Delivering a greener future 


We live in a world of convenience, where same-day shipping is the norm, and anything can be bought at the click of a button. But there is an environmental cost to this as one truck is estimated to have the same carbon footprint as 14 people. At a time when the environment is a top consideration, Magway, with the help of Beckhoff technology, is looking to do things differently.  

A recent study from the Centre for London think tank found that diesel and petrol vans ferrying goods and services around the city make up for a quarter or more of London’s greenhouse gas and polluting emissions from transport. With the number of parcels delivered in London expected to double by 2030 and the 2050 target of zero carbon emissions drawing closer, finding a new, sustainable delivery method has become essential.

Wembley-based Magway Ltd. has developed an all-electric delivery solution that produces zero emissions whilst still managing a high capacity. The delivery system can deliver the equivalent of 3,000 articulated lorry loads daily through a single one-metre diameter pipe. Magway is using Beckhoff technology to automate its system.

Distributed servo drives

The underground system comprises a one-metre tube run on a track. On the track itself are track-mounted distributed servo drives. Beckhoff provided the technology in this area, as it was based on AMP8000 distributed servo drive systems which are known to offer compact and flexible solutions for modular machines. Due to Beckhoff’s in-house design and manufacturing capabilities, it was possible to customise a unique variant of the distributed drive system to fit Magway’s requirements.

“Magway is also using the EtherCAT Industrial Ethernet system with its technology,” explained Bradley McEwan, Business Development Manager at Beckhoff UK. “Due to a large number of trucks – and the speeds required from them – EtherCAT is the only bus system that can manage the data load with fast cycle times and minimal infrastructure. This is due to EtherCAT’s virtually limitless network topology options, as the machine’s structure determines the network topology, rather than the other way around.”

Modular automation software

Magway is also relying on Beckhoff’s all-purpose automation software, TwinCAT 3, which runs on Beckhoff Industrial PCs (IPCs) using the Windows alternative TwinCAT/BSD operating system. By standardising on TwinCAT 3, Magway needs only one software platform for programming and configuration, which is easier and more efficient than having to juggle multiple platforms. TwinCAT 3 also provides open interfaces for expandability and adaptation to the tools landscape found in both automation and IT, which means that Magway can adapt the software as the company and its products grow.

TwinCAT/BSD gives Magway flexibility to use widely available Linux-based tools, for example, remote updates to multiple devices. Beckhoff IPCs are designed and built for industrial environments and long-term availability. “The life-cycle advantages of Beckhoff IPCs come from the in-house design and production of our motherboards and owning the BIOS. The system architecture adds further advantages by supporting the execution of any TwinCAT project across the large offering of IPCs in the Beckhoff portfolio. This system architecture fully protects customers from system obsolescence, improving the overall system life cycle,” said Doug Schuchart, Global Material Handling & Intralogistics Manager at Beckhoff.

According to McEwan, these advantages ensure continued support for large infrastructure projects such as Magway’s: “Real-time data monitoring, diagnostics and fault tolerant infrastructure, including redundancy and high availability coupled with marshalling areas, ensures maximum uptime of the system.”

“It has been a close process throughout,” said Rupert Cruise, Technical Director at Magway. “We came to Beckhoff with ideas for the motor and track system, and they helped us make the ideas a reality. This allows us to continue our aims of revolutionising the parcel delivery industry and creating a greener future for everyone.”

Having worked closely on this project, Beckhoff and Magway are now looking at further developments. As an engineering partner, Beckhoff consistently optimises its existing technology to achieve maximum efficiency and performance for Magway.

The companies are working together on integrating MATLAB and Simulink into the programmable logic controller (PLC) in hard real-time. This can be done using TwinCAT 3, as the software already comes linked with the programming language and programming environment of these popular platforms.

The environment and climate change have grown as pressing consumer concerns, with 81% preferring to shop sustainably. This means that companies need to consider ways to gain and maintain zero emissions to match what consumers are looking for. Magway’s delivery system allows companies to switch while keeping the essential high delivery load that consumers demand. Such innovative ways of tackling climate problems are only possible with the right technology, which is why companies like Magway and Beckhoff working together is the future.


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