA 5050 attempts to solve is this:
Today there are numerous AGV suppliers on the market. However, each supplier's AGVs typically only work with their own fleet management software. As soon as a customer wants to use AGVs from other manufacturers on the same site, this presents several challenges:
- Complicated commissioning (installation). A separate installation (software project) is needed for each separate brand of AGV.
- Interoperability challenges. If using different management software, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to manage different brands of AGV, for example, if they need to cross paths or share an elevator.
- Space challenges. Since most AGV systems cannot currently 'talk to each other', traffic control becomes a problem, leading to the use of separate paths around the site for each brand of AGV. This, of course, requires much more space on-site than running a single fleet.
Customers, however, are increasingly demanding better. Particularly those large organizations that run complex, space-tight production sites, such as automotive manufacturers.
The VDA 5050 standard, therefore, aims to:
- Resolve interoperability issues, making it easy to manage different AGVs who need to cross paths, share an elevator or otherwise interact.
- Simplify installation and management, by allowing all VDA 5050 compliant AGVs to use the same fleet management software.
- Reduce the amount of space needed on site. Since VDA 5050-based vehicles will be able to communicate to a central server effectively, they will be able to share paths.
Note: Today companies can already avoid these issues by using vehicles that are driven by ANT by BlueBotics. Many of the 100 or so 'ANT driven' AGVs and AMRs on the market are already fully interoperable, meaning they can work seamlessly together in one connected, multi-brand fleet. To explore these vehicles, head over to this site's Vehicle Finder and click the 'Multi-brand fleet' filter.
What does VDA 5050 cover?
At the time of writing, the VDA 5050 standard is still under development.
It proposes a standard of communication between and AGV fleet manager (software) and any compliant vehicles that are being operated on-site.
Since VDA 5050 dictates communication between two entities - a fleet manager and the AGVs it controls - the interface will need to be implemented at both ends of this communication channel in order to work effectively. In other words, both the fleet management software, on one hand, and the AGVs themselves, on the other, will need to be compliant.
What is its status today?
At the time of writing (May 2022), two full versions of VDA 5050 have been published. The latest, version 2.0, was published in January 2022.
- Sending 'actions' from the master control to individual vehicles (e.g. slow down, lift fork).
- Allowing a vehicle to send a 'Fact Sheet' that describes its functionality in more detail (e.g. type of vehicle, drive type) to the master control.
In future, VDA 5050 will evolve to cover sending a vehicle sets of commands - one after another - leading to an entire mission being completed. In fact, this is similar to how some existing single-brand fleet managers already work today.
The VDMA is planning to release either version 2.1 or 3.0 (to be confirmed which) in Q1, 2023.
Is that how ANT server works?
AGVs that are driven by ANT navigation and run on the ANT server fleet manager work differently than the bit-by-bit approach outlined above. Instead, ANT driven vehicles are provided with all the mission data they need upfront. This allows them to be as independent as possible from a site's WiFi infrastructure, which makes for robust operation.
See a multi-brand ANT driven fleet in action:
What are the drawbacks of VDA 5050?
The main drawback of VDA 5050 today is that the standard is only a draft. It is not yet complete and is not expected to be for another 2-5 years.
The current version of VDA 5050 only covers the communication of commands to AGVs, vehicle specifications (Fact Sheet sharing) and sending actions. It does not yet cover the numerous other factors that must be managed to ensure a robust multi-brand fleet operation. This deeper level of detail is still to come.
When will VDA 5050 go into effect?
Today, in early 2022, VDA 5050 is proposed as a base standard for discussion and testing. It will evolve over the coming two to five years. Its final publication date has yet to be confirmed.
Will ANT navigation technology be VDA 5050 compliant?
Yes. The BlueBotics team is currently working to make ANT server compliant with VDA 5050, as much as that is possible within the limited specifications available today.
Where can I download the current version of VDA 5050?
A PDF version of VDA 5050 version 2.0 is available from the VDA's website here.
Where can I find a 'VDA 5050 compliant' vehicle?
Since VDA 5050 is still a developing standard, and not yet complete, there are - in truth - no fully 'VDA 5050 compliant' vehicles on the market today.
However, if interoperability between AGV brands is essential to your operation today, it is worth knowing that many of the 100 or so 'ANT driven' AGVs and AMRs on the market are already fully interoperable - meaning these can work together effectively in one connected, multi-brand fleet. To explore these vehicles, head over to this site's Vehicle Finder and click the 'Multi-brand fleet' filter.
Do you still have questions?
If you would like to discuss VDA 5050 further, or if you are curious about the interoperability of ANT driven vehicles, please get in touch. Our expert team will be happy to help.