Kimball Electronics

Kimball Electronics (Nanjing) Co., Ltd. (“Kimball Electronics Nanjing”) is one of the main production bases of Kimball Electronics Group, a leading global manufacturer of durable electronics. The group produces high-quality products for customers around the world in four key sectors, namely automotive, medical, industrial controls and public safety, and sees automation as crucial for maintaining its competitive edge in the digital age.

Following Kimball Electronics’ deployment of MiR's Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) at its headquarters in the US and at various plants globally, such as in Poland and Mexico, Kimball Electronics Nanjing has extended the successful deployment of MiR AMRs to China by deploying two MiR250 AMRs at its Nanjing facility in 2021.

The two MiR250 AMRs are according to Kimball Electronics each capable of doing the work of two people and have met all the expectations of the company while making internal logistics across production lines more flexible. In the future, Kimball Electronics Nanjing hopes to explore the application of AMRs in more scenarios.

Challenges and solutions

As Industry 4.0 continues to advance worldwide, the electronics industry faces both opportunities and challenges. As a major production base for the group, Kimball Electronics Nanjing faces three challenges: high demand from customers, high complexity in the production process, and high shortage of raw materials. Believing firmly in intelligent manufacturing, Kimball Electronics Nanjing actively embraces automation to meet these challenges and to keep enhancing its core competitiveness.

"The rapid integration of digitalization and automation means we need to upgrade our existing in-factory transportation system. We need to form a new high-tech solution that is more flexible, safer, easy-to-deploy and capable of multitasking so as to reduce our reliance on manual labor, while helping us to control manufacturing costs," said Avis Zhang Operations Manager at Kimball Electronics Nanjing. “This important and challenging task has been entrusted to our engineering team."

Antony Li, Equipment Maintenance Supervisor at Kimball Electronics Nanjing, commented: "We have a high level of trust in MiR AMRs’ safety and reliability, as the Kimball Group had hands-on experience with MiR AMRs at the US headquarters and other plants in other locations worldwide. It’s why Kimball Electronics Nanjing also chose MiR and deployed two MiR250 AMRs at the same time.”

The two robots have a clear division of labor. They are used to transport products, materials, and magazine crates to and from various locations on the production line. The high-performance robots have perfectly realized 7x24 operation, improving the logistics efficiency across the production lines. In addition, to efficiently manage multitasking between the robots, Kimball Electronics Nanjing has adopted MiR Fleet which provides centralized control of the robots from a single station, coordinating the charging and scheduling of the AMRs.

One MiR250 is responsible for transporting loaded carts from the backend of the production line to a loader where it automatically docks to load, and then repeats the process. The other MiR250 is responsible for transporting materials to various locations on the production line and supporting several tasks at the same time. The tasks include:

  1. Transporting products from the unloader at the end of the line to the loader at the front of the line

  2. Transporting the laser-marked products to the designated loader on the surface-mounted technology (SMT) line

  3. Transporting printed circuit-boards (PCBs) from the warehouse to the designated lasemarking

In the dynamic production environment of our Nanjing factory, the MiR AMRs have demonstrated some excellent features – intelligence, efficiency, flexibility, and safety.

Avis Zhang

Operations Manager

Providing Added Value

First and foremost, MiR has created value for Kimball Electronics Nanjing based on its proven technology. This technology ensures MiR AMRs are safe, reliable, and highly intelligent in autonomous navigation and obstacle avoidance, and therefore capable of moving steadily through various production lines. Kimball Electronics Nanjing highlighted the safety and reliability of MiR AMRs as core points of difference and competitiveness over other brands.

Second, MiR AMRs can be deployed and operated easily. Employees can program them with just a little training, even if they do not have professional programming skills. Moreover, their deployment does not require any change to the physical environment of the facility, and routes can be easily designed and adjusted, thereby facilitating easy switching between complex movements and tasks.

In addition, MiR AMRs operate with a very open ecosystem, allowing them to easily adapt to a wide range of scenarios. For example, in Kimball Electronics Nanjing, a bottom traction system from Nonead is used to accompany the MiR250 AMRs for cart traction.

The application of MiR AMRs has helped Kimball Electronics Nanjing to significantly reduce its labor costs. The two MiR250 AMRs, each capable of doing the work of two people, have successfully met the expectations of Kimball Electronics Nanjing.

Avis Zhang added: “In the dynamic production environment of our Nanjing factory, the MiR AMRs have demonstrated some excellent features – intelligence, efficiency, flexibility, and safety. I am very happy to see that the MiR AMRs are moving more and at a faster rate as we move towards lean production. In the next phase, we will continue to work with MiR to further develop, apply and promote such technology for in-factory material transportation, product handling, equipment turnaround and on-site inspection."