Recently we discussed the use of Autonomous Mobile Robots and how in the long-term they would prove to be the future technology used across a number of warehouses and distribution centres. At the same time we are aware that the uncertainty of Brexit means many businesses are hesitant to invest in more expensive technology. It may also be the case that for some companies, regardless of the current economic climate, a solid business case cannot be made for introducing the technology into their supply chain.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have been around in one form or another for almost 70 years and there is a case to be made for and against their continued use. Read on below to find out more about some of the systems benefits and drawbacks.
Reduction of labour costs
Increasing productivity and efficiency is the golden ticket that every business wants to win. AGVs tick these boxes due to their reliability and long term cost effectiveness. They do not tire or need to take breaks during the day. They provide higher task accuracy and can be set to work on repetitive tasks that could lead to injury, or put humans at risk over a period of time.
The use of an AGV can start with as few as one but as demands grow, so too can the fleet. Their operation expands (or decreases) as and when you need it to, and the time taken to implement these changes will enhance the speed of your operational flow. If needed, AGVs can also be adapted to include robotic attachments as a cost effective gateway into more advanced technology.
Predictability and Safety
Their easy control handling means AGVs remain a reliable and safe way to transport goods through distribution and warehouse centres. They are designed and installed to work away from the workforce which lessens any safety concerns that may arise. What makes them particularly useful is their ability to be used in environments where extreme temperatures are standard, while also taking on heavier loads and reducing the risk of injury to staff.
High initial cost
As is the case for any company looking to invest in new technology, the initial financial outlay can prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Long term returns have to be balanced against a feasible purchasing period and offset against the reduction of labour costs. During that time it would be safe to assume that there may be some additional maintenance costs. No machine is perfect and any costing should also factor in potential downtime and disruption caused to operations as a result.
An AGVs predictability can also prove to be its own worst enemy. Getting the most out of the system is very much dependent on ensuring you can maximise its focused strengths. AGVs thrive when undertaking repetitive tasks but if this not an area you need to improve, you may not benefit too greatly from investment.
Lack of Flexibility
If the path or route needs to be altered quickly due to a new layout, or unforeseen issues, then it can take some time to halt operations and reprogram the AGV to adapt to a new workflow. At its best a distribution centre will work like a well-oiled machine, but the fast-changing demands of a warehouse means there can be a need to react quickly. If the repetitive task cycle of an AGV is suited to your operations without the need for regular fast changes, then they will be an ideal system to purchase.