Previously, the team carried out this important maintenance work by using automated extendable platforms and scaffolding to check 40-metre-long gantries that support the plant’s heavy machinery.
Each inspection area would take a laborious 12 hours to complete, but now, with feet firmly on the ground and controlling drones equipped with GoPro cameras, maintenance staff can thoroughly inspect each area in just 12 minutes, while the whole production facility can be covered in a day, zoning in on hard-to-reach areas to ensure they are well-maintained and comply to rigorous safety standards.
“We’d joked about having a robot do the work when there was a lightbulb moment – use drones instead,” says Pat Manning, machining manager at Ford Dagenham Engine Plant.
“We used have to scale heights of up to 50 metres to do the necessary checks on the roof and machining areas. Now we can cover the entire plant in one day and without the risk of team members having to work at dangerous heights.”
With the time saved, the team at Dagenham can carry out more frequent inspections, without having to shut facilities to construct the scaffolding that was once necessary.
Ford’s drones are also set to work inspecting pipework, locating air leaks and checking machinery. The company is now evaluating the possibility of using this high-flying technology in other regions.