Pittsburgh, PA -- (SBWIRE) -- 11/23/2016 -- At Whirlpool Corporation's 2.4-million-square-foot plant in Clyde, OH, a fleet of 54 blue robotic tuggers wind their way around the floor, automatically delivering parts every 20 to 30 minutes to some 24 drop-off locations on the assembly and sub-assembly lines. Whirlpool's use of Seegrid vision guided vehicles is currently featured in the November issue of Modern Materials Handling, authored by Bob Trebilcock, Editorial Director.
Operating in a three-shift, five-day-a-week operating environment, the mobile robots are a key component in the lean and continuous improvement philosophy in Clyde—billed as the world's largest plant manufacturing top- and front-load washing machines. They are also an illustration of the company's "smart automation" strategy, explains Jim Keppler, vice president of integrated supply chain and quality for the Benton Harbor, MI, appliance manufacturer. "As a company, we've challenged our manufacturing plants to look for opportunities to implement smart automation," Keppler says. "There is always a labor savings associated with automation, but we are also looking for smart ways to improve safety, quality and speed."
Going from a pilot to a live operation in 2015, the plant has been running with more than 50 Seegrid vehicles for a little over a year. While the robotic tuggers did replace manually operated vehicles, Keppler downplays labor savings as a key benefit, largely because operators were offered other jobs within the plant. Rather, the tuggers are contributing to a safer working environment, as Whirlpool strives to create more fork-free work areas, while mitigating the risk to throughput from an inability of drivers to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of production or a labor shortage.
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