Automation has helped keep team members safe and remove waste from processes in the plants at Vermeer. However, the automated guided vehicles (AGVs) were damaged in the tornado to the point that they had to be decommissioned.
Robotics continues to drive innovation in manufacturing at Vermeer
From welding robots that complete tedious and repetitive weld tasks on the shop floor to automated guided vehicles (AGVs) that move heavy carts, automation has helped keep team members safe and remove waste from processes. Vermeer’s journey with AGVs began in 2016 when two units were installed to carry carts between Plants 6 and 7. However, after the July 2018 tornado took out Plants 5 and 6, the AGVs and the infrastructure to support them in Plants 6 and 7 were damaged to the point that they had to be decommissioned. We’re excited to share the next generation of automation at Vermeer – autonomous mobile robots (AMRs).
Before Vermeer gets into that, here’s a quick rundown on the history of these handy cart-moving robots and the technology behind them. AGVs have been around since the early 1950s – back then, they were guided by a set path of wires on the floor. AGVs continued with methods like wire, tape lines, and painted lines for the next 60 years. Within the past 15 years, they’ve adopted much of the same technology now used in self-driving cars. This navigation allows AGVs to detect when an obstruction is in their path, causing them to stop. However, they ultimately still follow a fixed path.
AMRs – which are used today in Plant 4 – follow a fixed path, but they can also make basic decisions. Where an AGV would see an obstruction and stop, an AMR can find a way around the obstruction. This is thanks to their navigation, which reads the contours in the immediate environment to figure out its location in the plant, unlike the AGVs in Plants 6 and 7 that relied on reflectors and pushbuttons placed along a specified route to navigate.
The AMRs in Plant 4 currently use this laser-based navigation – called natural navigation – to bring parts from central receiving to the assembly line.