A global food and beverage company was struggling with regular inspection of production machinery. Their maintenance team wanted more wrench time—more time doing repair work and less time finding the equipment that required intervention. They automated this process with Spot, deploying the agile quadruped robot to conduct regular scheduled thermal inspections of bearings, motors and gearboxes and acoustic measurements looking for leaks throughout the plant. 

Unlike more traditional automation technology, Spot offered a solution as dynamic as their food and beverage environment. Slippery floors are routine. The robot has to avoid traffic in forklift lanes and duck under equipment to reach inspection points. Despite conditions that would be prohibitive for other robots, Spot has proved its value, conducting thousands of inspections and freeing the maintenance team for higher-order tasks.

Automation Tools Designed for Operators

There has been an explosion in automation technologies over the last few decades—from robotics, to IoT sensors, to analytics systems and machine learning—sparking great expectations for digital transformation. But many of these solutions have proved challenging under real world conditions: overly rigid, expensive, and time-consuming to implement and use.

Changing this dynamic requires not just new technology, but a different way of thinking about automation. Real worksites have clutter, traffic, patchy wifi, and a host of other routine inconveniences that serve as barriers tor automation. And real people have real jobs to do—requiring training, institutional knowledge, prioritization, collaboration, and other skills that are impossible to automate. 

Automation tools need to be dynamic to add value and act as an extension of these teams, fitting into their current workplace, amplifying their expertise, going places they can’t, and completing tasks they don’t have time for. In short, making their jobs easier, not more complicated.

Agile mobile robots like Spot are designed to fill this automation gap. Spot is able to navigate complex environments and go anywhere that people can, recovering from slips, rerouting around new obstacles, and providing the flexibility required for a busy worksite.

Operators can create autonomous inspections for Spot to regularly and reliably collect the site and asset data teams need to work more effectively. With onboard cameras and add-on payloads, Spot can conduct visual, thermal, radiation, and acoustic inspections, and laser scans. And unlike fixed sensors, Spot can be redeployed to new areas or with different sensors as needs evolve. This dynamic approach to sensing makes it easy to implement automated data collection in your existing infrastructure and processes.

Dynamic IoT Sensing in Action

Spot has already been put to work in a range of industries for a variety of tasks—from visual and thermal inspections for predictive maintenance, to acoustic inspections for leak detection in compressed air systems, to laser scanning for digital twins.

Manufacturers use Spot to detect equipment at risk of failure before it causes downtime. Power utilities like Dominion Energy deploy Spot into hazardous areas and reduce risks for employees. Organizations like RATP—who operate the Paris Metro—dispatch Spot to inspect infrastructure and equipment in areas that are difficult and dangerous for people to access.

All over the world, Spot is helping companies avoid unplanned downtime by inspecting equipment regularly for signs of wear or other trouble. In doing so, the robot ensures that data forms an important part of everyday plant operations. Using Spot also helps companies keep workers safe and deploy them more strategically. 

To learn more about how Boston Dynamics is redesigning automation for the real world, watch our on-demand webinar, Automating the Way We Work.