Vector Automation was contacted by Frito Lay to look into the possibility of automating the truck loading of products while at their distribution centers.
The present method of loading tractor trailers was the use of an extendable conveyor with a person on the end of the conveyance device taking of product and dead stacking it on the floor of the tractor trailer and then building loads of product all the way up the top of the trailer ceiling. That height was 110 inches tall. When the boxed needed to be loaded up high on the stack, the person could not reach that high so they would throw the box up on the stack and then with a stick knock it into position prior to putting the next one up. The problem with this was when you threw the box and then knocked it with a stick that you broke the chips contained within the box.
Vector Automation’s solution was to eliminate the person on the other end of the conveyance device. Vector designed an automated solution that would attach to the extendable conveyor. This device would be able to communicate with the FIFO (First In and First Out) system so as to know what was going to be sent down the conveyor. The automated loader had the capability to drive in and back out of the trailer automatically. It had sensors that picked up the side walls and front of the trailer for location purposes.
The new system would automatically drive into the trailer and position itself for the upcoming load from the FIFO area. Product would then be released from the FIFO area and sent to the trailer for loading. As the load transferred from the conveyor onto the automated loader then the loader would stack the boxes in the correct order within the trailer. The automated loader would build a wall of product 110 inches tall by 90 inches wide and then back up and create the next wall of product. This would be done in a repeatable manner until the trailer was loaded with product.
Load times went from 3 ½ hours to 45 minutes. Damaged product due to the manual loading process was eliminated. And comp claims went from $100,000.00 dollars a door to zero. Average dock doors at a distribution center are 100.
Several of these systems have been built over the past few years.