How AMRs are used in manufacturing

April 24, 2024
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What is an AMR?

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) are self-driving vehicles used for transporting materials within a manufacturing facility or warehouse. 

Instead of following fixed paths, AMRs navigate freely through the workspace using sensors and maps. They can automatically transport goods between workstations or loading docks and storage locations with little to no human intervention.

AMRs have been used in manufacturing plants for decades to move materials, but recent technological advances have made them smarter, safer, and even more flexible. 

As a result, many major manufacturers have started using fleets of AMRs to automate their internal logistics and free up workers from mundane transport tasks.

How AMRs are used in manufacturing today

AMR manufacturing has been in full swing for a while now. 

Here are some of the areas in manufacturing seeing huge benefits from implementing AMRs:

Transporting materials within facilities

Equipped with advanced sensors and navigation technology, these robots can efficiently transport heavy loads from one point to another. 

Companies like MiR (Mobile Industrial Robots) create AMRs that are especially good at navigating busy environments, avoiding collisions with both stationary objects and humans. 

This technology not only streamlines material handling but also significantly cuts down on the physical strain placed on human workers, contributing to a safer workplace.

Assisting assembly lines

AMRs are becoming mission-critical to the operation of modern assembly lines. They deliver essential components and tools right where they are needed, which minimizes delays and keeps the assembly process moving smoothly. 

For instance, in the automotive industry, SEAT employs these robots to supply parts directly to assembly stations. This reduces the time workers spend waiting for materials, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing fatigue. 

The integration of AMRs into assembly lines represents a significant shift towards more dynamic and responsive manufacturing systems.

Palletizing and packaging products

AMRs are transforming the palletizing and packaging stages of manufacturing by handling products with incredible precision and speed. 

For example, companies like Standard Bots design robots that not only pick and place products but also ensure they are securely packaged and ready for shipping. 

This automation greatly enhances the speed of the packaging process, allowing for quicker turnaround times and reducing bottlenecks in the supply chain. 

Inventory tracking and management

Effective inventory management is extremely important for maintaining efficiency in manufacturing. AMRs play a vital role by continuously updating inventory records as they move and sort items within a facility. 

Robots from companies like Swisslog are designed to integrate seamlessly with existing warehouse management systems, providing real-time updates that help prevent both inventory overflow and shortages. 

This precise inventory control helps manufacturers reduce waste, save on storage costs, and better plan their production schedules.

Continuous production line feeding

AMRs are essential for maintaining a constant supply of materials to production lines, especially in high-demand industries. Omron's robots, for example, are programmed to deliver materials just in time, which minimizes the need for large storage areas and keeps production lines running without interruption. 

This not only helps cut down operational costs but also supports lean manufacturing principles by making sure that no excess materials clog the production area.

Tool and part retrieval operations

AMRs streamline manufacturing processes by efficiently retrieving and delivering tools and parts across the plant floor. 

This capability is particularly valuable in large manufacturing settings, such as those operated by Bosch, where timely access to the right tools and parts can significantly impact productivity. These robots navigate complex plant layouts quickly and accurately, guaranteeing that production workers have what they need, exactly when they need it, thereby minimizing downtime and enhancing the overall workflow.

Waste and scrap removal

Keeping manufacturing facilities clean and compliant with health and safety regulations is another area where AMRs contribute significantly. Robots designed for waste and scrap removal help maintain a clean production environment by automating the collection and disposal of waste materials. 

Clearpath Robotics, for example, offers customizable robots that perform these tasks efficiently, helping to uphold cleanliness standards and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

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Benefits of using AMRs in manufacturing

There are quite a few benefits to AMR manufacturing. Let’s take a look: 

  • Huge productivity boosts by automating repetitive jobs. AMRs can operate 24/7, leading to increased production volumes and quicker fulfillment of orders.
  • All-around quality improvements. Each task is performed identically, which decreases defect rates and enhances product quality. They also use computer vision and sensors for quality inspections, catching issues early.
  • Tremendous safety enhancements. They can manage heavy loads and operate in hazardous conditions, reducing workplace injuries and accidents.
  • Significant cost reductions over time. AMRs eliminate the need for wages, benefits, and breaks, and generally incur lower operating and maintenance costs than manual equipment, accelerating return on investment and boosting profitability.
  • Huge ROI: with an ROI of just 1-3 years, AMR manufacturing is a safe bet. 

Considerations before adopting AMRs

Before jumping into using AMRs on your factory floor, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. These autonomous mobile robots can hugely improve productivity, but they do need some investment and adjustment. 

Let’s go a little deeper: 

  • Initial costs can be high but are offset by long-term savings in labor costs. Weighing the upfront expenses against future efficiencies is crucial. To help mitigate these costs, leasing options and financing are available to make adoption more feasible.
  • Infrastructure needs to include sufficient physical space, a strong Wi-Fi network, and specific facilities like charging stations and docking bays. Assessing and possibly adjusting your current factory layout and infrastructure is necessary to accommodate these robots, which might involve reconfiguring assembly lines and improving connectivity.
  • Training and integration are essential for AMR deployment, requiring time and resources. Workers need training in programming, operating, and maintaining these robots. Additionally, integrating AMRs into existing operations should be planned to minimize disruption and may involve redesigning processes and workflows to fully benefit from automation.
  • Job impact from AMR manufacturing involves the potential replacement or redefinition of human roles. It's important to evaluate how many jobs will be affected and to develop plans for retraining workers for new roles. Maintaining a human workforce alongside automation enhances flexibility, oversight, and overall job satisfaction.

Summing up

And that was the lowdown on AMR manufacturing.

Yes, AMRs may seem like sci-fi robots ready to take over the world, but these bots have been helping out with productivity for a while.

And yes, implementing AMRs takes planning and investment upfront, but the long-term payoff in optimized workflows and cost savings is huge. 

Next steps

Thinking about jumping into the fray with AMR manufacturing? RO1 from Standard Bots is an excellent option for both large and small shop floors alike. 

  • Cost-effective: RO1 is the most economical robotic arm in its category, priced at under half the cost of its closest competitors. 
  • High performance: RO1 operates faster and with greater precision than its rivals, boasting the highest payload capacity in its class at a whopping 18 kg.
  • Grows with you: with AI systems on the same level as GPT-4, RO1 learns and increases its capabilities right along with you. 
  • Fully integrated: RO1 comes with integrated relays to control virtually any machine on the market, including plug-and-play support for OnRobot connectors.

Contact our solutions team today to arrange a free, 30-day onsite trial and receive expert advice on everything you need to implement your first robot.

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