Whirlpool is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of home appliances. It has approximately $21 billion in annual sales, 92,000 employees and 65 manufacturing and technology research centers. It recently implemented three MiR200 autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) from Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) for materials handling at its plant in Łódź, Poland.
Whirlpool produces dryers and freestanding cookers at a plant in Łódź. The management of the Łódź plants faced a challenge: how to combine the internal transportation of components between the production lines with loading and unloading automation.
At the Łódź factory, a dryer leaves the production line every 15 seconds. This requires transporting a huge number of components. Before the MiR200 AMRs were put to work, transporting components was performed by manually-driven forklifts and tuggers.
The solution to be used had to limit the role of humans in the transportation process. Other key criteria included cost optimization and safety. The MiR200 AMRs transport dryer doors from the pre-assembly to the assembly line. On every run it carts 12 doors at a time and on the way back transports the empty packaging – the full loop is around 130 meters.
The MiR200s ride up to the preassembly line, move under a loaded cart and hook it up. The cart is then transported by the robot to the assembly line where full packages go. During the unloading, the empty boxes slide back to MiR’s cart thanks to gravity. After that the robot returns to its starting point and the next transportation cycle begins.
“Mobile robots provide us with a completely new way of delivering parts without human involvement. This enables employees to focus on higher value-added areas. Collaborative mobile robots also significantly improve safety, allowing us to avoid all potential collisions between people and devices such as forklifts or tuggers,” said Szymon Krupiński, Site Leader at Whirlpool company in Łódź.
Sensors and scanners allow the robot to detect obstacles appearing on its way, such as forklifts or tuggers, and avoid them. The full ride-cycle of the robot takes around 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
During the plant operation, two MiR200 AMRs, with a load capacity of up to 200 kilograms, are transporting components, while the third is docked in a charging station. The installation of the robots was handled by Polish distributor ProCobot.
Case Study at a Glance
|Industry: Home appliance manufacturing|
|Challenge: automating internal transportation of components|
|Partner: Mobile Industrial Robots|
|Robots: Three MiR200 autonomous mobile robots|
|Task: Transporting dryer doors from the pre-assembly to the assembly line|
|Value Drivers: Cost optimization, safety, ease of programming|
|Results: Increased productivity, increased safety, shifting employees to high-value tasks|
|ROI: Less than 2 years|
Results with AMRs
Krupiński said three MiR AMRs can replace one operator-driven forklift or tugger. The forklift and tugger operators can now focus on other higher-value tasks. The expected return on investment is less than two years.
“The ease of operation of MiR robots allows them to be used by staff without any engineering or programming background,” said Paolo Aliverti, Logistic Program Manager Industry 4.0, Whirlpool. “This enables us to effectively utilize the robots without making big investments in training the employees in the context of the new technology.”
Whirlpool said it is testing similar solutions at other Whirlpool plants.
“By changing the system from human-operated to automated delivery, we can boost productivity and engage employees to final product manufacturing,” said Adam Bakowicz, Process Technology Senior Engineer Industry 4.0, Whirlpool. “We are satisfied with the application implemented [in Łódź.] The MiR robots provide us with low cost of automation and flexibility in changing the plant layout.”