Numbers, like words, need context to be properly understood. Year-to-year production rates, for example, provide lots of insight into a facility’s past, but little about its future survival or success. A better indicator of that is how much money has been invested in the plant for new equipment and expansion.

American Honda Motor Co. (AHMC) is well aware of this, and has invested nearly $5 billion in its main plant in Marysville, OH, since it opened in November 1982. The plant currently encompasses 3.6 million square feet, employs more than 4,000 people and can produce up to 440,000 Accord, Acura TLX and Acura ILX sedans annually.

Last September, management announced plans to invest $220 million in the plant to support increased production of AHMC’s revamped 2018 Accord sedan. About two-thirds of the money will be spent on a new welding department that features 342 robots.

Prior to this, AHMC invested in several Autocart E3500 autonomous guided carts (AGCs) to bring materials to assembly line workers, instead of conveyors and fork trucks. Made by Autocraft, the AGCs enhance worker safety and help AHMC quickly adjust to customer-demand fluctuations.

Daniel Burseth, general manager at Autocraft, says his company was selected to supply the AGCs because of its successful working relationship with AHMC since 2005. The manufacturer even awarded Autocraft (and 24 other suppliers) the Honda Performance Excellence Award in 2016 from a pool of 5,000 candidates.

Marysville is one of several hundred facilities worldwide that rely on Autocart AGCs to safely and reliably deliver material to workers. Burseth says that all of the carts, combined, have more than 1 million hours of production uptime, with the E3500 and Dual-Drive 5000 models being the most popular.

Each cart follows a magnetic tape pattern to complete its delivery route in the safest and quickest way possible. An HMI touch screen lets the operator easily change the route’s parameters—distance (inches), time (seconds), speed (inches per second) and direction (center, left, right, forward or backward)—as well as the type and volume level of sound the cart makes as it travels.

Because AGCs see each other via radio waves, cart to cart radio blocking provides traffic control at intersections without the need for an additional controller.
Charging options include a built-in port, rest stops along the path or delegated assembly line stations.

The E3500 moves containers of material weighing up to 3,500 pounds, making it ideal for large automotive, aerospace and home-appliance manufacturing facilities. Cart status data, such as location, battery level and system diagnostics, is continually monitored by a master controller, which communicates with a plant’s information system. The cart features a prepunched, formed and welded steel deck. Maximum travel speed is 150 fpm.

The Dual-Drive 5000 has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, and can move forward, in reverse and crab style, as well as rotate 210 degrees. Its deck is made of cold-rolled steel that’s been laser cut and welded.

Other OEMs that use Autocart AGCs are Boeing, John Deere, Toyota, Carrier, Whirlpool, Ford, FCA and General Motors. For more information, call 810-794-4929 or visit