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Mobile robots bring flexibility to the line at Otis Technology

At Otis Technology, the laser-guided vehicles shaved over an hour of walk time per employee.
April 14, 2011

At Otis Technology’s Lyons Falls facility, mobile robots, automated storage and warehouse management (WMS) come together to enable lean manufacturing and distribution.

Receiving: Raw materials and parts are received (1) and staged briefly while an associate verifies the count and scans bar codes to enter the newly received inventory into Otis’ WMS.

Once the receipt has been counted and verified, a stock movement is created in the WMS and the inventory is ready for putaway. 

Putaway: Product can be putaway in several locations.

If an item is hot, it’ll be placed on one of the mobile robots and automatically directed to one of the work centers in the manufacturing area (2).

Items going into storage will be placed on a pallet for putaway in the unit-load automatic storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) (3) or into a blue bin if the product will be stored in the mini-load AS/RS (4). Either way, the product is delivered to an induction area. There, it will be automatically laser scanned and associated with a specific storage location in one of the two automated storage units. That product is now available to promise in the system.

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Picking: When associates receive a work order, they scan a bar code on a work card. That signal tells the AS/RS (4) to retrieve materials from storage and deliver them to a fulfillment area known as a supermarket (5). There, an associate scans the items to a bin. Each robot will typically carry four bins. Once the order has been pulled, the mobile robot is ready to make a delivery to one or more work centers in the manufacturing area (2) if it will be making multiple stops.

Once the robot arrives at a work center, it parks and beeps. The robot tells the associate which load is for that workstation. Once the load has been removed, the associate loads any empty containers at the workstation, and presses a button that the receiving is complete. The robot then continues to its next task.

Typically, an associate has two bins at a workstation. When the first bin is empty, the worker presses a call button for the next delivery. Likewise, once a full bin in assembly of finished product has been completed, that product will be routed to the next workstation on the assembly line or to the supermarket if it will go into temporary storage.

Product ready for shipment to the military is sent to a packaging area (6) at the end of the order assembly and kitting area (7), where it is bagged, boxed, palletized and stretchwrapped (8) and then staged in the shipping area (1).

All other finished goods will be delivered to a packaging area where they are kitted in plastic molded pieces and heat sealed. After that, they are delivered back to the AS/RS for storage until they are ready for shipment.

Picking orders for shipment: Customer orders are created in the WMS. When an associate scans a pick ticket, bins and pallets are pulled from the AS/RS and delivered to the supermarket area. There, the associate picks the quantity required for the order and scans the items to a bin location for that order on a cart. Once the order is completed, a mobile robot delivers the cart to a packaging area where the items are packaged for parcel shipments or palletized and stretch wrapped for LTL shipments. The orders are now ready for delivery.

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About the Author

Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.


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