Robots are not new to the American manufacturing industry. Assembly line robotics have been instrumental in improving quality and efficiency in automobile assembly, electronics, furniture and more. But the autonomous mobile robot is a new venture that is sure to help factories even more.
Typically, materials are moved to and from assembly lines using human beings. Forklifts, hand trucks, carts and other devices help to move the goods from storage to the line and back. However, this process can have several key issues where autonomous mobile robots can help.
Real Benefits of Mobile Robots
Some examples of areas where autonomous mobile robots can help in manufacturing are:
Just in time arrival – communications can be set up where the assembly line orders replenishment of product and the mobile robot delivers it when needed before the materials run out. The robot is highly dependable with virtually no delays or errors, so there is minimal or no disruption to the assembly line process.
Reduced human travel – with the use of mobile robots, the human factory workers do not need to take as many steps, which reduces the risk of injury and reduces worker fatigue. The personnel are then able to focus more on quality and morale is increased.
Minimal maintenance requirements – autonomous mobile robots need very little maintenance and can run an entire shift easily. To keep robots going continuously you can have a replacement robot take the place of another while it is charging. The robots can even be programmed to change shifts when a battery charge is needed.
Increased quality – the mobile robots can scan in the materials to their transport, and scan out the goods once delivered so there is continuous tracking of inventory with reduced error rates. Also the factory workers are able to focus more on quality because their travel time is reduced.
Greater efficiency – robots are dependable to transport materials with little or no distractions or interruptions. The scanners built into the robots help them to avoid obstacles and sound alarms if there are issues. The communications with the robots allow personnel to track the location and if needed reroute the robot.
Better Safety – factory workers are less likely to be injured from lifting heavy product, being fatigued, or getting injured while moving from one location to another. The robots assume most of the risk and are easily repaired if there is an issue.
Heavier loads – mobile robots can transport as much as 220 pounds or more, depending on the model and configuration. Also the robots are built low to the ground, allowing reduced chances of spills.
Adaptable – whether the manufacturing takes place in a highly sanitary medical or food service facility, or in a heavy duty industrial plant, mobile robots are able to withstand the factory environments and work in extreme conditions. Robots are also known to work well in light manufacturing or office environments as well.
Trash Removal – the mobile robots can remove excess or debris from manufacturing areas. The personnel simply deposit the trash into the waste tote on the robot, and the debris is transported safely away from the assembly area to the designated dumpsters or recycle areas.
Return on Investment – while there is an up-front cost to autonomous mobile robots, the payback is impressively fast. Some manufacturers have found return on investment to be less than a year, when you consider all of the factors including quality, efficiency, and reduced workplace injuries.
The manufacturing industry is known for innovations, and the use of autonomous mobile robots is no exception. With the application of these devices, manufacturers have found their operation’s key performance metrics to improve notably.