The Otto 1500 self-driving vehicle is used for automated material movement, while a Yaskawa Motoman dual-arm manipulator has been integrated onto the Otto to pick up and dip parts in black oxide for corrosion protection.
Lights-out manufacturing requires advanced technology
“Hirotec is always looking for the next technology that is going to take over the industry,” noted Gary Krus, VP of business development at Hirotec America. “We started by looking for a platform that could make a dual-arm manipulator into a fully mobile manipulation solution. By using the Otto 1500 with the integrated Yaskawa Motoman manipulator, we have the technology to replicate human labour. Otto lets us test and prepare future systems to meet our corporate goals of zero operators for spare parts.”
Hirotec America provides weld assembly equipment for OEMs including GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Toyota and BMW. For close to 30 years, the division has been a pivotal part of the global Hirotec Group with more than $200 million of the $1.6 billion in worldwide sales. The company is built on the K2 philosophy of working towards continuous improvements (kaizen) and revolutionary changes in technology and process (kaikaku).
“The next frontier in manufacturing is lights-out production. For so many, and for so long, this has been a vision in the distant future, but the convergence of today’s technology and manufacturing sectors is allowing this vision to become a reality. It’s innovators like Hirotec America that are leveraging new capabilities — we’re excited to be their strategic partner to make it happen,” said Matt Rendall, CEO of Otto Motors.
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Plant automation starts with small parts production
The first process that was automated within Hirotec Group’s spare parts production was the black oxide process, which involves moving and dipping parts from bucket to bucket in a sequence, with specific time delays between each sequence as parts become oxidized to provide a corrosion resistant surface. Previously, the process was completed manually by whomever happened to be available from the shop floor — there was not a set operator on the line. As such, parts were prone to error and were often required to re-enter the process, significantly impacting productivity and throughput.
“We can rely on the Otto solution to do the same thing, exactly the same way, every time. We’re seeing much more consistent parts than what we saw with our manual process. We don’t have to run the parts through multiple times anymore, which has improved our productivity in spare parts production,” said Peter Mourelatos, R&D project engineer at Hirotec America. “Operators can now remain focused on the valuable tasks in the shop, and not be distracted with secondary jobs like black oxide dipping.”
Successful implementation for future expansion
“We’ve successfully implemented mobile manipulation at our site, and I can see the Otto vehicle being used by Hirotec operations globally. It’s just the beginning for us as we work towards our goal of lights-out manufacturing with zero operators for spare parts production,” explained Mourelatos.
The Otto 1500 self-driving vehicle is designed exclusively for material transport in industrial settings and can be integrated with manipulators to provide end-to-end solutions. The vehicles boast the reliability of an AGV, efficiency of a conveyor and flexibility of human decision-making by using advanced sensors and artificial intelligence.