P&G Updates Its AGVS

Learn how an automatic guided vehicle system retrofit increased production and reduced downtime and maintenance cost for Procter & Gamble's Iowa City shampoo factory.

P&G Updates Its AGVS

The Procter and Gamble plant in Iowa City, Iowa, spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week manufacturing shampoo, conditioner and mouthwash. The plant relied on its 1980s-era automatic guided vehicle system (AGVS) to keep its nine packaging lines supplied with bottles and caps. But by the early 1990s, the vehicles were often down for a lack of spare parts, and it took a team of plant technicians to keep the AGVs going.

A retrofit aimed at reducing cost and increasing uptime was in order, using a mix of eight new unit-load vehicles capable of handling two pallets at a time, a new guidance system and the existing wire-guided floor path. Vehicles were still needed to automatically travel a 2,000-foot guide path, rather than tying up lift truck drivers all day. The new Trace 2000 guidance system (Traffic Routing AGV Command Executive) allowed the vehicles to travel a short distance off the existing guide wire and then return to the guide path later. This flexibility creates new efficiencies, reducing time-consuming U-turns for the vehicles. The software runs on any PC running Windows NT. Since the guidance software is tied to the PLC network, it allows the engineers to reroute vehicles with a point and click. Color monitors display vehicle progress.

The software:

• Interfaces with the host computer;

• Handles traffic control and routing;

• Keeps track of inventory;

• Troubleshoots maintenance needs.

Now, workers communicate directly with the AGVS. When the packaging line is out of shampoo, workers place empty bottles and caps on a return conveyor. The operator presses a button to summon an AGV and then identifies whether the returned goods are for reuse or scrap. The TRACE software also requests an available AGV to move pallets, guides the vehicle through the proper sequences and keeps vehicles from colliding.

In addition to the guidance system upgrade, the vehicles are designed for easier maintenance and have more safety features. Vehicles can now travel up a 7 percent grade. Vehicles and software from AGV Products Inc. Visit www.agvp.com.

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