What Are Automated Guided Vehicles?

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Steam engines and conveyor belts are arguably two of the most important inventions of the industrial age. Moving water and coal by machine sparked groundbreaking changes in manufacturing. They allowed businesses to scale their production while saving time and resources. Many believe that automated guided vehicles represent the next logical step.

After all, without these innovations, the world as it is today would be impossible. The ability to move materials with ease contributed powerfully to the industrial revolution.

As time has marched on, more technologies have been invented to improve transportation, thus benefiting the manufacturing process. Many experts believe that the automated guided vehicle is the most noteworthy innovation as of late.

These machines are automatic vehicles with a guidance system that can use a variety of technologies to get from point A to point B without the need for a driver or human supervision. This invention has benefited quite a number of operations when it comes to manufacturing. AGVs can routinely and reliably transport materials from one place to another.

How Automated Guided Vehicles Work

Of course, the future of manufacturing is unknown, but it is constantly seeing upgrades from technological advancements. An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a robotic solution to many industrial problems. It is a portable robot that moves along marked lines or wires on factory floors. It achieves this by using radio waves, cameras, magnets, or lasers for navigation.

The technologies used by each AGV differ based on design. Technologies such as LIDAR help AGVs in routing, navigation, and traffic management. Cameras help in monitoring obstacles and optimizing the path. Sensors also help in mapping the space and navigation.

Automated guided vehicles run on optimized technologies such as laser-based navigation systems and camera-based navigation systems. Both of these enhance the operation and help with better routing, traffic management, load balancing, and battery management.

These advances help make the systems safer for humans on the factory floor, as AGVs can stop if they sense someone or something is within their set path.

Laser-based navigation systems are one of the most popular types of routing and mapping systems in the industry today. Engineers pair camera-based technology with laser technology as an add-on feature. Cameras can detect the presence of traffic and easily identify obstacles better than lasers.

Camera-mounted automated guided vehicles are also extremely useful when humans are operating the system. It provides a much better view when users take the vehicle for new routines or a manned operation.

Industries Utilizing Automated Guided Vehicles

AI and self-driving cars are predicted to be the future, even in industries such as construction. However, some industries are experiencing success with automated options, and others are still adapting to AGVs. Most companies use automated guided vehicles in industrial applications. They transport heavy materials around large factories or warehouses.

For example, they help factories move raw materials or pellet goods. These are made ready to be shipped or sent off to a warehouse. Techs automate their routes and schedules in a way that they carry out operations a specific number of times within specified time increments.

While industrial applications are most common, other industries use AGVs on a smaller scale. AGVs can be applied to move materials in food processing, automotive assembly plants, and the healthcare industry.

Within hospitals, AGVs are becoming increasingly popular. Technicians program them to move linens, trash, medical waste, and even patient meals. In recent years, the theme park industry has even begun using AGVs for rides.

Benefits of Using Automated Guided Vehicle

The world of production is moving forward. There are so many benefits of incorporating an automated guided vehicle. Here are some of the most notable perks.

1. Time Management

Most notably, automated guided vehicles help cut down on human resources. Otherwise, companies spend additional resources on transporting materials back and forth. This, in turn, reduces the manual errors that occur when lifting large loads.

AGVs also improve time management by automating the routines. A simple memory chip with a navigation system and an automated routine can help the users to save time throughout pickup and transport schedules.

The incorporation of more automated systems has also been shown to save money and add more leisure time for employees. When companies don’t burden employees with simple, repetitive tasks, they can focus on more important agenda items.

AGVs prove to be extremely useful as they can transport items to a certain location without the guidance of humans. Without the need for human guidance, AGVs cut down on human error.

2. Optimizing Transport

Transporting materials through robot-enabled machines helps in automating the transport of materials, withdrawing the need for other machines, forklifts, and techniques for load management. Delegating transport to an AGV can also protect workers.

Injuries from lifting heavy items or operating forklifts incorrectly are some of the most common injuries within the workplace. Having AGVs take on this responsibility could mean avoiding workplace comp claims and potentially losing good employees.

Somewhat ironically, self-driving vehicles become simpler and safer when humans aren’t around. Separating human tasks and automated guided vehicles can optimize the transport process in multiple ways.

3. Efficiency

Incorporating AGVs benefits the overall manufacturing process, as it involves fewer man hours on simple tasks, such as transport, and it diverts them to more useful operations. An automated guided vehicle cuts down on the number of staff hours or labor required to safely handle payload and take it from one point to another. This is easily done once the load is set up on the automated guided vehicle.

Companies know that these machines are sturdy, stable, and more efficient than humans, who can carry less and usually take longer. AGVs make the transportation process both cost and time efficient.

Automated guided vehicles are a simple solution to solve transportation issues, and their application has broadened during the late 20th century. As more industries look to incorporate technology to optimize their processes and improve efficiency, they may take advantage of AGVs.

Looking at how the manufacturing industries have been utilizing this technology for years can help industries that are choosing to incorporate this technology now learn best practices. Knowing what AGVs are and recognizing their benefits can help businesses decide if they’re right for them.

Image Credit: Ready Made; Pexels; Thanks!

Deanna Ritchie

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.