Chronic labor shortages have plagued the Manufacturing Industry for years with no real end in sight. COVID-19 not only exacerbated this problem in the short term by reducing the availability of the existing workforce, but also in the long term as Manufacturers need more resilience and flexibility into their operations by reshoring their manufacturing operations and their corresponding supply chain.
Preparing to operate with fewer people has forced manufacturers to embrace many of the values of lean manufacturing including removing non-value added activities, establishing pull within the manufacturing process, and creating flow between steps of the manufacturing process. This enables manufacturers to remove some of the wastes of lean manufacturing including wastes in transportation, motion, waiting, and skills.
Automation, and specifically autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), can assist in the implementation of lean manufacturing, especially by helping remove the wastes from manufacturing processes. While the introduction of AMRs in isolation can assist with lean manufacturing, the true value comes from introducing AMRs as part of Smart Factory and Industry 4.0 initiatives where sensors, machines, AMRs, and manufacturing systems will be connected and can interact with one another using standard Internet-based protocols.
This enables production processes to be optimized and leverage fully integrated AMRs helping to create flow between processes, remove non-value added activities, and do this through pull-based integration with manufacturing systems. As a result, today’s insular manufacturing cells will be replaced by fully automated, integrated production lines enabling manufacturers to produce higher quality products at reduced costs.
AMRs can automate transport of work-in-progress materials between production lines or work cells, including sub-assemblies produced in various production stages. As products progress in the assembly process they can be transported to testing and quality control areas, with any defects being sent to repair or back to the line by AMRs as well. Finished goods can be transported to packout, and then on to storage or directly to shipping. AMRs can also support the on-demand replenishment of floorstock materials and transport waste materials out of the production areas to ensure staging areas are free and clear of trash and recyclables.
Reduce inbound bottlenecks by collecting and transport loads from receiving to staging locations for putaway.
Load raw material, work pieces or kitted components onto AMRs for ongoing material delivery to lineside operations.
Ensure each workstation has components by transporting goods between production stages.
Finish strong by guaranteeing efficiency at the end of the line; automate the delivery of goods to shipping or storage.
Want to learn more about how flexible automation can improve productivity in your facility? Get started by contacting an automation expert.