Painted car body shells are scheduled to the production lines at Aston Martin’s Gaydon factory via temporary buffer storage, the capacity of which has been increased from 30 to 52 positions following the launch in 2005 of the Vantage two-seater sports car. To cope with the extra volume of bodies being transported, alterations have also been made to the E&K Indumat laser-guided AGV (automated guided vehicle) system, which was originally installed in 2003 to transport painted DB9 shells.
Provision was made at that time to allow for easy reconfiguration of the AGV system to meet the higher throughput when the Vantage came on-stream. Expansion was completed by E&K Indumat in two phases during the May and August 2005 shutdown periods at Gaydon, so there was no disruption to production. A further enhancement was the addition of automatic battery charging, whereby each day the AGV automatically travels at 1.30 am to a predetermined position for charging until the production lines start up at 6.30 am. No operator interaction with the vehicle is now needed, except for occasional battery top-up via the single point filling system, and the vehicle is always ready for work at the start of the morning shift.
The need for buffer storage of car bodies arises partly to ensure smooth sequencing of body shells to the production lines, which run during a single day shift, and so that the correct trim arrives at the same time as the painted body. The other reason is that, as body shell painting takes twice as long as vehicle build, the paint shop has to be operated over two-shifts and the excess painted bodies held overnight for around eight hours.
Aston Martin had 18 months’ experience of operating the AGV system on DB9 production before expansion started, so was able to plan the work meticulously with E&K Indumat to achieve the desired result, which currently involves transporting bodies at 40 minute intervals to the respective production lines during the day. The existing single AGV was able to handle the doubling of workload.