A Verizon customer in the manufacturing sector expressed limited business gains due to inflexibility of current automated guided vehicles (AGVs) deployment, particularly their physical guidance systems. These AGV systems lacked scalability and flexibility and needed manufacturing to become intelligent, not just automated. The customer expressed a need to lower the costs involved in the manufacturing, distribution and transportation of goods, and to improve labor management to avoid issues related to labor shortages and the high costs of managing labor. They were also looking to ensure a better customer experience when it came to the timely delivery of material.
Verizon implemented 5G multi-access edge computing (MEC) and computer vision to monitoring and control machines and processes for the customer.
A programmable logic controller (PLC) was integrated to support critical rerouting due to safety or factory-floor demand needs. Navigation and/or operation commands were sent to the AGVs to perform time-sensitive tasks. AGVs were able to interface with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to provide a “pull” just-in-time (JIT) material availability system, continuously releasing jobs with highest labor and asset efficiency. The intelligent AGVs use 5G, MEC and critical asset sensors (CAS) to move material continuously between workstations, helping maintain low work-in-process (WIP) inventory and improve capital asset utilization.
Based on Verizon’s implementation, the customer experienced the following benefits:
- AGV paths adapted in near real-time based on production needs.
- Integration with manufacturing execution system (MES) and ERP systems to drive AGV task management.
- One solution vendor found that automation of forklifts can increase productivity by up to 25%.
- Control of AGVs and monitoring of plant can enhance security, reducing risks of collisions and accidents with AGVs.
- True JIT production control enveloping supply chain and internal operations; loading docks and transportation could optimize material flow.
- AGVs provide flow within facilities while vision-guided robotic loading and unloading vehicles could increase dock efficiency, improve operating costs and reduce travel and labor costs.
- Wide-area 5G communication and local MEC analytics could enable dynamic flow while improving operational efficiency and capital asset utilization.
- 5G data provided to fleet systems for MEC dynamic routing can help customers improve material flow efficiency, reduce miles driven and idle time, and better manage fuel cost.