Mobile robots provide flexible courier services

Autonomous system supports transition to lean manufacturing.

By ·

In 2005, Otis expanded its Lyons Falls, N.Y., operation by opening a 43,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. The project offered the opportunity to reassess manual materials handling practices by evaluating each process to improve efficiencies, increase accuracy and eliminate waste throughout the building. An autonomous mobile robot system with just three units saved nearly 100 labor hours per day, boosting safety, savings and accuracy.

At the new facility, product must safely move from random origin to random destination, undaunted by obstructions, machinery and people. The system is comprised of three mobile robots, automatic battery charging stations, wireless “call” buttons, and an interface computer. Each production station features a wireless robot call button. When the call is received, the central computer uses a dispatch algorithm to select the appropriate vehicle for the task and then wirelessly sends the dispatch instruction to the selected vehicle. Once given the destination and task, the vehicle is free to autonomously navigate through the facility.

At an operator station, the robot is manually loaded with product and then assigned delivery locations with an onboard keypad interface. The operator can select any destination in the building from a pick list, or choose to send some of the load to a first destination and the remainder of the load to a second destination. En route, the robots monitor the state of their batteries and, if time permits, will automatically stop at one of the opportunity charging stations for a rapid top-off taking just 30 to 45 seconds.

Before the implementation of the new system, the only handling solution capable of accomplishing the task was manual labor. Otis is now able to save 94.2 labor hours per day and has improved on-time deliveries from a success rate of 85% to 99.92%. With better visibility into the management of inventory, the company has already seen savings of more than $2 million dollars.

RMT Robotics

Read more from the 2013 Casebook.

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing 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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