Brose, the world’s fourth largest family-owned automotive supplier, has invested nearly £2m on the introduction of Automated Guided Vehicles over the past two years and the business is already reaping the benefits.
Brose’s Coventry factory in Colliery Lane has fully embraced Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), with the driverless technology helping to speed up the movement of finished goods and significantly reduce the prospect of human error.
Travelling at one metre per second, the AGVs are expected to cover 67,000km a year – the equivalent of travelling around the earth 1.5 times. Typically, they are used where high volumes of repetitive material movement are required and where little to no human decision-making is needed.
Last year, the site supplied 2 million seat structures and 4.6 million window regulators to Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota, supporting 17 different car models across 20 global factories.
Managing director of Brose UK, Steve Wilkins, commented: “The automotive sector is extremely demanding and there is a continuous need to produce parts quicker and react to fluctuating patterns in demand – logistics is crucial to us being able to achieve this.”
With Brose operating 62 locations in 23 countries, Coventry was reportedly chosen as one of the pilot sites due to “the compelling business case” it put forward for helping to win future contracts, according to Wilkins.
AGVs use laser reflections for navigation and are programmed by CAD-based software that routes available paths and indicates locations that allow vehicles to pick or deliver a load or empty pallets.
Using a bespoke transport guidance system, the AGVs are able to communicate with each other to ensure materials are moved efficiently through the warehouse – whether being stored for future use or sent directly to shipping lanes.
Wilkins added: “AGVs have little downtime and operate at a fixed rate so it’s easier to plan operational activity. In addition, they are computer controlled, while eliminates human errors in terms of damage to the facility, spillage to inventory and improved safety of pedestrians.”
The future of Automated Guided Vehicles
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have been successfully in use for many years, and though they offer many advantages in terms of material flow, they require the installation of a mapping grid, tapes magnets or laser beacons within/on the floor, alongside other potential costly site modifications.
Autonomous Mobile Robotics (AMRs), however, could offer a way forward. AMRs are reportedly now so intelligent they can be integrated into a factory or warehouse with little disruption to footprint and human traffic.
AMRs – sometimes called Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles – are self-mapping, adaptive and are reportedly easy to implement and manage within an existing workforce and equipment. In this way, AMR’s almost become a collaborative technology capable of detecting obstacles without having to wait for a specific path to clear and sharing that information with surrounding AMRs.
Furthermore, the development of heavy-duty lift mechanisms is enabling AMRs to operate over multiple floors, something impossible to achieve with traditional AGVS. Similar developments are also reportedly underway to enable the vehicles to carry heavier payloads.
The greater business benefit over the long-term, therefore, isn’t necessarily productivity, but greater operational flexibility and agility – capabilities that every manufacturer is looking to achieve.