AGVs – The Cost Effective Materials Handling Solution

Commonly seen in warehouses for materials handling purposes, these versatile material handlers are increasingly turning up in other industries, especially mining.

An AGV is essentially a robotic forklift or robotic truck. It normally moves along a pre-determined path using various navigational methods that include wire, tape, spot/inertial, lasers or 3D vision guidance. Advanced AGV’s are even smarter still, known as Automated Mobile Robots (AMR) they are able to navigate their environments without physical guide paths. Used to transport pallets, cartons and products throughout a warehouse or manufacturing facility an AGV’s ability to be installed into an existing facility with minimal disruptions or upgrades makes them a safe, cost effective and reliable option for businesses. 

Automated Guided Vehicles generally transport a product or goods from point A to point B and are customisable to support specific functions including lifting and placing palletised loads. Their ability to communicate with other machinery in the factory allows for smooth operation and they have increased accuracy and production output compared to a human. AGV’s are programmed to work accurately at the same production speeds without stoppages and can run 24/7 reducing labour costs as there is no need for downtime.

The safety and production advantages of AGV’s are what makes them such an attractive option for businesses. Most AGV’s are equipped with a multitude of cameras, sensors and lasers that sense obstructions, even sudden ones such as a human walking in front of them and have built in features to avoid these interactions. AGVs do not get distracted or fatigued so there is never the risk or error as there is with humans when they are operating. They also operate in environments that you would not want a human worker exposed to for long periods, enabling them to do the dirty and dangerous repetitive tasks where human workers would be at most risk.

Their ability to function in these dangerous environments is what makes AGV’s so attractive to many industries such as mining and radioactive product handling, or those conducted in hot or cold environments. Laser guided AGV’s are already in use in mine sites globally with Volvo, Telia & Ericsson developing new networks enabling AGV’s to go even more remote allowing for increased autonomous operations. Businesses are also developing bigger AGV’s to better accommodate the huge hauls needed on mine sites and even AGV’s capable of carrying analysis equipment to perform inspections on the different pieces of machinery used in mines.

AGV’s are a cost effective and affordable way to automate, allowing businesses to maximise their production capacity. Their safety and load advantages are added benefits and the development from a simple robot that just works in an environment to the more advanced AMRs that understands an environment make AGVs a necessary part of future proofing a business. 

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