South Carolina Becoming Home for Automation, Innovation, and Vision Guided Vehicles |

South Carolina Becoming Home for Automation, Innovation, and Vision Guided Vehicles

South Carolina Becoming Home for Automation, Innovation, and Vision Guided Vehicles

By Jim Rock, CEO, Seegrid

With more than 250 automotive companies in the state, from Lear, Kemet, Koyo, to Michelin, BMW, and Bridgestone (to name a few), it is little wonder that South Carolina is ranked #3 in automotive manufacturing strength for many reasons. South Carolina is one of leading locations for vision guided vehicles (VGV), driven in part to the increasing North American fork truck free (FTF) initiatives.

Encouraging public-private partnerships, which serve as the foundation for research in South Carolina, world-class brands like BMW and Michelin are partnering with universities to bring collaboration to the next level. At facilities across the state, researchers driven by the needs of the automotive industry work with students, multi-disciplinary faculty members, and industry partners to determine the next generation automation technologies. By creating a pathway between research and business, companies in South Carolina benefit from the creation of market-driven technology, leading the way for new product development and implementation. The automotive sector often requires a proof-of-concept success story in one location before the technology solution is implemented enterprise-wide. “Seegrid VGVs are the medium-duty automated solution of choice within Daimler Trucks North America production facilities. We chose Seegrid because the vision technology does not require infrastructure for navigation. Vision guided tow tractors allow us to reduce labor costs and provide a safer work environment for team members,” noted Jeremy Tyger, Manufacturing Engineering Manager of Daimler Trucks North America.

Automotive Innovation

Because the state averages 15% lower energy rates, South Carolina is rapidly attracting large automobile manufacturers and distribution centers. South Carolina has been very wise to sweeten the deal for new operations by offering no state property tax, no local income tax, no inventory tax, and no wholesale tax. South Carolina is a magnet for automobile innovation. Last year nearly 1,000 patents were issued to researchers and businesses within the state.

Safety and Cost Savings

Materials handling operations are deeply impacted by ensuring safety first and watching labor costs. South Carolina has ten active tire plants - more than any other state in the country. Nearly 30 percent of tires exported from the U.S. come from South Carolina. South Carolina tire exports totaled nearly $2 billion in 2015. With 84,000 tires produced in South Carolina daily, getting those tires through large manufacturing plants quickly and efficiently is a top priority. Increasingly, manufacturers across the country are turning to innovative technologies like vision guided vehicles (VGVs) to reduce forklift accidents and reduce injuries. With over 300,000 miles driven without a safety incident, Seegrid VGVs have a safety record beyond reproach. 

South Carolina is Capitalizing on Big Data and IIoT

Arguably some of the first to embrace IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and Big Data are automobile manufacturers. Now in Q3 2016, IIoT enters South Carolina and the automotive manufacturing industry, collecting data about when machines are in use and how efficiently plants are working.

Many automotive executives have already recognized the value of connectivity in their facilities. In KPMG’s 2016 survey of 800 automotive executives, more than 80% of respondents believe that connectivity and digitization will strongly disrupt the automobile industry by the end of this decade. Automotive manufacturers ahead of the Industry 4.0 curve have embraced Big Data and flexibility within their plants as a means of innovating ahead of the competition.

Traditional automakers and tech companies alike are investing in flexible, data-rich technologies like VGVs to autonomously transport parts and other materials throughout their facilities.

Ahead of many other machines on the factory floor, VGVs themselves are sensors that accurately and consistently capture performance data. VGVs provide automobile manufacturers with valuable insights into plant workflows, including predicting maintenance needs before equipment breaks and tracking parts as they move through the supply chain. Importantly, VGVs are 100% flexible, which means automakers can use the same vehicle to perform different functions on different shifts or in different facilities as processes change and organizations grow.

Because South Carolina is taking the lead in so many ways, it is not surprising that the state’s automotive manufacturers are seeking ways to embrace cutting-edge IIoT, stay flexible, and continue to innovate ahead of fellow automakers.

About the Author

Jim Rock, Seegrid CEO, leads a talented team focused on customer success, product expansion and business performance. Rock’s progressive leadership of growth-stage technology companies spans 20+ years in multiple hi-tech industries: artificial intelligence software, voice recognition technology, acoustic semiconductors for mobile devices, and enterprise-grade software.

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