Automated Guided Vehicles for Warehouses
Increasingly, enterprises are taking advantage of an advanced robotics system known as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to help increase productivity and reduce labor costs in the warehouse.
Meant for storing and unloading bulk goods, the AGV systems are capable of moving throughout warehouse environments without an onboard operator. Their computer control systems often rely on marked lines on the floor or machine vision to complete their tasks.
When implemented correctly and safely, these autonomous wheel-based vehicles hold the power to improve warehouse safety and even boost inventory accuracy.
Not sure if AGVs are right for your facility? In all likelihood, the answer is yes — but it’s important to utilize them in the right way that meets your specific requirements. Below, we’ll break down the different AGV systems available and how they can be best implemented into your current warehouse operations.
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Types of Automated Guided Vehicle Systems
Automated guided vehicle systems can take many forms. These versatile load-bearing vehicles continue to become more diverse as advanced new technologies are made available. At present, the following types of AGV systems are among the most common:
As the most basic type of AGV, the automated guided cart (AGC) features a straightforward system that is easy to understand and implement. Often relying on a guide path from magnetic tape or embedded wire paths, these carts provide an accessible means of automating facilities. The versatile carts can be implemented in a variety of locations and are capable of handling large loads or dealing with narrower aisles. They're also highly scalable, making them an ideal option for enterprises that may need to adjust at a moment's notice.
Capable of performing functions typically associated with human operators, automated guided forklifts use advanced, real-time detection systems to recognize and bypass a variety of obstacles. Forklift AGVs may be guided by lasers, which map complex warehouse environments to ensure optimal navigation. Route-optimizing solutions prevent collisions, which are a common safety concern. In this way, automated forklifts can dramatically improve both safety and efficiency.
Also known as driverless trains or tuggers. These automated towing vehicles can pull other load-carrying vehicles. They may be called upon to transport heavy loads considerable distances. They typically follow defined paths, with multiple drop-off or pickup points designated along the way.
Autonomous Mobile Robots
Although sometimes confused with the automated guided vehicles described above, autonomous mobile robots (AMR) should arguably occupy a separate category. These systems are far more technologically advanced, relying on machine vision systems and other sophisticated solutions to navigate and optimize the increasingly complex warehouse environment. These robots take many forms but are often called upon to automate the most dangerous or time-consuming tasks.
Advantages of These Systems
There's no denying the versatility of AGV and AMR, which can be used in a wide range of sectors and locations. Key applications are:
Distribution centers. Today's demanding consumers expect orders fulfilled in record time. Enterprises can only live up to these expectations if they optimize every part of the process. AGVs play an important role by streamlining how products move throughout distribution centers. Their implementation can vary dramatically from one distribution center to the next; some businesses opt for simple solutions such as automated carts, while others call on machine vision and other advanced transport systems associated with Industry 4.0
Food and beverage storage. Efficient movement is essential in food and beverage storage locations, where even minor delays can cause big problems. AGVs can be used in multiple areas of the food and beverage supply chain, beginning with material storage and extending through unloading processes. Efficient AGV systems are especially vital in frozen food storage, where there is little room for error. With cold storage, AGVs limit physical hardships that human employees might otherwise experience.
Pharmaceuticals. Many of the advantages available in food and beverage storage extend to the pharmaceutical sector, where AGVs ensure that organizations abide by good manufacturing practices (GMP). AGV solutions allow for safe and efficient pharmaceutical pallet handling, plus reliable handling for various fluids or powders. These hygienic solutions are completely traceable, making them ideal for maintaining full compliance.
Automotive. Often utilized in parts distribution centers and manufacturing operations, automotive industry AGVs have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Currently, they are a top option for supporting just-in-time transportation and other endeavors for which careful tracking and on-time deliveries are critical.
eCommerce. Charged with transporting a variety of items from picking areas to workstations dedicated to packaging, automated guided carts and other types of AGVs have seen rapid growth in the eCommerce industry. These vehicles help businesses keep up with today's unprecedented demands. This, in turn, ensures that order picking is accurate and fulfilled at a pace that was virtually unheard of just a few years ago. This approach can also dramatically reduce operating costs in an industry that is always in need of streamlined solutions.
Warehouse1’s Custom Automated Guided Vehicle Systems Solutions
At this point, automatic guided vehicles provide far more than a competitive edge; they are crucial for allowing enterprises in all industries to keep up with the market's fast pace. These material handling solutions will remain a critical component of modern warehousing, so procrastination could be a real liability.
Interested in implementing automated guided vehicle systems in your warehouse or distribution center? These solutions can produce impressive results, but only if integrated strategically. Hence, the importance of working with the warehouse automation experts from Warehouse1. We can help you determine where and how AGVs might fit into your current warehouse setup.
If you're ready to get started, contact us and discover our commitment to providing custom solutions. We'll be happy to highlight the many ways in which AGVs and other advanced systems can drive safer and more efficient operations for your enterprise.