Although the holiday season as a whole is a busy time for many companies, the window between Christmas Day and New Year’s has long stood as a valuable opportunity for manufacturing facilities to implement much-needed improvements. While retail, distribution and e-commerce companies are still in the midst of peak season, many manufacturers implement a production floor shut down in order to address various issues that have gone unresolved during the previous year’s up-time.
During these holiday shutdown periods, manufacturers traditionally have focused on equipment repair and machine maintenance, often overlooking the potential to streamline material flow and rethink automation strategies. That’s because traditionally, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for materials handling were inflexible, designed with embedded wires, lasers bouncing off reflectors, or tape on the floor to guide vehicles around the factory floor. These systems were reliable but almost completely static, so manufacturers could not easily make adjustments even if they suspended production for a week.