AMRs Support Lean Manufacturing Initiatives

Robots have freed six full-time employees for higher-value tasks.

Three MiR autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are automating the transfer of materials throughout a Honeywell Analytics facility.
Intuitive web programming lets Honeywell easily change production lines to meet
its lean manufacturing goals, and the MiR100s were the only AMRs available that
could autonomously control lifts to navigate the company’s multi-

MiR AGV taking an elevator. (Image courtesy of Honeywell)

MiR AMR taking an elevator. (Image courtesy of Honeywell)

Automating Material
Transportation In Challenging Environment

Honeywell Analytics in Poole, UK produces
gas-detection equipment that is used in off-shore oil and mining as well as consumer-grade
detection for homes. Lean manufacturing helps Honeywell Analytics stay
competitive, but the company depends on the ability to easily change processes,
as explained by Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Leader Stuart Harris. “There
is a big emphasis on lean within Honeywell, and flexibility is key to lean,”
Harris stated. “We want to be able to change things around, to move lines
around to suit production, and to pick some troughs for optimization. As with
all manufacturing systems, flexibility is at the heart of being able to do that
and optimize efficiencies.”

As part of its optimization efforts,
Honeywell Analytics uses automation and robotics extensively, but raw materials
and assemblies were still being moved around the 91,000-square meter (approximately
980,000 sq. ft.) plant on trolleys pushed by employees. Automating that task
was a challenge due to the facility layout, in which the warehouse is on one
floor and manufacturing across two floors. Delivering materials between
manufacturing lines and the warehouse involves navigating multiple narrow
corridors and double fire doors, and controlling lifts to travel between floors—key
functionality that wasn’t supported by other AMRs, or by autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs). Design Engineer Timothy Ward
said, “When we were initially selecting a mobile robot, the others did not have
full lift functionality. They would not be able to support it.” 

MiR AGVs at Honeywell. (Image courtesy of Honeywell)

MiR AMRs at Honeywell. (Image courtesy of Honeywell)

AMRs improve efficiency and free up to six full-time

The robots reduce the amount of time people
are pushing trolleys around so they can be up-skilled for better efficiency. “The
main challenge with the robot we want to overcome is the staff, who are allocated
to pushing carts,” said Ward. “We wanted them to get back onto the production
line and drive efficiency. By bringing the robots on-site, we are freeing up six
full-time staff members to produce more and make the line more efficient.”

Freeing employees from low-value
material-transportation tasks also supports other lean manufacturing goals,
including the ability to have multi-skilled staff who can work on a variety of
production lines as needed. “We like to have staff that can be multi-trained
and multi-skilled so they can work in different parts of the business and help
level-load the product,” Ward said. In that way, the AMRs fit right in—easily
learning new routes and processes to adapt to changing production needs.

Ward adds, “One of the bottlenecks that we
have overcome is that we have a service department that has deliveries at
random times throughout the day. They are a small team of people, so they have
to go down and collect the goods and then they are not working on the service
equipment that they have got on their bench. Now that we use the AMRs, they do
not have to go and collect the equipment themselves.”

AMRs offer fast payback and support future automation plans

Harris described the advantages of using AMRs
for low-level tasks that have historically been done by workers. 
“It means that there is a whole wealth of
efficiencies that we touch upon. There is no waiting for people when they are
on breaks, or lunch, or even out of hours before you come in to work or when
you go home from work. Robots can continue working and doing the tasks.”

For more on autonomous guided vehicles,
check out Pushing
Robotic Efficiency with AGVs