This case history comes courtesy of Jervis B. Webb Company. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.
Since 1919, the Jervis B. Webb Company has been a world leader in providing innovative material handling solutions that increase productivity, improve product quality and provide production flexibility. As a pioneer in the development of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs), Webb offers some of the industry's most advanced solutions. From wire guidance to inertial guidance and now "trailer guidance" technology, Webb has a long history of successful AGV installations in a variety of challenging industrial and commercial environments. So when a major bottling company sought a way to increase the efficiency of its loading operations, it turned to the Jervis B. Webb Company.
Webb was approached by a major bottling company, running a three-shift operation five to seven days a week that wanted to trim its operating costs - particularly the costs associated with its continuous trailer loading operations. In addition to labor costs, the bottler was experiencing high costs related to down time, equipment maintenance and damaged product.
The bottling company desired an innovative way to reduce operating costs associated with product movement within the warehouse while maintaining trailer load time and accommodating peak loading periods with less effort.
After identifying the client's needs, the Webb team set out to design, engineer and manufacture a product that allowed the bottling facility to maintain its current operating schedule while reducing manpower and associated costs.
Building upon its intelligent AGV technology, Webb engineers designed the SmartLoader AGV to move loads into conventional trailers without guidance wires, lasers or magnets. The SmartLoader uses technology adapted from Webb's proven inertial guidance systems to reliably deliver palletized loads in multiple configurations into any standard over-the-road trailer.
Webb's new SmartLoader system can move loads from palletizer output, warehouse, rack or floor staging into conventional over-the-road trailers without manual intervention. No modifications to the trailer are necessary because the vehicle guidance system adapts to the length and skew of each trailer. Once inside, the vehicle fills the trailer based upon customer loading configuration requirements.
Two different guidance systems maximize the loading capabilities of SmartLoader. Developed by Webb engineers, the proprietary trailer loading guidance system utilizes sensors to guide the vehicle through intrailer loading operations. When maneuvering around the warehouse, SmartLoader relies on an inertial guidance system and an on-board Vehicle Control Computer (VCC-3) to accurately maintain the intended path and perform required tasks. SmartMark® transponder devices embedded in the floor along the guide path are sensed by the AGV to identify its exact location.
A Vehicle System Manager (VSM™) is also used to provide a proven means for real-time control and monitoring of all vehicles within the system. Through the VSM, the SmartLoader vehicle is capable of picking loads from any programmed point in the warehouse and either moving them to a new location or loading them into a trailer. Load configuration can either be pre-programmed into the AGV or broadcast to the vehicle via the VSM on a real-time basis. The load configurations can include single loads from pairs, consolidating single loads into pairs, as well as patterning load configurations to maximize trailer staging area, and dock floor space utilization.
Webb's SmartLoader provides a balanced solution to the client's productivity, transportation costs, equipment and labor costs, and product protection needs. Use of the vehicle minimizes human exposure to potentially harmful spills and reduces accidents and ergonomic injuries, while adding an additional level of protection for the product. Additionally, the vehicle increases the overall efficiency of loading operations by working around the clock. And because it runs on battery power, the vehicle automatically enters into a power save mode after extended idle periods - saving the company unwanted energy costs.
With 11 SmartLoader AGVs currently in use, the bottler has ordered an additional 25 for one facility and plans to automate several more facilities.
Source: Jervis B. Webb Company
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