Dematic, a leading global supplier of integrated automated technology, software and services to optimise the supply chain, has successfully installed Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) designed specifically for outdoor 24/7 weather use, at aluminium smelter, Bell Bay Aluminium.
Located in Southern Tasmania, Bell Bay Aluminium produces around 190,000 tonnes of aluminium each year. The company previously faced numerous challenges around hiring workers for a 24-hour shift in its outdoor yard, due to the impact of variable and harsh weather conditions on workers.
“Previously Bell Bay Aluminium required four forklift drivers, one on each 12-hour shift to transport the bundles of ingots to the warehouse, as the aluminium smelter is a 24/7 operation,” said Tim Clark, Specialist Engineer Process Control Systems at Bell Bay Aluminium.
“This is a very repetitive task with over 114 trips per day, exposing the operators at times to some rather harsh weather conditions in the outdoor warehouse.”
The challenge for Bell Bay Aluminium was to implement something that would eliminate the need for this repetitive task that adds no value to the business but is a necessity. So Bell Bay Aluminium looked for a solution in AGVs and to Dematic due to their willingness to work closely on the ground to adapt its AGV solution to the unique needs of the company. The AGVs needed to be adapted to an outdoor and all weather environment.
“With Bell Bay Aluminium, we had to take into account environmental and product challenges, due to outdoor all weather use and the transport of heavy aluminum product,” said Thomas Wilson, Business Development Manager, Dematic. “We worked closely with Bell Bay Aluminium to modify their AGVs so they were fit for purpose. This included using wheels appropriate for outdoor conditions, rather than castor wheels that are designed for the flat surface warehouse floor. We also increased the capacity of the AGVs so they could lift and transport up to 4.5 tonnes if required.”
Bell Bay Aluminium’s AGVs, which have now been in use for over a year, carry stacks of 80 aluminium ingots which are produced at a rate of 15ingots/minute, providing a stack every 5 to 6 minutes. The AGVs make a 500 metre return trip to the outside yard where the ingots are stacked on the ground two high in groups of 48. Each stack is held together with a plastic strap which can break, so the AGVs are programmed to complete an automated visual safety check before picking up and unloading the stack. The use of AGVs instead of human operated forklifts has increased safety at Bell Bay Aluminium, by reducing the amount of time workers are near heavy aluminium ingots, and sensors on the AGVs ensure they can safely operate around workers and other vehicles.
“AGVs have helped Bell Bay Aluminium to achieve labour efficiencies as well as improved safety for our workers,” added Tim. “Our staff are really supportive of our decision to use AGVs for these repetitive tasks, were involved in having the AGVs wrapped as R2D2 and Wall-E characters and are looking at further opportunities where AGVs could be used to eliminate repetitive tasks.”
This is the first time Dematic as a global company has worked with a customer to adapt its AGVs for outdoor all weather use and Bell Bay Aluminium uses it as a show piece which has caught the interest of other businesses as far off as Iceland.
Dematic is a leading supplier of integrated automated technology, software and services to optimise the supply chain. Dematic employs over 6,000 skilled logistics professionals to serve its customers globally, with engineering centres and manufacturing facilities located across the globe. Dematic has implemented more than 4,500 integrated systems for a customer base that includes small, medium and large companies doing business in a variety of market sectors.
Headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI, Dematic is a member of KION Group, a global leader in industrial trucks, related services, and supply chain solutions. Across more than 100 countries worldwide, the KION Group designs, builds and supports logistics solutions that optimise material and information flow within factories, warehouses and distribution centres. The company is the largest manufacturer of industrial trucks in Europe, the second-largest producer of forklifts globally, and a leading provider of warehouse automation. For more information: www.dematic.com.au.
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About Bell Bay Aluminium
Opened in 1955 and located in Southern Tasmania, Bell Bay Aluminium was the first smelter built in the Southern Hemisphere. It began as a joint venture of the Tasmanian and Australian Governments, primarily to overcome the difficulties of importing aluminium during wartime. Bell Bay Aluminium’s smelter now produces around 190,000 tonnes of aluminium per year and operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. With a commitment to continuous improvement, sustainable development is integrated into every aspect of the business. For more information, please visit https://bellbayaluminium.com.au/.