AutoGuide Mobile Robots has been named to Robotic Business Review’s list of the 50 most influential and forward-thinking robotics companies in the world. A leading provider of high-payload autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), AutoGuide is the only 2020 RBR50 Innovation Award winner recognized for social good for participating in a program to train and hire former Eastern Kentucky coal miners as robotics technicians.
AutoGuide and its premier integration partner, Heartland Automation, have hired 25 former coal miners who were trained at the Haas eKentucky Advanced Manufacturing Institute (eKAMI) in Paintsville, Kentucky. Located within miles of the companies’ manufacturing facilities in Georgetown, eKAMI launched in 2017 with the goal of building the skilled workforce needed to attract quality, high-paying manufacturing jobs to the region. Students participate in 16- and 36-week accelerated programs in computer numerical control (CNC) machinery for the robotics, aerospace, medical and other advanced manufacturing industries.
“Robots are often viewed as a threat to human jobs, but not in this case,” wrote Steve Crowe, editor of Robotics Business Review, The Robot Report and Collaborative Robotics Trends. “This is a great example of how reskilling helped AutoGuide ﬁll labor shortages and positioned dislocated coal miners for future career success. It also provides a potential blueprint on how to reskill more displaced coal miners and diversify the local economy by creating additional advanced manufacturing opportunities.”
Graduates deploy and maintain AutoGuide’s family of modular AMRs
According to AutoGuide President and CEO Rob Sullivan, the majority of reskilled eKAMI graduates hired by AutoGuide work as robotics technicians, deploying and maintaining AutoGuide’s modular mobile robots at customer sites. The advanced high-payload industrial AMRs are easy to deploy and program, improve safety, reduce costs and increase efficiency for a wide range of material handling operations. The company’s Max-N15 and Max-N10 tuggers, Max-N pallet stacker and SurePath fleet management software—which provides an easy means to specify routes, coordinate autonomous lifting and transport of pallets, and manage the AMRs traffic to optimize customers’ material transport—are already proven at leading manufacturers and warehouse providers such as Toyota, Pactiv, Ford and Husqvarna.
“Finding skilled personnel for manufacturing and installations can be extremely difficult, so we’ve been thrilled to find a resource like eKAMI,” Sullivan said. “Not only do we get hard-working and highly skilled technicians, but they get jobs they likely didn’t even know were possible for them while working in the coal mines. As clichéd as it might sound, our relationship with eKAMI, and this recognition by RBR, is truly a win-win for all parties, and we hope the visibility will help eKAMI grow its funding and student base so more graduates and companies can find matches in the robotics field.”