It works!

With, the German e-commerce pioneer for mass-produced furniture, every lay person can easily become a carpenter. The secret of the company’s success is maximum flexibility – in the products themselves, but also in the highly automated manufacturing processes. An important element of this sophisticated system is the TRANSBOT driverless transport system from HOMAG.

Why is there no standard for pitched roofs? And what’s this offset in the wall for? As far as interior fittings are concerned, there are challenges that neither large furniture companies nor relevant online portals have a really satisfactory solution for. In such cases, people who were not ready to comprise approached their local master joiner; today, the home computer offers an alternative.

Carpentry 4.0 is a phrase that could be used to sum up the business model of succinctly. The former startup has been a success story for nine years now. In Rheinbach, south of Cologne in Germany, the company has been producing the furniture designed independently by its customers to the precise millimeter in the 3D configurator for three years. From the very beginning, it was clear that batch size 1 and rigid production logistics would never be compatible. Instead, the team invested in an extremely adaptable, highly automated cell concept. Andreas Heinzmann, Professor at Technischen Hochschule Rosenheim (Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences) and member of the advisory board of, clarifies the company’s philosophy: “We are a highly flexible production company with a very strong focus on the current market. This also means that, today, we don’t know which products we will be producing tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or in two years’ time. Thanks to the flexibility in our production concept, we can easily adapt our production logic to the latest requirements so that we are in a position to satisfy customer-specific requests both today and in the future.”

Something’s still missing for Prduction
In practice, however, a not insignificant flaw soon became clear: the material transports between the automated cells were performed manually. Industry 1.0 at the center of the high-tech machine pool. It was not uncommon for employees on the machines or downstream processing cells to be waiting for material due to the operator being busy with logistics tasks. A solution had to be found for connecting cells that work independently of one another to create a fully automated, variably adjustable production concept.

It is precisely this solution for that HOMAG provides, with the catchy name TRANSBOT. The self-driving transport robots connect individual processing machines, automated cells, or even manual workstations together logistically. They navigate freely through the space without any need for mechanical aids such as rails or magnetic strips. This is precisely what makes them so flexible when handling logistics tasks. If changes are made in the production process, the TRANSBOT travel paths in fleet management can be effortlessly adapted to the new conditions.

The enormous freedom: TRANSBOT works without any navigational aids such as rails or magnetic strips.

Automated Guided Vehicle
An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a floor-level means of transport with its own drive unit which is controlled automatically and guided without any contact. AGVs are used to transport materials, specifically to pull or carry goods to be transported with active or passive load-lifting equipment.

Flexible Interlinking of Processing Cells
Driverless transport systems interlink flexible, fully automated productive processing centers to form an overall concept, the “autonomous cell”. The “autonomous cell” can demonstrate its full flexibility in both trade and industry, from series production to batch size 1 production.

The combination of TRANSBOT and fleet management is comparable to the interaction found in self-driving cars that A G V The enormous freedom: TRANSBOT works without any navigational aids such as rails or magnetic strips. Flexible intralogistics for 20 edge 2019 issue It works! chart your journey with the aid of a navigation system and sensors. Prof. Heinzmann: “In production, we use highly flexible, automated cells, some of which are equipped with robotics. We want to think bigger when it comes to cells. We want to think bigger when it comes to units. And the transport robot from HOMAG is the perfect match for our philosophy of flexible production. This is the main reason why we put our faith in HOMAG and opted for this system. To stay flexible, but also to forge ahead with automation in a scalable system.”

Approaching Machine 4 …
Since July 2018, the TRANSBOTs have been in use at, linking the production stages of CNC processing and edging – both in closed, automated processing cells. The position of the machines or processing cells in relation to one another plays only a secondary role from the perspective of the TRANSBOTs. Once the processing of a material in a production step is finished, the material is stacked on coffee table-like structures known as trays. At, these stacking routines are completed by various robots that are integrated in the cells. Once a stack is complete, a TRANSBOT moves underneath the tray, lifts it, and transports the stack out of the machine. Its path takes it either directly to the machine on which the panels are to be processed in the next stage, or to a “buffer station” between the processing steps. The buffer station has 20 positions on which empty trays can be set aside and full trays can be stored ready for use until the material is needed. The added value of this sustainable logistics solution is clearly noticeable, as Prof. Heinzmann confirms: “The machines can now provide real added value, as we are able to separate our logistics from our direct machine operation thanks to the driverless transport system.”

Of course, there was some work involved in implementing the system: travel orders had to be generated, order data had to be managed, and data had to be provided. However, this work was easy with the right HOMAG software. The ControllerMES manufacturing execution system organizes the production processes optimally and perfects the interaction of machines and manual workstations – from intelligent configuration and optimization of the production data, to the production planning and ultimately the completeness check after final assembly.

Prof. Andreas Heinzmann: “Our collaboration with HOMAG has been a huge success – from the outset to the acquisition phase, right through to the service we are currently receiving. When I consider the entire production journey, including the way in which the TRANSBOTs communicate with the robot cells, how the exchange takes place, and how the buffer management works – and by that, I mean not only that we maintain our flexibility but are also able to generate a high level of automation – these expectations have absolutely been fulfilled. We are extremely satisfied, and would choose intralogistics from HOMAG again.”

So speaks a man who knows that it works.

Components wait at the “buffer station” for their fully automated further transport.

Short Responce Times
Easy retrospective changes to the product range and processing order are possible, with an availability of almost 100 percent.

Step by step into the digital world
Preparing and networking production in an existing business ready for digitalization? That initially sounds like a mammoth task. For small- and medium-sized businesses, this is often one of the reasons why they don’t risk taking the step towards digital production. However, our three networking concepts show that you don’t have to follow the “all or nothing” principle – there is an approach for every requirement: the user can decide on individual machines, smart hardware, smart software, and digital assistants that communicate with one another and integrate these into their workshop. Each concept includes different focuses and modules, allowing every business to put together the components and digital products that are right for them.

At some point, almost every business faces the question of how best to get started. Our “Digital entry” workshop concept has the answer. This concept gives the user more transparency in production, recognizes potential for optimization, and improves existing production processes.

In the “Networked digital workshop” concept, each machine is operated by one employee. With this concept, the work preparation, machinery, and bench room areas are separate from one another. Some of the job data is available to machine users in digital form.

For medium-sized wood-processing businesses, we have developed processing cells that can be extended on a modular basis. Each individual cell is already an ideal solution for efficient panel processing. The individual cells are networked via a TRANSBOT, which is our name for the driverless transport robots. The ControllerMES production control system takes over higher level control. All of these elements come together to form a fully autonomous and automated, variably adjustable production concept for batch size 1 production – from cutting through to fully packed furniture.

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