Automated Guided Vehicle: What’s Trending in and around the Industry?

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) have come forth as a widely-demanded technology due to its unavoidable benefits. An AGV can be simply understood as a fully-automated transport system. The vehicle provides benefits ranging from better workforce safety, reduced production time, and low operational costs. The industry is driven by some of the massive technological trends such as the rapid adoption of mobile robots, Industry 4.0, and advancements in navigation technology.

Getting familiar: The what, why and where of automated guided vehicles

What is an automated guided vehicle?

Automated guided vehicle (AGV) systems help in moving and transporting items in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers without any fixed conveying system or manual intervention. It follows configurable guide paths to optimize storage, picking, and transport functionality in the premium space environment. The last few decades witnessed significant advances in robotic technology.

Why has technology gained an unsurprising demand lately?

The growing need for high efficiency in the healthcare, automotive, e-commerce, and food & beverage sectors is raising the need for automation. The AGV-enabled automation of industrial installations can help meet the requirements of material handling capacity, reduce production time, reduce the chances of human error, increase safety, ensure high production volumes and increase accuracy and repeatability. The adoption of AGVs enables just-in-time (JIT) delivery of raw materials, computerized control of the received assembled parts and tracking of the shipped items.

Where do we see the wide-scale adoption of the automated guided vehicle technology?

AGVs are used in several end-use sectors, such as automotive, logistics, healthcare, manufacturing, and food and beverage industries. Increased productivity and decreased labor costs are the main factors that drive the need for industrial equipment. The demand for AGVs is expected to increase due to a rise in industrial automation. Expanding industrialization has led to a persistent need for specialized material handling and transport solutions for fueled performance.

AGV for different industries:

Manufacturing

Technological advancements and a rising population have put a greater demand on the manufacturing sector. Industry 4.0 will be the next step for the manufacturing industry by introducing internet technologies to an integrated automation system. By applying internet technologies to optimized automation systems, it became possible to make manufacturing processes more efficient, less reliance on human intervention and allowing systems to make self-decision. For decades, autonomous systems such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) have been used in construction facilities and distribution centers.

Retail

Increasing globalization and the advent of online retail and bulk retail have increased demand for AGVs in the retail sector. The deployment of AGVs in factories and warehouses allows them to do this. Service quality and customer happiness are the main competitive factors in the e-commerce market. Companies are offering a single-day delivery option with certain additional charges and with rising disposable income in both emerging and advanced economies, the commercial viability of these schemes is increasing significantly. The single-day delivery method is carried out by e-commerce warehouses with the aid of AGVs.

Healthcare

Automated guided vehicles are penetrating the healthcare industry step by step. Multiple reasons influence this new situation. For example, reducing AGV costs and increasing salaries for human staff. Also, developments in sensor technology for location and navigation, environment recognition and collision avoidance, fleet management, and content monitoring, as well as a more comprehensive diagnosis of individual vehicles are the factors (among many others) driving the transition. Mobile robots are becoming more convenient, performing non-value-added tasks such as moving the trollies of 800 to 1,000 pounds that require the unskilled workforce. The AGVs play an important role in day-to-day operations and help staff focus on their core care skills and provide quality care for patients.

What’s trending in and around the automated guided vehicle industry?

The trend of mobile robots

Because of demands in automation, the mobile robot has been one of the focuses of research in this period. In their industrial plant, many industry players are using a mobile robot to eliminate manual labor, as well as to ensure more efficient and standardized processes. The industrial use of mobile robots is typically referred to as the Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV). The advancements in navigation technology allow the AGV to be used for several tasks like carrying the load to pre-determined locations sent from the stock management, mobile app, and pallet handling. More recently, the paradigm of Industry 4.0 has been widely accepted in the sectors, where critical process data is traded for better management over the internet.

Industry 4.0 and AGVs

Industry 4.0 combines different technologies to further improve the coordination and management of manufacturing environments. Through the introduction of internet technology, the principles can be extended to existing manufacturing factories. Such innovations are aimed at improving connectivity between systems and handling facilities within factories in a better way. This can be done by creating a virtual equivalent using the sensor data from real-world systems. This enables better monitoring and control of the processes.

The smart factories comprise of smart devices and products that demonstrate IoT and CPS concepts. On-board processing, communication technology, data storage, sensors, and actuators are required for Smart devices. Smart products can define themselves, explain their status, history, and future processes. Manufacturing in smart factories is, therefore, more versatile and smarter, resulting in more individualized products and allowing factories to have a modular structure.

Advancements in the navigation technology

The earliest automated guided vehicles were directed by a wired method around the factory. Though this navigation technique is still used today, plant managers have to choose from several other methods. The tape is sensed by sensors on the AGVs, and this is used to direct the vehicle. Reference points are located on the factory floor at coordinates x, y in inertial navigation. Changes to the pathway can be made by simply changing the points of reference, making this process more versatile.

The next step from inertial navigation is open path navigation, which states that the vehicle can travel from one position to another independently, going from a guided vehicle to a self-driving vehicle. Speed and efficiency are important in the environment of the warehouse. Navigation developments have made the AGVs highly competitive.

Automated guided vehicle industry insights

Mar-2018: Toyota launched T-ONE, new, in-house smart automated guided automation software developed for vehicles. The program was developed as an integration layer that interacts with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from Toyota Autopilot and existing infrastructure such as product recognition equipment, warehouse management systems, and other material handling equipment.

May-2018: Toyota has introduced a new electric forklift with heavy-duty Traigo80. This forklift provides high speed, maneuverability, and efficiency. The powerful motors provide a strong climbing ability and fast travel speed, making the forklift usually reserved for engine-powered forklifts suitable for challenging applications. With the help of a sharp rear steering angle, the truck can also navigate in small spaces where appropriate, for example in production or storage areas.

Nov-2018: Oceaneering launched REVO-GT, a vehicle system. This system uses driverless, self-guided community transit vehicles and has a capacity of up to 24 passengers. This allows the passengers to choose one or more specific destinations from pre-programmed routes linking different origins.

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Taking everything into account

Industrial structures are rapidly evolving, moving towards automated systems to enhance and optimize productivity levels, reorganize logistics, and improve transportation & logistics systems. Industry 4.0’s emergence has contributed to the widespread sharing of data and automation in the manufacturing industry.

With growing interest and a move toward automated systems and innovations, the automated market for guided vehicles has seen growth in recent years. Technological advances, especially in the navigation area, have played an important role in increasing the adoption of the automated guided vehicle in the manufacturing sector.

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