Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have been used in manufacturing since as early as 1953 when tow trucks ran on wire tracks embedded in factory floors for material handling applications. The complexity of the technology increased incrementally over the years, with similar technology being used through the 1970s, until solid state controls pushed automated capability beyond tow-motors, to assembly and production systems.
Eventually, technologies developed in the military and aerospace industries and began to be employed in industrial settings. And although, automation, IIoT and robotics have progressed significantly, even in recent years, the potential of these technologies is still being realized. AGVs are used for material handling applications like moving materials to storage areas, transporting finished product to shipping, and delivering parts to production lines.
So, what do manufacturers need to know about AGVs and how they can be employed in their plants?
Internet technologies are making connectivity as easy as plug and play. Automation is becoming smaller, easier to implement and with more features and functionality that make manufacturing more efficient, safer and ultimately more profitable. Therefore, as manufacturers look to do more processing with less and for less money, that translates into taking advantage of templates, reuse, and advanced methodologies to become more competitive. A key is to look for equipment that is stable and reliable without adding excessive costs.
Consider the application of AGVs carefully. Not all applications are ideal for AGVs. What is your business outcome? Are you trying to increase safety in your plant by using machines to move heavy equipment and product that might prove injurious to a human worker? Will you be able to move those workers to more challenging positions that will benefit your operation? If the answer is yes, then this might be an ideal application for an AGV.
In addition, it is important to employ rigorous project management methodologies which allow companies to remain confident when posed with an unexpected challenge – you should always expect the unexpected when employing complex solutions so problem-solving is critical.
Ultimately, if you are looking to increase safety by reducing forklift incidents in your facility, streamline processes and reduce operating and labour costs, an AGV application might be your answer. These systems enhance plant floor safety, improve material movement consistency and flexibility, and improve product throughput.
Manufacturers shouldn’t try to go it alone, however. They should seek expertise and work with a partner that is open to adapting with new technologies and continually learning about new solutions powered by emerging technologies. Usually, the first step involves a trial of some sort where manufacturers partner with system integrators to mutually invest in the training and skills required with an end goal of everybody benefitting.
Contact JMP today for more information on how an AGV can help your bottom line.
Automated Guided Vehicles Division
Director of Automated Guided Vehicles