Mobile robot frees up 3 full-time employees

Manufacturer moves parts through facility with robots and moves humans to value-added tasks.

By ·

Magna-Power is a growing, family-owned company that manufactures programmable power products for industrial and research applications around the world from its 73,000-square-foot facility in Flemington, N.J. After deploying two collaborative mobile robots, the company has improved logistics and efficiency, freeing the equivalent of three full-time employees from the repetitive, low-value transportation of components and assemblies.

With thousands of different product configurations possible, every power product is made to order. To remain globally competitive, the company has vertically integrated its operations, bringing nearly all operations in-house. The challenge was to increase efficiency in moving parts and subassemblies from the stockroom through multiple operations—from machining through several assembly steps to final testing.

“What we found is that moving materials around the different operations of the company takes up a lot of resources,” says Adam Pitel, Magna-Power vice president of operations. “People were moving from one department to another all day long.”

In addition, there was often a backlog at the stockroom window as multiple employees tried to deliver or access parts at once. While stockroom employees did their best to kit all the material for a particular job, sometimes parts were missing or weren’t ready at the time of kitting, which required an employee to later hand-deliver one or two parts at a time. It was challenging to manage how many people were in the stockroom or out making deliveries, or to know how long those deliveries would take.

Two new collaborative, autonomous mobile robots (MiR) now manage the transportation of parts and assemblies throughout the manufacturing facility. The robots, nicknamed Scotty and Chekov, are programmed to run “bus routes” throughout the facility.

Stockroom employees kit and load bins on the robots’ top module shelving, using magnetic identification labels for each department. The robot moves to each of its programmed checkpoints where employees can pause the robot to unload kits and load finished assemblies to go back to inventory. Once it returns to the stockroom, the robot automatically connects to its charging station while being reloaded.

Pitel calculates that the robots free the equivalent of three full-time employees from pushing carts around the facility, allowing them to focus on the high-value jobs they were hired to do.

“The purpose of the robot is not to replace employees, but to make them more efficient with their time,” Pitel says.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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