In a move to streamline their warehouse production facilities, leading Australian ducted heating & cooling systems manufacturer Brivis turned to the same company used by Henry Ford back in 1919 to re-invent his company: Jervis B Webb. Now partnered with Japan’s largest materials handling company Daifuku and sold in Australia through Custom Automation (formerly Webb Australia), Daifuku-Webb certainly hasn’t slowed down innovation.
Brivis project engineer Dean Vorbach said the scope of updating their warehouse was basically a twofold undertaking, aiming to increase the safety of employees, along with warehouse efficiency.
With the warehouse originally using forklifts, pull carts (chuffers) and a jib crane at the end of production lines to load production units onto pallets, then transfer them to storage, the time taken driving the product to unload was excessive. Coupled with the fact it was done in an area with a large amount of pedestrian traffic, it was inevitable change would be needed.
“We added up the distance spent each year travelling to-and-fro unloading and it equated to 3.5 thousand kilometres, basically driving from Melbourne to Perth,” Mr Vorbach said. “That is a huge amount of time for someone to sit travelling back and forth.”
After first designing a trolley to move the heaters off the pallet system, the next step was to look for a cost-effective automatic guided vehicle (AGV), to replace the chuffers. After extensive product research looking at options from around the world, Brivis found the Daifuku-Webb driverless SmartCart Automatic Guided Cart (AGC), guided by magnetic tape.
Mr Vorbach explained that other AGV companies overseas had appeared to have problems with either product support, language barriers, or expected Brivis to change their operations to suit the cart, rather than creating a customised, tailored one to suit the needs of Brivis.
“Once I came across Custom Automation Australia the decision was easy,” he said. “It’s been great.”
The 100TT is professionally known as the tunnel tugger due to its low profile, which allows it to easily fit under mobile racks or customised load handling frames. Its high pulling capacity and customisable nature meant Brivis could add an elevated control terminal for ease of use. Responding to a computer program that manages their movements, the cart’s magnetic guidance sensor reads magnetic tape and transponders, easily installed on the floor to guide them around the warehouse.
Brivis logistics manager Michael Vernon said the installation process was simple. “It’s a process that just works. We were able to easily use our own staff to lay the magnetic guidance tape and after less than a week, we were up and away,” he said. Mr Vernon said Custom Automation also produced a scaled-down testing version of the Brivis operation at their facility, so all employees could understand how the process would work. “Having seen just the one cart running at its capabilities, management are definitely looking to expand to another,” he said.
Custom Automation Australia technical sales consultant Marcus Rose said he believes that many companies may view advanced AGV automation as price-prohibitive and/or overkill for some of the straightforward tasks they were seeking to automate.
He said the benefit of the Webb SmartCart AGC was their low cost in comparison to larger and more expensive AGV: “The SmartCart AGC follows magnetic tape that is a pretty simple and flexible guidance technology. We have base models that start at around $50,000, which allows for shorter ROI and also increases safety in simple operations, where manual vehicles are being used for internal transportation of parts of finished product,” he said.
Custom Automation has a 100TT available for demonstration in its Melbourne facility. “We’re confident that once people see the SmartCart AGC in action, they’ll see it as a solid investment, so we’ve designed a mobile platform that we can bring to potential customer sites to demonstrate some of the AGCs functionality.”
Daifuku Webb SmartCart AGCs have been used extensively in manufacturing throughout North America for 20+ years, transforming the manufacturing process for Ford Motor Company, John Deere, Heinz, Honda, Sanyo, Proctor & Gamble, Chrysler, Yamaha, Nissan, General Motors and Harley-Davidson among others.