In a Ford factory in the UK, drones are replacing humans in the arduous and risky task of plant inspection.
The task at the automaker’s Dagenham Engine Plant has in the past been performed by workers traversing scaffolding extended using automated platforms across the factory’s 40 metre long gantries, which support the heavy machine used to manufacture engines.
It’s an absolutely necessary task, but it poses risks to workers as they scale the scaffolding heights to inspect gantries, pipework and other at-height areas.
“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead,” said Pat Manning, machining manager, Ford Dagenham Engine Plant in a press release.
And that is exactly what they did.
Using a Yuneec H520 drone kitted out with a GoPro camera, the workers at the UK plant have now reduced the time consuming task of check each inspection area – which used to take up to 12 hours – down to just 12 minutes.
“We used to have to scale heights of up to 50 metres to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights,” continues Manning.
It’s a win not only for the carmaker, but also for workers at the plant.
The time saved means that staff at the plant can now carry out more frequent inspections, which of course means that in turn, the plant is safer.
There are positive cost outcomes also, since the plant no longer needs to be shut down in order to construct scaffolding to carry out the previously laborious inspections.
Following the success of the use of drones at the automaker’s UK plant, Ford is now considering the possibilities of using the aerial technology in other factories.