The RAAF’s 36 Squadron (36 SQN) has chosen Konica Minolta and MiR to explore the automation of the movement of aircraft parts.
SARAH, short for Supply Assistance Robot – Autonomous Hardware, in the form of an MiR200, was introduced at 36 SQN as phase one of an innovation program to automate the manual movement of aircraft parts from the logistics section to the technician.
“36 SQN was interested in exploring whether there were ways to simplify or automate this task to free up the team’s time for higher value tasks and let a robot do the mindless manual handling tasks,” RAAF Amberley Squadron Leader Evan Smith said.
SQNLDR Smith reached out to Plan Jericho and laid out the vision for automated delivery of parts and equipment, phasing it from the simplest part of the problem to the end-state complete vision. Two thirds of phase one was subsequently funded by Plan Jericho.
“36 SQN was looking for innovative ways to be safer and more efficient,” Martin Keetels, national manager of robotics and innovation, Konica Minolta, said. “MiR introduces efficiencies by automating a simple part of the supply chain to free up people to do what only people can do.”
When SARAH arrived, Konica Minolta spent time with the team configuring and customising the user interface to their requirements. Upon pressing a digital button on the customised dashboard of the robot, it autonomously transports goods across the facility. It can carry up to 150 kg at a time and staff can call the robot to return the materials using their own smart phones, laptops or tablets via a web-based platform.
SARAH now travels 850 metres a day on average, fulfilling 20 missions, and reducing the risk of injury from lifting and pushing heavy parts.
The cost benefit analysis has shown savings of more than $27,000 per year.
An unexpected benefit is that SARAH has assisted the team with social distancing. SARAH has been working phenomenally by limiting the number of interactions between logistics and technicians, which has helped 36 SQN during COVID-19.