From manual to automated internal logistics
Like most industries, companies in the automotive industry are facing a lot of competition at a global scale, and automotive suppliers are under permanent pressure of OEMs’ requests for delivery on time, in high quality and for cost efficiency. Supplying materials at a given quality, volume, and at a given time is extremely complex and requires maximal precision and flexibility. At Visteon, this is met by sending a standard electronic information to the warehouse and instantly deliver the required material to a shop floor.
A few years ago, the company used manual pallet lifts operated by human employees, but they were removed by automatically guided vehicles (AGV) systems navigated by magnetic strips. But AGVs, however, require much time and costs in case of a need to change the production layout and infrastructure. It was clear that this platform would soon be removed by systems that are suited for Industry 4.0 and complying with agile and flexible work environments where new production cells need to be implemented at a certain pace. So, Visteon started to consider the technology of autonomous mobile robots (AMR).
„One of the reasons we started considering mobile robots was the emerging Industry 4.0, which represents the future of our industry,” said Richard Čiernik, Industrial Engineer Manager in Visteon Electronics Slovakia.
„From this point, MiR technology was an ideal solution for us, as MiR has become a standard for internal logistics at Visteon globally.”
Three different tasks, four MiR200 robots
“As any other successful company, we continuously evaluate our manufacturing efficiency and labor productivity. The MiR technology significantly supports our effort by eliminating a need for manual transportation of material from position A to position B. In our facility, we have now four MiR200s used for three different tasks: PCBs supply to SMT lines, collection of waste material, and transportation of finished plastic components,” said Richard Čiernik.
Every hour, two MiR200 robots deliver empty PCB boards to 9 automatic SMT lines, where the boards are complemented with electronics parts. Additionally, one robot is collecting waste materials that the operators place on the robot to keep the shop floor lean. The forth robot works in the injection molding facility, where it services three production machines on demand. Operators call the robot very simply via a predefined button un a tablet. All logistic operations are managed in cooperation with an integrated warehouse management system (WMS).
The mobile robots are currently used in 24 hours operation five days a week and are deployed with two types of top modules – a fixed rack, and a removable cart, which is a module specifically designed for MiR mobile robots by ROEQ, enabling easy manipulation with transported loads. The top module for carts is made with a click-in mechanism that enables the system to collect and release carts.
Fully autonomous operation
The mobile robots from MiR work fully autonomously around the manufacturing facility, they can open doors using a wi-fi module, move through a tunnel, bypass obstacles, stop at the defined positions and automatically recharge. They are able to evaluate the defined route if obstacles occur and always select the most optimal one without any human interference required. Moreover, the MiR200 robots comply with standards in electronic components production requiring protection against electrostatic charge (ESD).
The Visteon employees welcomed the mobile robots. In the beginning, they were a bit concerned about possible safety issues, but after seeing the robots navigate and being ensured that they can recognize humans and re-navigate accordingly, the employees adopted them very quickly. The employees realized the robots’ benefits in terms of freeing them from heavy, monotonous tasks with low added value. User-friendliness, easy programming and the added flexibility in logistics operations contribute to a smooth collaboration between the employees and the MiR robots.
“MiR robots provide labor related advantages in two main areas: simple and monotonous tasks can be now done by robots, which implies cost -savings for us. Also, in terms of ergonomics, it’s very useful that workers are supplied with material in a precise time and comfort without having to carry out heavy physical activities themselves,” said Richard Čiernik.
Return on investment within one year
From the manufacturing operations point, the MiR logistics solution offers three main benefits. It is flexible, as it enables Visteon to use the same type of robot in different applications in multiple shop floors with minimal modifications to the layout. Secondly, the fast implementation, which is facilitated by the easy-of-use features that allow to quickly program the robots without programming skills or knowledge. Programming tasks are done very simple as any application is programmed and finetuned in the functional and visually attractive graphical interface. And thirdly, robots are user-friendly and intuitive for any end-user - an operator in production can request a robot to arrive with just one click on the button.
But what is the most important when investing in new technology at Visteon, is the bottom line. “The basic rule of our company says that any investment into production must be with a payback in one year, the latest. and the MiR robots have met this requirement. We are looking forward to a joint future with further MiR applications,” concludes Richard Čiernik.
In the near future, Visteon Electronics Slovakia is about to extend their existing fleet of mobile robots with more devices, especially for applications of waste collection, material supply and transport of finished products. These plans are reaction on proved, successful experience with MiR robots at Visteon.