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Top 10 Benefits of Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV)

Top 10 Benefits of Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGV)

Autonomous Guided Vehicle (AGV) electric tugs are becoming increasingly popular in Industrial Manufacturing sectors. And it’s not difficult to see why, as they’re designed to autonomously move through your environment without the need for an operator.

There is often a hesitancy to adopt AGV solutions despite the many benefits. Concerns centre around perceived cost, risk in terms of safety, and fear of change. Yet when deployed correctly, AGV electric tugs and other material handling equipment offer better ROI, increased safety, and a more efficient operation.

MasterMover works with best-in-class safety and navigation technology providers and this, coupled with 25 years of engineering experience, delivers a world-leading AGV solution that maximises safety and operational efficiency.

What is an AGV?

AGV stands for Autonomous Guided Vehicle. It is a mobile unit that utilises floor markings or on-board navigation and sensors to travel between locations. Typically, they are used in industrial manufacturing and logistics settings.

A wide range of AGV solutions exist focused at carrying out high-volume tasks whilst moving products, equipment and materials of lower weights. MasterMover, however, offers AGV solutions capable of moving loads up to 20,000kg and beyond.

For example, our TOW300 is used in automotive manufacturing by a well-known car maker. The AGV is used to move parts to the production line and empty units away from it, offering the capability to move up to 3,000kg, using navigation and sensor technology.

The AGV TOW300 gives 10 hours of operation between charges and carries out tasks more efficiently than could be achieved through a more human-involved process.

Utilising Technology to Go Beyond Pedestrian-Operated

AGV’s move using a combination of software, scanners and sensors. Most are set to follow a defined path that can be specified by the operator. Others use sensors and scanning systems that allow them to detect the environment around them to navigate around obstacles.

Beyond pedestrian-operated electric tugs, there are 6 “levels” of technology available from MasterMover, building up to a full AGV solution:

  1. Remote Control – Forwards & Backwards. For simple applications or loads on rails, this AGV option involves wireless control to move between two points.
  2. Remote Control – Multi-Directional. Full remote-control capacity enables machines to be driven with the use of a wireless transmitter.
  3. Remote Control – MultiLink. MasterMover MultiLink technology means two or more machines can be wirelessly synced together for fleets that can be managed by a single operator.
  4. Remote Control – Line Follow. Machines use sensors with line reading technology to read painted or taped lines on the ground. This ensures a set path is followed. Operators can control the speed of the machine. A great solution for moving through a tight space where repetition of movement is essential.
  5. AGV – Line Follow. As above, but no operator is required. Barcodes can be placed on the ground and can be scanned by the machines for additional controls to be programmed, such as slowing down through a specific area.
  6. AGV – Natural Navigation. Natural Navigation allows machines to navigate autonomously by identifying and mapping the surrounding area.

10 Benefits to Utilising AGV Electric Tugs & Other Material Handling Equipment

1. Better Utilisation of People

Eliminate or reduce the need for your staff to spend time moving materials. AGV solutions make movement of equipment and materials more efficient and allow your people to spend more time doing tasks of greater value-add.

2. Allows Precise, Accurate Movement

AGV solutions are ideal when working in tight spaces, or when moving a load through areas with minimal clearance.

Autonomous vehicles utilise line following capabilities or high-accuracy navigation systems to ensure the exact same route is followed time after time, making the environment safer and reducing the risk of damage to high-value loads and the surrounding premises and people.

3. Repeatability

AGV’s deliver a repeated movement and repeated precision, which matters in a busy manufacturing environment.

Having an AGV carry out repeated movement – following the same route, taking the same steps as it interacts with the surround environment – helps the Health & Safety team to manage risk, and ensures there are no variables being created that could cause problems.

4. Eliminate Human Error

Ultimately, many incidents in industrial manufacturing or logistics environments are due to human error due to factors such as fatigue, misinterpretation, or misunderstanding.

AGV material handling equipment eliminates this risk by taking control away from a human operator. Safety sensors ensure a programmed response to any detected risk, stopping movement until a hazard has been cleared or moved away.

5. Maximise Safety

AGV electric tugs and other equipment should feature a range of safety features, all designed to manage risk. As previously mentioned, safety systems such as laser scanners will detect hazards and dangers and act accordingly.

