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Ford using autonomous robot to deliver spare parts in factory

It’s the rise of the machines as Ford reveals its spare-part-delivery robot known as ‘Survival’ which it hopes to roll out at other factories in its network.

Ford has revealed its spare-part-delivery robot called ‘Survival’ which has been in-trial for the last 12 months at Ford’s body and stamping factory in Spain. The self-driving robot, according to Ford, is able to make its way around the factory delivering spare parts, dodge objects, change its route if obstructed and come to a halt if necessary.

Developed by Ford engineers, it is the first of its kind to be used in any of the company’s European facilities.

“We programmed it to learn the whole of the plant floor so, together with sensors, it doesn’t need any external guides to navigate” said Eduardo García Magraner, engineering manager, at Ford’s body and stamping plant in Valencia, Spain, where the robot is being trialled.

“When it first started you could see employees thinking they were in some kind of sci-fi movie, stopping and staring as it went by. Now they just get on with their jobs knowing the robot is smart enough to work around them.”

Delivering spare parts and welding material to different stations around the plant is a crucial element in keeping Kuga, Mondeo and S-MAX production going, Ford said. But the company is quick to point out that Survival isn’t there to take a job away from staff. Rather, it takes over the mundane and boring tasks that take time from Ford employees, allowing “operators to use their time on more complex tasks”. It can save up to 40-employee hours each day.

The robot is equipped with an automated shelf that has 17 slots to hold materials of different weights and sizes. To avoid errors, the opening and closing of these slots is automated, meaning operators in each area only have access to the materials assigned to them.

“It’s been on trial for almost a year now and has performed faultlessly to-date. It’s become quite a valuable team member,” said Garcia Magraner. “Hopefully we can put it into full-time use shortly and expand into other Ford facilities.”

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober