Internal logistics is one of the most important steps in the production process, which is why optimising the transport of material within a factory is an important part of the company’s strategy. For this reason, mobile robots from MiR are used at seven Visteon Electronics production sites around the world, such as at the Slovakian site in Námestovo.
Visteon Electronics Slovakia produces cockpit desks for several OEM automotive manufacturers including Volkswagen, Skoda Auto, BMW, Ford, Citroen and more. With a daily production capacity of 10,000 cockpit desks, the company delivers over 2 million products every year, while employing 700 people that are working in three-shift system. Visteon is one of the largest global suppliers of the automotive segment with plants all over the world, including United States, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Internal logistics represents one of the key roles in production processes, which is why optimization of material transportation is an integral part of the corporate strategy. Seven production facilities around the world currently use MiR’s mobile robots, including Visteon in Námestovo, Slovakia. 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).
Three different tasks, four robots
The MiR technology supports effort by eliminating a need for manual transportation of material from position A to position B. In the facility, they have four MiR200s used for three different tasks: PCBs supply to SMT lines, collection of waste material, and transportation of finished plastic components.
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 fourth 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 operations
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. 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. 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.