Warehouse automation has reached a new peak as e-commerce booms and consumers demand faster delivery times. In order to adapt to the constant need for instant gratification, warehouses are abuzz with the need for automation in order to shorten the supply chain process.
Lately, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have formed a vital piece to warehouse automation to increase efficiencies and reduce labor costs. As warehouse facilities continue to expand in size to accommodate the constant uptake of e-commerce activities, AGV is especially appealing to automate functions that are often a chore for humans.
What are AGV?
AGV or sometimes called self-guided vehicles are the driving force behind the automation of warehouse operations. With the growing demand for automation, the AGV market is forecast to be worth $2.9 billion by 2024, according to a report by Markets&Markets. Although they’ve been in use in the industry for over 40 years, the level of sophistication has drastically improved since their first appearance.
AGVs are usually used for repetitive tasks that are typically handled by conveyor systems, forklifts, or manual carts in moving huge volumes of material repetitively. They are usually portable robots that navigate autonomously through floor markers, wires, magnets, lasers, or cameras.
Although AGVs are utilized in many applications and industries, most commonly in manufacturing, they are now making an impact in warehouse operations and distribution centers where their main job is to move materials around the facility. As the use of driverless vehicles in supply chains continues to expand, AGVs are seen as replacements for human-driven forklift trucks. The biggest e-commerce players in the world such as Amazon and Alibaba have long been pioneers of revolutionizing the way AGVs have been adopted into their warehouse distribution centers.
How do AGVs help warehouses operate more efficiently?
Increase in accuracy rate
A properly programmed AGV system is almost guaranteed to be error-free. Humans are prone to making mistakes, especially if it’s a repetitive task when workers can easily distracted or suffer from fatigue.
The automation of repetitive tasks at a warehouse frees up time for employees as they’re able to focus on more complex tasks that cannot be automated. Longer continuous working hours are also taken into account. While there is a limit in the hours that human personnel can work, AGVs are capable of running 24 hours continuously every day without the risk of fatigue or deviation from their tasks.
AGVs and humans can also form a collaborative relationship, guiding associates through the picking process thus increasing productivity.
Optimization of warehouse operations
AGVs play a role in the optimization of the operations of a warehouse when it works with existing warehouse management systems (WMS) to track the flow of products from the initial stages of production, from storage to dispatch. AGVs can also be programmed remotely to carry out their required tasks.
Lowering operational costs
Another major appeal of AGVs is how they can lower operational costs. AGV systems are capable of replacing the cost of forklifts and their operators. Instead of having to pay a monthly salary of a forklift operator, only an initial and single expense is needed to be paid for the equipment as well as occasional maintenance and servicing fees, reducing the overall monthly operational costs of a warehouse.
With the growing need for automation, AGVs are a cost-effective solution in increasing the accuracy, efficiency of warehouse operations systems. We’ll see a rise of AGVs and the growing need for it across various industries.