OTTO Motors and PULSE Integration have partnered to implement one of the world’s largest deployments of AMR technology. The OTTO material handling platform was deployed at a billion dollar company that is a household name in consumer goods. This was in part because of the ability for the AMR platform to flexibly, reliably and safely move materials but the strength of the business case was a deciding factor in the choice to implement OTTO.
The following conclusions were drawn after a detailed analysis of the OTTO platform vs alternative material handling methods for the customers. When compared for productivity and costs:
- OTTO was 10% the cost of a full-time equivalent for manual cart movement
- OTTO was 50% of the costs associated with a driver and a forklift.
- OTTO was 66% the cost of an AGV equivalent
- OTTO was 50% the cost of a conveyor equivalent
When the customer began its work with PULSE to transform its operations, four methods of material transport were considered. The customer needed a flexible, reliable and safe solution that would optimize materials movement. OTTO AMRs were found to be more flexible than a conveyor and safer than a forklift. The deployment resulted in an ROI of less than two years, and significant cost savings for the operation. The payback drivers included labor savings, increased productivity, improved safety and ergonomics for operators, lower capital costs, and a more compact facility design.
Competitive Advantage Through Automation
Automation has long been used to improve efficiencies within manufacturing as a way to gain competitive advantage. To see how automation has made an impact we need only look at the automotive industry where automation made Ford’s mass production possible and profoundly changed the world.
Today, lights out production–where entire factories are automated–promises the highest efficiencies, but remains elusive for many manufacturers. One of the last forms of automation to make its way onto factory floors is materials handling. Moving materials has remained predominantly a human task. And because it has been considered one of the lowest valued tasks on the factory floor, materials handling has been ripe for automation.
Advancements in robotics, computing power, and AI have made way for a new class of automation for material handling to emerge. The autonomous mobile robot or AMR combines the flexibility of a human with the efficiency of a conveyor while safely moving materials in pedestrian-heavy areas. The first industrialized implementations of the technology have in the last decade. Yet, there have been few examples of meaningfully scaled deployments in manufacturing.
Two Scaled AMR Deployments.
PULSE Integration was initially retained to evaluate various materials handling technologies for two facilities, one greenfield and one brownfield. AMRs, conveyors, forklifts, and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) were evaluated for comparative productivity and costs. The OTTO Materials Handling Platform was selected for both sites. The decision was made because of the ability for the AMR platform to flexibly, reliably, and safely move materials. The strength of the business case was also a deciding factor in the choice to implement OTTO.
OTTO Autonomous Mobile Robots:
10% THE COST
of a full-time human labor equivalent
20% THE COST
of a driver and forklift
Cost savings resulted in:
ROI of <2 YEARS
IRR of >50%
OTTO Autonomous Mobile Robots were found to be 10% the cost of a full-time equivalent for manual cart movement and 20% of the costs associated with a driver and a forklift. OTTO was also compared against fully automated technologies. Again, when directly compared for productivity and costs, OTTO was a fraction of the cost of traditional conveyance and automated guided vehicles (AGV). These cost savings resulted in an ROI of fewer than two years and an IRR of >50%. To achieve these results, the payback drivers included labor savings, increased productivity, improved safety and ergonomics for operators, lower capital costs, and a more compact facility design.
A number of deployment considerations were taken into account for the deployment of the OTTO Materials Handling Platform.
A critical part of the project was in the design phase. The goal of this phase was to design the optimal flow of materials. Simulation was used to compare machine and material staging layout configurations to aid the customer in making decisions about facility layout. By simulating the process options ahead of time, the customer was able to make the best decision for layout and process while de-risking the deployment well before the commissioning of the fleet started.
The teams also used simulation to test how AMRs would react in every scenario. For example, they were able to model the physical constraints of the operation when testing against various parameters like vehicle speed, traffic management, and opportunity charging. Simulation allowed the system designer to stress test the AMR fleet and check for “corner cases.”
A thorough design phase can also be used to prepare for the following situations:
- Restarting a facility after a prolonged shut down (holiday shut down)
- Manufacturing line change over from one product to another
- Recall of goods in an eCommerce operation requiring reverse logistics
- “Cut-over” of plant from manual to autonomous operations
- Introduction of new work process
The downside to manual material handling goes beyond poor utilization of a limited human workforce, it also presents health and safety risks. According to the US Department of Labor, materials handling is the number one cause of compensable injuries. The various mechanisms for transport that are human-powered, such as traditional fork trucks, are fraught with safety issues that can result in injury or death.
OTTO was designed to work around people and other vehicles.
OTTO AMRs are pedestrian-safe robots and use safety-rated sensors. Simply put, OTTO was designed to work around people and other vehicles. This is made possible through sensor fusion and onboard AI to enable local route planning and collision avoidance. OTTO routinely navigates traffic with other vehicles at intersections and passing scenarios using OTTO Fleet Manager. “Rules of the road” can be custom configured per site, including speed limits and sensor sensitivity. Further, OTTO can be programmed to understand the overhang of a load and to account for oversized loads while maneuvering.
At the Greenfield facility, OTTO 100 was used to replace the human labor of transportation carts of materials and goods. The equivalency between humans and AMRs in terms of transport workload is at parity. AMRs travel faster over long distances and their maximum speed is 4.5 miles per hour (a light jog). In short transports and docking maneuvers humans are faster and more nimble.
As a general conversion factor for a large workspace (>100,000 SF) a designer can use an AMR to Human equivalency factor of 1:1. For smaller spaces (<50,000 SF) a more detailed study of maneuvers may be needed to establish the true relationship. The findings from the design was that the OTTO platform generally outperformed simulation expectations.
At the Brownfield facility, OTTO 1500 was selected to replace forklift labor of transporting loaded pallets of finished goods and raw materials. OTTO 1500 can carry a payload of 3,300 lbs on a pallet. OTTO 1500 is compatible with all of the pallets in the facility which included:
- Common wooden pallet types
- Plastic pallets
- Supersack on pallets
- Vendor supplied raw material pallets
- Manufactured WIP and finished goods pallets
The OTTO 1500 is capable of interfacing with manual or automated forklifts via the use of pallet stands, which enable load transfer and for the OTTO1500 to drive underneath the pallet load. While in transport the AMR is beneath the pallet load, meaning the space requirement for maneuvering is little more than the pallet dimensions. Automated processes can be implemented with retrofits to existing equipment or AMR interface design of new equipment.
The Network Effect of Scale
As more AMRs are deployed in the system, the more efficient the entire fleet becomes. As an example, consider that in an operation with substantial human labor, the humans cannot simultaneously communicate to each other. Instead, humans rely on hearing, line of sight, and communication devices like radio. One human that is idle is not instantaneously alerted to a condition of extra work being required somewhere else in the operation. With AMRs, the communication is immediate and the dispatch from Fleet Manager to an idle AMR is done using a combination of computer logic and artificial intelligence. Therefore, as the AMR fleet size grows the efficiency of the fleet improves. For large footprint operations at scale, AMR efficiency can exceed human efficiency.