Likewise, AGV electric tugs can be programmed to take action such as reducing speed in certain locations when visibility is reduced, or when the surface becomes wet and traction is impacted.

AGV navigation technology will also ensure the same, or most appropriate, route is taken (depending on your solution and the environment) each and every time.

6. Better Efficiency

In addition to driving more ROI from your people resource, AGV material handling equipment helps to drive operational efficiency by carrying out tasks on time, at the optimal speed.

An AGV will travel to its destination at a set speed, faster than if the movement was conducted manually, or by pedestrian operated equipment by a person who could be delayed or distracted.

7. Cost and Redundancy vs Fixed Automation Systems

AGV electric tugs are more cost-effective than fixed automation systems, such as conveyors or crane systems. Such systems are designed to do a single job, but any breakdown or fault can put the entire operation behind.

Electric tugs, however, are more flexible in terms of being able to carry out a wider range of tasks. Additionally, they are more redundant as they can easily be swapped out to minimise any disruption caused through faults.

8. Maximising Investment ROI

As covered above, through driving efficiency and safety benefits, AGV solutions deliver a greater return on investment. This is supported further by more effective use of people resources, better redundancy in the case of mechanical failure, and by offering greater flexibility in terms of being able to carry out a wide range of activities across the operation.

For example, MasterMover AGV electric tugs can be switched to manual operation, so if the need arises, the machine can be taken off its typical tasks and utilised to move any wheeled load within its weight capability.

In addition, some AGV’s – such as the MasterMover PowerSteered Range – are designed to be scalable. This means that one machine can be used for lighter, less complex loads, but more machines can be used together through our MultiLink technology.

9. 24/7 Operation

AGV electric tugs and other material handling equipment that is battery-based offer 24/7 operation. The only consideration is battery charging and replacement (if using multiple batteries).

MasterMover electric tugs can be supplied with spare batteries, which can be stored and charged whilst the machine is in operation. This battery can then be swapped out in between tasks for minimal downtime.

10. Consistent & Reliable

Not only are AGV’s consistent in their function, but they also have relatively consistent costs compared to manual labour and are affordable to maintain. MasterMover electric tugs are made to the highest standards, so are reliable solutions that deliver day after day.

MasterMover AGV Electric Tugs – Our Process

We understand that switching to AGV solutions is an investment, even if it is one that will inevitably delivery ROI, efficiency and safety.

To ensure the AGV solution selected will deliver for our customers, MasterMover has a tried and tested approach:

  1. Select the Machine: We will take an in-depth look at the application to help decide whether an existing product is the right fit, or whether a custom AGV design is the better solution.
  2. Navigation: We’ll explore which navigation system will work best, whether that be floor-based navigation (e.g. Line Following) or full Natural Navigation utilising technologies to scan and interact with the surrounding environment.
  3. Vehicle Dispatch: Next, our team will look at how the AGV gets its instruction to move, or ‘pulse’, to the next location. That can either be an individual machine dispatch or multi-machine, with a single command instructing multiple machines to move (often driven by fleet management software).
  4. System Integration: Working in often complex operations, we’ll look at where other system integrations are needed, for example with a Warehouse Management System or Enterprise Resource Management platform, or with infrastructure such as doors and traffic lights.
  5. Safety: Always a key consideration! Depending on the environment and application, the AGV will contain scanners (whether low level, high level, or full 360 degree) and associated systems to detect hazards and take the appropriate action.

With this process complete, there is a clear understanding of the best type of AGV needed to meet the requirement, covering all these key areas in detail.

The later stages of the wider process then involve manufacturing and a factory acceptance test, delivery onto site, and then a final site acceptance test and training, before the solution is treated as ‘fully delivered’.

Ultimately, this entire approach is designed to ensure the AGV solutions we deliver drive the benefits we have outlined above, helping our customers to drive operational efficiency and safety.

Case Study – See an AGV Electric Tug in Action

 

If you’d like to learn more about MasterMover AGV electric tug solutions and discuss how they could benefit your operation, we’d love to hear from you.

As we have seen with many customers, AGV electric tugs deliver outstanding operational performance, helping manufacturing and logistics companies to drive efficiency and maximise safety.

Get in touch with us today to find an AGV solution that works for you.

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Published on : 31-10-2022