Back in 2012, we reported on a project at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) auto plant in Georgetown, Ky., that involved retrofitting 22 tow tractors with locally built automation kits to turn them into automated guided vehicles (AGVs). To develop these "home-grown" AGVs, TMMK worked with two local business partners—AutoGuide, an automation specialist led by the AGV innovator Paul J. Perry, and Industrial Concepts Inc. (ICI), a developer of custom machinery and control systems. (AutoGuide and ICI are closely allied; when we visited, the two shared a facility, and ICI's executives had an ownership stake in AutoGuide.)
The low-cost automation kit seemed like a sure winner, but ICI and AutoGuide are small companies, and Toyota was keeping them busy. Just as we were starting to wonder whatever happened to the folks in Georgetown, we got a call from ICI to let us know that the company had been acquired by Michigan-based Heartland Automation Solutions LLC. Now renamed Heartland Automation, it has also merged with its neighbor, AutoGuide LLC, which will become a product division.
Heartland Automation Solutions LLC also owns Heartland Steel Products, which includes the storage rack manufacturer SpaceRak, and Heartland Engineered Products, a maker of engineered platform and safety products. No word yet on whether the new parent will invest in expanding production and sales of the "DIY" AGV kits.