The winners of MH&L's second annual Innovation Awards impressed our judges not only for taking risks, but for choosing partners who helped minimize those risks and maximize opportunities for future success.

The stories of the four winners presented here were all published in MH&L's pages over the course of 2012. They are categorized by the building blocks of material handling and logistics: Make, Store, Move and Compete. Allow us to reintroduce you to these people and demonstrate why their stories are worth a second look.

AGVs Help Jet Fighters Fly Off the Line

A  portion of Lockheed Martin's facility in Marietta, Ga., is dedicated to manufacturing the center wing section of the F-35 fighter jet at a pace that accommodates a production rate of one aircraft a day. But the layout of the Marietta facility would require the kind of efficiency found in a car plant producing 20 to 40 vehicles an hour.

"We needed a production line to satisfy the rate of one aircraft a day for whatever variant was coming down the line," says Peter Neumeier, of the aerospace engineer staff at Lockheed Martin. "The Marietta facility had floor space constraints. So we performed a lean event and determined we needed to find a different solution to the transport of the center wing section."

Lockheed selected Fori Automation to provide the AGV system. The suspended drive steer mechanism provides the steering and propulsion to articulate over rough concrete. A 12-inch-wide precision magnetic measuring device gauges the intensity of the magnetic field, enabling a vehicle to position itself at an assembly station to an accuracy within 4-5 mm.

Each AGV transports tooling to 14 different process stations and must maintain tolerance every time it's moved.

With a tool measuring 20 ft tall, Lockheed runs the risk of deflections resulting in different tolerances at the top of the tool than at the bottom. That meant the tool and the station designs were critical, as was their interaction with the AGVs.

Each time an AGV slides under the tooling, a cup and cone arrangement clamps the AGV, which ensures a secure engagement. Accomplishing this required synchronicity among the navigation, guidance and propulsion systems as well as with the servo motors in the lifting mechanism.

Judges' Comments:
"Building an aircraft over relatively 'rough' concrete using an AGV with magnetics, and at an accuracy of 4-5 mm is impressive!  It appears that magnet field measurement made the difference.  It's a highly impressive operation."—Roger Bostelman 

"Peter and his team were innovative in their development of multi-uses (maximum utilization) for the AGVs. Not only did the equipment move materials between stations, it was involved in the manufacturing processes. This process integration results in greater output in manufacturing." –Al Will

"The shorter the cycle time for the manufacturing process, the faster the fielding can occur. Use of AGVs is a great resource that was employed by the manufacturing engineering staff."—Ron Giuntini

"This shows a way to justify automation, which I believe is good because there would be more automation if organizations weren't (wrongly, in my view) focused on short-term gains."—Russ Meller

MAKE Finalists:
Calvin Chun, manager, Kelly-Moore's Hurst, Texas plant; vendor: Intelligrated's Alvey robotics, www.intelligrated.com, as seen in July: "One Robot Brings Efficiency to Three Production Lines"

Jon Smick, finishing manager for American Packaging Corp.; vendor: Seegrid, www.seegrid.com, as seen in October: "Leaning the Way to the Line"

Matt Olson, an industrial engineer at Parts Now; vendor: SealedAir, www.sealedairprotects.com, as seen in October: "Less Wasted Packaging, Fewer Wasted Products"