Automated Guided Vehicles are a practical approach to materials handling operations, while the newer Autonomous Mobile Robots offer a more dynamic solution. With advantages to both, how do companies choose which is best for their facility?
Automated guided vehicles have been the answer to automated transportation tasks for over 50 years.The impact on logistics has made these vehicles integral to modern transportation automation and materials handling. With the start and growth of industry 4.0, automated guided vehicles have seen many advancements including the introduction of a new automated transportation technology known as an Autonomous Mobile Robot or AMR. Companies now have the option to invest in either Automated Guided Vehicles or adopt the newer Autonomous Mobile Robots and must choose carefully between these two technologies, based on the requirements of their operation. Here is what you need to know about AGVs vs. AMRs.
AGV vs AMR: What are they?
To understand the differences between an AGV and an AMR, we will look at what each of the technologies are. An AGV is a vehicle that navigates and transports loads throughout a facility using a combination of sensor technology and programming without a driver. Programmed with preset routes they use different types of technology to establish where this route is. During the transport process, AGVs transmit information detailing system status, inventory tracking, and system controls to a dispatching system. AGV’s are usually incorporated into a larger AGV system that utilizes multiple vehicles. Various AGV solutions exist for certain transportation, conveyor, or load-bearing applications, for example, this dual navigation vehicle utilizing both inertial and laser guidance developed to move building material within its facility. An AMR is just like an AGV with a few exceptions. An AMR is a robot that can navigate through a warehouse without having a strict predetermined path created for it. AMRs adapt to their environment and find the most efficient route for their task. Like AGVs, AMRs come with different types, based on application. A great example of an AMR in use is given by the Robotics Industry Association, describing the use of AMRs in the mining industry to act as inspectors for hazardous environments and creating maps of the mines.
Integration & Navigation
One of the key differences between AGVs and AMRs is the implementation and navigation of each system. When integrating a line-guided vehicle, such as an AGV, into your facility, a path that is clear of any obstacles is determined for the vehicle. The AGV then will use magnetic strips, wires, or laser targets to setup this path. In some cases, restructuring or adjustments to facility layouts must be made to create the most efficient path. Navigation and integration are what make AMRs stand out from AGVs. Using onboard intelligence systems, AMRs use machine learning to create their paths and adapt to the environment when faced with obstacles. The integration process for an AMR is very simple, usually needing minimal or no restructuring of the facility.
Flexibility & Adaptability
Another key difference between an AGV and an AMR is the flexibility and adaptability they offer once integrated into a facility. Automated Guided Vehicles have been around long enough to see major advancements in their navigation technology. However, once the integration is completed for an AGV, any adjustments to the path cannot be made on the spot. Older technologies, such as wire-guided systems, require more effort to adjust, while modern laser navigation can be reprogrammed remotely in a matter of minutes. An AMR, on the other hand, is made to quickly adapt to these changes on their own. Using its advanced autonomy, it can learn and adjust on its own. However, with this technology being fairly new, there are still limits to AMR capabilities. With the AMR learning on its own, there is still room for error and adjustment, which can lead to an increase of work at the beginning of its implementation. Traffic management for large fleets of AMR’s can be a challenge, something handled quite well by an AGV. Automated Guided Vehicles are a practical approach to operations that do not expect frequent changes while Autonomous Mobile Robots work best in dynamic environments that would depend on autonomy.
Choosing your solution
The difference between AGVs and AMRs is seen mostly in navigation, integration, and adaption. AGVs have been the sole choice for reliable and consistent automated transportation since their introduction. Years of investment in this technology has led to more affordable options and better efficiency. They can be customized to fit almost any facility and simple application while keeping costs low. The latest laser navigation technologies do not require laser targets and are known as free ranging or natural navigation. These new navigation technologies blur the lines between AGV’s and AMR’s. AMRs on the other hand, are a new and exciting technology. The ability to function autonomously and adapt can have some advantages in certain applications. The right choice for your facility depends on the environment, long-term logistics, budget, and applications. Our AGV specialists can help you make the decision best for your company.