UPS

Automation Reduces Cost and Increases Efficiency in Handling of Non-Conveyable Items

Flexible Automation Eliminates Expense
of Manual Transport or Conveyor System

Automated vehicles such as the DualMode T tow tractor, equipped with LiDAR navigation systems, can deliver non-conveyable items quickly, efficiently and safety to their destination – without the need for manual operation. Such systems can be easily reconfigured as transport needs evolve, without the complex infrastructure issues associated with the reconfiguration of traditional conveyor systems.

Improved Resource Utilization

Provides a flexible and lower cost alternative to a traditional conveyor system, enabling reassignment of employees to other value-added responsibilities.

Operational Versatility

Dual mode capability allows tow tractors to be operated in either automated or manual modes.

Platform for Growth

Provides a scalable, reconfigurable solution that evolves with changing business needs without complex infrastructure requirements.

Application

As e-commerce continues to increase the volume of freight and package shipment at a significant rate, United Parcel Service has optimized its material handling operations in many ways with equipment and processes designed to move product over long distances in its facilities all over the world.These automation improvements have helped reduce costs associated with the internal movement of materials. However, non-conveyable items, those that cannot be transported on conveyor systems due to their unique size, shape or bulk, still require UPS to deploy some form of labor-intensive transport to distribute goods throughout its facilities.

Challenge

Because non-conveyables required human intervention to facilitate their travel, UPS noted that this part of the operation relied solely on manual operators to keep product moving through the facility. The company wanted to apply some form of automation to the process but recognized that automation typically works best in applications with repetitive functions and predictable environments, both of which were notably absent in its dynamic operations.


Traditional mobile automated systems would require significant modifications to the existing operation, which was not an option for UPS. It was clear that an automated system for this operation would have to be more flexible, allowing for unplanned situations and coexisting with pedestrian workers in a safe, yet productive fashion.

Solution

Crown’s automated DualMode T tow tractor provided an alternative to manual transport of non-conveyable items in UPS’s dynamic environments. A series of carts towed by the automated tow tractor are loaded by workers who then enter the stop locations into the vehicle’s user interface. The tow tractor then traverses the facility – at speeds up to 3.5 miles per hour depending on environment – using LiDAR navigation that can be deployed with no supporting infrastructure.


If the DualMode T tow tractor encounters an obstruction, it slows to a stop and alerts others that its path is blocked. When the path is cleared, the vehicle automatically resumes travel to its destination.When the tow tractor reaches a programmed stop location that already has a vehicle parked for unloading, it will either stage behind that vehicle or use an established passing lane to continue to its destination. When the mission is complete, the vehicle automatically returns to the next available loading location.


In select cases where the operations do not provide a clear path for the DualMode T tow tractor, the vehicle stops and notifies workers that action or attention is required. Since the vehicles feature dual modes of operation – automated and manual – any trained operator can manually move the vehicle and its cargo to its specified course and resume automated operation.