Quite often, a manual process occurs within the automotive industry, the handling of parts bins that provide a variety of components to supply racks.
In one particular example, an engineered services and products provider’s client’s baseline process involved a six-day-a-week (16 hours per day) operation where employees manually transported bins—each weighing up to 50 kilograms—from the factory’s inventory warehouse to individual supply racks in the assembly area. The supply racks were configured at several different heights (from near ground level to approximately 1.5 meters high), with many racks containing multiple levels.
This manual process was repetitive, ergonomically challenging and labor intensive. And, it represented a clear candidate for automation. However, the volume of material flow, as well as the supply racks’ configuration, made a solution (using existing industry offerings) elusive.
To offer a solution, the engineered services and products provider presented an industry-pioneering vehicle capable of efficiently automating complex materials handling flows and requirements.
The AGV carries two container towers with a storage capacity for up to 20 standard-size parts bins, commonly used in the automotive industry. It’s designed to achieve speeds of up to 2 meters per second and work in conjunction with the engineered services and products provider’s unique factory side buffer station system. In doing so, it can simultaneously load or unload up to 20 bins in less than 20 seconds and deliver individual bins to factory-side supply racks at any height configuration.
Equipped with the engineered services and products provider’s standard vehicle safety and personnel detection sensors, as well as a dual-drive system, the AGV is capable of driving in any direction (forward or reverse), thus minimizing the driving path width and allowing for tighter turning radii, alongside personnel and other equipment.
These vehicles are controlled by the engineered services and products provider’s proprietary and scalable supervisory software system, which offers operation-critical logistical solutions. The software system manages fleet operations, monitors AGV health and status, optimizes battery consumption and charging, and manages traffic flow, all while fulfilling orders flowing from the customer’s warehouse management system.
In addition, it uses a flexible rule-based system that can be customized to a client’s operational needs, and collects the data it needs to make intelligent decisions to maintain an efficient automation system. Its intelligent load handling system allows for multiple loads to be placed onto a vehicle as a single package, and deliver each load individually to different destinations, while also optimizing vehicle routing, drive time and battery usage.
Due to the design of the AGV handling system, the factory side supply racks may be completely passive. There is no requirement for power or any active components on the racks, thereby significantly reducing deployment time, infrastructure costs and maintenance.
Navigation is also free ranging and tailored to a customer’s specific infrastructure requirements; it can be accomplished using magnet grid, laser reflectors or landmarks. And, specialized sensors further improve the navigation, resulting in accuracies better than ~3 mm when docking at material load/unload buffers or racks.
The successful implementation of 15 AGVs, along with an accompanying supervisory system, made a significant impact on the client’s ability to efficiently operate its assembly lines—by providing timely delivery of materials, reducing costs and increasing overall safety.
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