How fully autonomous tow tractors transform industrial manufacturing flows

Toulouse, France - 12 December 2023
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In industrial manufacturing, particularly in the automotive sector, the quest for efficient and cost-effective operations has given rise to a series of challenges and pain points. As original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) attempt to optimize the flow of parts, they encounter labor shortages, safety concerns, and manual handling inefficiencies that threaten to slow progress. That’s where autonomous vehicles come in.
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Challenges and pain points

As companies push for efficient and effective manufacturing flows, there are no doubt challenges to overcome in order to achieve it. Labor shortages are a big threat to the logistics industry, making it a constant challenge to secure and retain proficient workers for physically demanding material handling tasks. This scarcity of skilled labor not only impedes operational efficiency but also inflates costs, putting pressure on the industry to seek innovative solutions. 

Similarly, human-operated equipment introduces the risk of errors, including mishandling of goods and routing mistakes, which can lead to accidents and inefficiencies. In the bustling environment of warehouses and distribution centers, safety concerns arise due to the close interaction between various vehicles and equipment, posing a threat to both workers and operations. Amidst this, manual material handling processes often result in delays caused by congested pathways and waiting times for equipment. Addressing these pain points is imperative for the logistics sector to thrive and ensure seamless operations.

Precision and efficiency: Enhancing material handling

The introduction of autonomous vehicles to supply chain management has brought about a significant transformation:

Refining lead time and cycle time:
The reliance on human-driven tow tractors often introduces variability in lead times and cycle times due to factors like breaks, shifts, and potential human errors. Autonomous vehicles bring a level of precision and consistency that was previously unattainable. By following optimized routes without the constraints of human schedules, these vehicles can significantly reduce lead and cycle times. This streamlined movement translates into quicker delivery of materials, components, and finished products, resulting in an efficient production and more agile supply chain operations.

Enhancing on-time delivery performance:
In the fast-paced world of supply chain management, meeting delivery schedules is paramount. Autonomous vehicles hold a distinct advantage in this regard. By sidestepping human-related delays and unpredictable variables, these vehicles can consistently uphold on-time delivery commitments. The result is a boost in reliability.

Increasing labor productivity:
One of the most notable benefits of autonomous vehicles is their ability to operate around the clock. Unlike human-driven counterparts machinery, these vehicles don't require breaks or shifts. This non-stop operation translates into enhanced labor productivity, with materials moving continuously between points without downtime. As a result, supply chain operations can scale up their material handling capacity and better accommodate the demands of a 24/7 global marketplace.

Optimizing inventory management:
The efficiency and predictability of material flow achieved by autonomous vehicles have far-reaching implications for inventory management. With reduced lead times and improved reliability, businesses can make more accurate demand forecasts. This precision enables optimized inventory levels, reducing carrying costs and minimizing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory. The result is a more agile and cost-effective supply chain.

EZTow vs Lorries vs Forklifts 

When considering the indoor and outdoor movement of materials, autonomous tow tractors emerge as a compelling choice over autonomous forklifts. Their inherent versatility allows them to effortlessly tow multiple carts or containers simultaneously, facilitating more efficient material flow. Unlike forklifts that handle individual pallets, tow tractors can move larger volumes of materials in a single trip, reducing congestion and expediting overall operations. This adaptability extends to various load configurations, making tow tractors more flexible while potentially requiring fewer units for the same workload, translating to cost savings. Moreover, their lower center of gravity enhances stability, ensuring safer material handling in bustling environments.

In the case of just-in-time delivery, the superiority of autonomous tow tractors becomes evident when compared to lorries. These agile tractors navigate tight spaces and confined areas within manufacturing facilities with ease, effectively catering to the demands of localized deliveries. As a result, congestion is curtailed, and disruptions are minimized in time-sensitive production scenarios. With a smaller carbon footprint and reduced operational and maintenance costs, tow tractors prove to be both environmentally and economically advantageous. This distinction underscores their viability as a superior choice over lorries for efficient, eco-friendly, and cost-effective just-in-time deliveries.