A category of business where I see little movement towards autonomous vehicles but where I think there is lots of opportunity is in maintenance and related activities.
Carts for kitting jobs during shutdowns seem to be an area ripe for exploitation. Kitting maintenance jobs has become popular (and if you are not doing this, you should develop a plan to start right now). Why not kit jobs on autonomous carts that are sent to the designated spot on the machine at a designated time?
The carts could be preloaded and follow a path to where the work that is defined for the kit is going to occur. Trips on elevators could be included in this activity. If other materials not planned were needed, the craftspeople on the floor could be sent back to the storeroom to get it. With radios, the craftspeople on the floor could have already told the storeroom what they needed so it could be put on the cart and sent back to the job site.
These carts could be equipped with cameras with pan and zoom so the maintenance managers could keep up with the actual progress on all their jobs from a central location. Lunch and hydration liquids could also be on the carts. Minimize craftspeople's departures from the work area, especially on schedule critical jobs.
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Larger autonomous carts could carry rolls, felts and other heavy supplies to where needed. They could be equipped with self-loading/unloading devices (like small ramps that gently lower their load to the ground and pick up loads) to minimize damage and safety problems. Equipped with load cells, they could confirm to the operators the size of lift they are about to undertake. Taking a weight reading on rolls removed and putting the information in a data base would build a precise weight history which could be used to monitor wear.
What else would be an application for such technology? Any auxiliary supplies in totes or bags would be great candidates. These could be carts that stay in situ while their load is being used, and equipped again with load cells and GPS, could tell operators their status at any time.
Autonomous internal vehicles go back to at least to the story I related last week concerning P & G in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 1977. But in many ways, we are just scratching the surface as far as what is possible, here 42 years later.
For safety this week, pinches, strains and other human injuries can be reduced with the devices I have described here. It is time get on with the adoption of such items.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
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