A New Generation of AGVs Are Appealing to…

A New Generation of AGVs Are Appealing to…

Apr 29, 2015

“A New Generation of AGVs Are Appealing to Small- and Midsize Manufacturers” By Austin Weber, Assembly Magazine Once upon a time, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) were only found in warehouses, automotive assembly plants and other operations with large amounts of floor space. But, that’s starting to change. Recent advancements have made the machines more appealing to small- and mid-sized manufacturers in a wide variety of industries. Companies are investing in AGVs to improve plant-floor efficiency and reduce operating cost. As the flexible technology becomes more affordable and easier to use on assembly lines, many manufacturers are deploying driverless carts, robotic parts bins and autonomous tuggers. Manufacturing engineers have more options available than ever. In fact, at last month’s ProMat trade show in Chicago, exhibitors unveiled several new types of machines. “The market is ultra competitive these days,” says Keith Soderlund, vice president of sales at Creform Corp. “Lots of new competitors are driving prices down and capability up.” One of the newest players is Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Ltd., the largest mobile robotics company in India. It made its North American debut at the ProMat show. The company has installed more than 100 AGVs in the last three years for applications such as engine assembly, mobile assembly stations and parts kitting. According to the MHIA’s automated guided vehicle systems group, an AGV consists of one or more computer-controlled, wheel-based load carriers. The battery-powered devices operate without a driver and come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Engineers can choose between tuggers that pull a string of carts or trailers in a train; unit load carriers that move subassemblies and work-in-process from one assembly station to another; forked pallet trucks that interface with pickup and drop off points on the plant floor; and automated guided carts (AGCs) that are smaller, cheaper and easier to install than traditional AGVs. AGCs are popular for applications where lighter loads and flexibility are required. AGVs and AGCs have defined paths or areas within which or over which they can navigate. Navigation is achieved by several means, such as following a path defined by surface-mounted magnetic tape or optical strips. Laser guidance, GPS and vision systems are also...

Digital factories: The fourth industrial revolution?

Digital factories: The fourth industrial revolution?

Apr 16, 2015

Is this a vision of the future of industry? Fewer workers, more machines, fully automated          

Assembly Automation Takes Off in Aerospace Industry

Assembly Automation Takes Off in Aerospace Industry

Apr 13, 2015

By Austin Weber, Assembly Magazine Aerospace manufacturers are bursting at the seams with a backlog of orders. To address that dilemma, they need to automate their factories. The industry is investing heavily in flexible systems that reduce cost, improve quality and boost productivity. Manufacturers involved in the commercial airliner sector are leading the charge by adopting robots, automated guided vehicles and other technology to solve capacity constraints. Aerospace production volumes have been increasing steadily over the last three years. For instance, Boeing Commercial Airplanes built 723 airliners in 2014 vs. 648 in 2013 and 601 in 2012. This year, the company is on track to produce 900 aircraft. Boeing is in an enviable position. It’s currently sitting atop a huge backlog for airliners such as the 737MAX, 777X and 787 Dreamliner. In fact, the aerospace giant currently has more than 5,700 aircraft on order, valued at more than $450 billion. Within the next three years, Boeing has ambitious plans to increase production of its popular narrow-body, single-aisle 737 jet from 42 aircraft a month to 52. And, the company hopes to slowly ramp up production volume on the more technically complex 787 to 12 planes per month by 2016 and 14 per month by 2020. Boeing’s archrival, Airbus, also plans to boost output of its most popular airplane, the A320. By 2018, the European company expects to raise production rates from 42 planes a month to 50 units. Its new $600 million assembly line in Mobile, AL, which is scheduled to open later this year, will play a major role in meeting that goal. Airbus eventually plans to crank up A320 production to 60 planes a month at its factories in China, France, Germany and the United States. That kind of production volume would be unprecedented in the commercial aerospace industry. Assembly lines at major suppliers, such as GE Aviation, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Spirit AeroSystems and UTC Aerospace Systems, are also humming with increased activity. As a result, aerospace engineers are searching for new ways to improve throughput while maintaining strict quality standards. Investing in automation is now considered a necessity, rather than an option. Pratt & Whitney is investing $1 billion worldwide to...

The Automation Element of Re-Shoring

By: Joel Hans, Manufacturing.net Automation GT, an automation design-and-manufacturing firm based out of Escondido, Calif., is at the forefront of the “re-shoring” trend that has been sweeping the American manufacturing landscape. The company, which has deployed automation solutions in a handful of industries — aerospace, automotive, pharmaceutical and medical devices, to name a few — has seen some of its largest clients put serious thought into the business case of bringing work back to America. Simon Grant, Automation GT’s CEO and President, says the re-shoring issue has become more prevalent in during early and mid-2012. Even though most of the industry has been aware of the trend, Grant says only recently has there been a “re-awakening” of the capital budgets among his company’s Fortune 100 customers. And while a post-Great Recession economy might give major corporations more flexibility in which to consider the prospect of bringing jobs back to America, it’s not the only reason to pursue the business case There are the typical reasons that a manufacturer considers re-shoring, which Grant says circle around “labor cost and conditions, compliance, intellectual property and time to market.” With labor costs in China rapidly rising, more companies are starting to realize that the total cost of ownership of a given product is not quite as compelling for the off-shore side. The total cost of ownership equation now includes time in freight, which can swing wildly due to delays and weather conditions. Add in unfavorable tax-and-duty situations, and the price outlook ge1ts even worse. Grant says that many manufacturers have left themselves open to being affected by impossible-to-predict weather conditions, such as the recent Hurricane Sandy, which struck the East Coast with devastating effect in October 2012. The longer the supply chain from point of manufacturing to point of sale, the risk increases dramatically. He says, “One customer recently missed a key market opportunity due to their product sitting on a container ship waiting for east coast ports to re-open.” While no amount of re-shoring can guarantee that a company’s operations will be free from similar disasters, it does significantly lower the barrier to finding a workaround that will get product where it needs to be to keep...