Photo courtesy of Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR).
7. Moving on…
…or at least moving around. Most industrial robots are mounted in fixed or semi-fixed locations. What if robots could move themselves to where they are needed? Lots of plants have Automated Guided Vehicles but AGVs are like railroads. Very good at moving things but they need tracks (or beacons) to get where they are going. To go somewhere else, they need new tracks or at least additional programming.
AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) are also good at carrying light to heavy loads from place to place, but don’t need tracks. AMRs use an internal map that shows the area, travel paths and any obstructions. The map can be programmed into the AMR or the AMR can move around the area on its own and develop its own map. Like a Roomba but on an industrial scale. (Read more in this recent Packaging Digest article “Mobile robots are adaptable packaging line workers.” When I first saw an AMR at a tradeshow, one of my first thoughts was to mount a collaborative robot. That would turn the AMR into a self-loading and unloading delivery cart. It seems so obvious that I’d be surprised if someone has not already done this as a bootleg project somewhere.
We live in exciting times. Robots, in all their configurations, are going a long way to taking the drudgery off the plant floor. In so doing, they are easing the labor crunch and expanding manufacturing horizons.
Known as the Changeover Wizard, John R. Henry is the owner of Changeover.com, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He has written the book, literally, on packaging machinery (www.packmachbook.com) and is the face and personality behind packaging detective KC Boxbottom, the main character in Adventures in Packaging, a popular blog on packagingdigest.com. He can be contacted at [email protected].