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13 August 2019

Automated Guided Vehicle Systems: 5 Things to Know Before Introducing AGVs to Your Shop Floor

Shawn Lynch

Shawn Lynch

Sales Manager US Southeast

Automated Guided Vehicle Systems: 5 Things to Know Before Introducing AGVs to Your Shop Floor

Although automated guided vehicle systems (AGVs) were introduced in the ’50s, it was Amazon’s bet on Kiva robots that brought AGVs to the limelight. Today, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, hotels, and even healthcare centers have taken an interest in the logistical benefits of AGVs. If you like most facility owners are interested in digitalizing your material handling system with AGVs, then you are in the right place.

The objective of this article is to:

  • Introduce you to AGVs
  • Highlight all you need to know before making a decision and
  • It’s an impact to your logistic systems

What Are AGVs?

Automated guided vehicle systems are generally portable robots that follow specified pathways. These paths are usually defined by magnets or wires laid out in patterns. The robot in turn moves along or tracks it’s movement through lasers, magnets, vision cameras or radio waves.

The primary use of AGVs is to transport incoming materials to storage spaces, deliver materials or tools, and transport finished goods. This is why an AGV is also a material handling equipment with transporting items being its main purpose.

The 5 Things to Consider Before Introducing AGVs

  1. Should You Automate? – The first consideration that should be made is identifying if there’s a need for automation and its opportunity cost. In this phase, questions like: what will be the material flow path, the load to be transported, and the impact of AGVs on employees. These considerations will determine how to kick start the process and get everyone on board.
  2. What Type of AGV Do You Need? – When determining the type of AGV to use, the material you intend to transport is a significant consideration. The load type, weight, and if they are perishable or not must be taken into account. It is important to note that there are different types of AGVs available to you and they include: Unit load AGVs, Towing AGVs, Light load AGVs, or Forklift AGVs.These options can support the transportation of pallet trucks, boxes, or containers. The level of safety each AGV option offers must also be analyzed before making a choice.
  3. Which Navigation Technology is Best? – For AGVs to function optimally, they must be equipped with technologies that assist them in assessing positions and moving accurately. Thus, one of the most important decisions you will have to make is the navigation technology to use. There are a few options out there, and they include:The laser guidance technology: This navigation option is made up of an AGV with a laser guide and guiding marks on walls. The laser emits beam to track its path using triangulation techniques to navigate its way. Laser technology is currently the more popular option in today’s shop floors due to its’ accuracy and ease of use.

    Other options include wire technology, where an electric wire generates an electromagnetic field the AGV navigates through. Camera or Natural navigation technology makes use of a camera or laser which follows a registered map of the facility. GPS navigation makes use of satellites which helps the AGV navigates its way along a path. GPS is usually used outdoors and has limited use across interior shopfloors die to relatively lower accuracy.

  4. Powering and Charging Option – Most of today’s AGVs are powered by batteries that require occasional charging. Although other sources of energy such as electricity and solar power exist, they are a bit impractical to use with AGV. If batteries are to be used, a charging protocol must be put in place. The options available to you are: automatic charging at charging stations, swapping spent batteries for new ones, and plugging in whenever the opportunity arises.
  5. Technological Considerations – AGV systems are currently a fixture of Industry 4.0. This means when choosing an AGV; it’s compatibility with the process management control system to be used must be considered. Other considerations include an AGVs ability to support third-party ERP applications, communicate wirelessly, and integrate fully into an IT ecosystem.This highlights the need to create a simulation of the AGV system and how it fits your facilities before making a choice.

Conclusion

While AGVs are the material handling and transporting process of the future, a lot of work must be put in to get things right. Here, the importance of understanding automation, navigation technology, and AGV type was covered in detail. You can start the process today by analyzing your options with a FlexQube expert technician today.

FlexQube US Southeast sales manager
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