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April 26, 2012

Romney: No whistling in the warehouse while you work

Presidential candidate slams warehouse equipment at Solyndra plant as example of frivolous spending.

By DC Velocity Staff

Mitt Romney clearly hasn't spent enough time in warehouses or manufacturing plants. In a November speech at an Americans for Prosperity Foundation event, the Republican presidential candidate charged that Solyndra, the solar-panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after receiving federal loan guarantees, had engaged in frivolous spending at taxpayers' expense. His evidence? Solyndra's manufacturing plant, he said, "had robots that whistled Disney songs."

That statement piqued the interest of PolitiFact Florida, a division of the Tampa Bay Times that researches claims by political figures. PolitiFact tracked down Solyndra's former facilities manager and its manager of automation, who explained that the "whistling robots" were actually automated guided vehicles (AGVs)— "basically driverless forklifts," as PolitiFact put it. The AGVs played melodies when in motion as an alternative to constant, loud beeping, said the former Solyndra managers. The vehicles played a variety of tunes, including Japanese folk songs, but neither could recall hearing any Disney songs.

PolitiFact's Truth-o-Meter gave Romney's "whistling robots" assertion a "Half True" rating. Read the whole story here.

Ironically, in his speech, Romney went on to praise the office supplies giant Staples, which he helped fund in its early days, as an example of modest spending and fiscal responsibility. And what does Staples use today in some of its warehouses? Lots and lots of robots, purchased from Kiva Systems. (We checked—they don't sing.)

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