Choosing the Right AGV

An AGV (Automatic Guided Vehicles) is a self-guided vehicle that moves autonomously according to a planned route, using different technologies such as a magnetic strip, a track, a laser or a GPS.
They are generally used to transport products, raw materials, pallets and other objects. Initially they were used in industrial environments, but they are also increasingly being used by companies, for example to transport products from one workstation to another.

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  • What is an AGV?


    AGV stands for Automated Guided Vehicle. They are autonomous driverless vehicles that follow a planned route using various types of guiding technology such as:

    • magnetic strips
    • marked lines
    • tracks
    • lasers
    • a camera (visual guiding)
    • GPS

    An AGV is powered by a battery and equipped with safety protection as well as various auxiliary mechanisms (such as load removal and mounting).

    Its main purpose is to transport materials (products, pallets, boxes, etc.). It can also lift and pile loads over a long distance.

    AGVs are often used inside (factories, warehouses) but can also be used outside. Amazon is known for using entire fleets of AGVs in its warehouses.

    AGV and AGV system

    An AGV system is a complete logistics solution that brings together all the technology that allows the AGV to move properly. It includes:

    • solution elements: load handling, load transport, feed order and safety;
    • technological elements: traffic control, navigation, communication, control of load handling devices and safety system.
  • How to choose an AGV?

     The choice of an AGV system depends on the task the vehicle will have to perform and the complexity of the infrastructure already in place or to be put in place. Before making your decision, you should ask yourself the right questions:

    What loads will my AGV have to move?

    • Will they be light or heavy?
    • For heavy loads, a bespoke AGV might be a better solution

    What type of navigation should you choose?

    • The type of navigation (laser guidance, magnetic strip, GPS…) depends on the environment the AGV will be operating in (whether it is wet, cold, will there be interaction with a human operator, etc.)

    What is the AGV’s level of accuracy?

    • Make sure that your AGV has the appropriate level of accuracy to be able to place the load without damaging it.


    Is the AGV compatible with the logistics system already being used by my company?

    • An AGV system is part of an automated logistics system
    • It is therefore necessary to ensure the compatibility of such a system with the interfaces (ERP, enterprise resource planning or WMS, warehouse management system) your company is already using.


    Should I choose a standard or a bespoke AGV?

    • A standard AGV is cheaper to buy
    • The maintenance of a standard AGV is also easier to perform by an external service provider
    • However, for heavy or special loads, you should favor a bespoke AGV.


    Do I need to equip my AGV with safety devices?

    • You can equip your AGV with detection sensors that will stop its movement when it is facing an obstacle or a person.
    • Sound and visual elements can also be added.
  • Why should you purchase an AGV system?

    Production center with AGV system

    Using AGVs in warehouses has taken off in the last few years. This can be explained by the fact that AGVs allow you to improve the efficiency of equipment handling and in this way increase productivity gains. Advantages of an AGV system include:

    • Optimal operation 24/7:
      • As they don’t have a driver, AGVs can operate every day and even at night.
      • It is simply necessary to provide for the time required to recharge the battery between operations.
    • Guaranteed safety for processes, loads and people:
      • As the AGV follows a programmed path, the movement is controlled from the beginning to the end of the process. This makes it possible to better control shipments and the traceability of transported products in real time.
      • An AGV is equipped with safety devices that prevent it from running into operators on its path.
      • An AGV has an accuracy of around 10 mm, which allows precise positioning of the load and prevents damage being caused to transported products during manual handling.
      • Equipped with detection and safety sensors, AGVs are designed to stop in front of an obstacle and thus avoid collisions.
    • Improvement of operators’ working conditions and reduction of MSDs (Musculoskeletal Disorders):
      • AGVs relieve human operators by performing the arduous and repetitive tasks of handling heavy loads for them.
      • Operators can then be assigned to tasks where their contribution adds real value.
    • Reduced production costs:
      • AGVs enable the efficient, safe and inexpensive transport of products and they reduce labor costs.
      • All this allows you to quickly increase your ROI.
    • AGVs can also operate in areas that are difficult for humans to access due to extreme temperatures or hazardous materials, for example.
    • An AGV is an automated solution that’s easy to introduce: if you only want to automate a small part of your production, you can deploy a single AGV and not an entire automation system.

    There are, however, also disadvantages to AGVs that should be considered:

    • They don’t operate optimally outdoors. For example, wet or uneven ground can disrupt an AGV’s movement.
    • AGVs are not suitable for non-repetitive tasks.
    • They are less flexible than an operator, who can change tasks if production requires it, while an AGV is limited to its own task.
  • What type of navigation should you choose?

    As we’ve seen, an AGV can move using different types of nagivation technology.

    • Laser guiding:
      • The AGV is equipped with a rotating laser that allows it to detect reflectors inserted in its environment and to establish its position very precisely.
      • They are very precise and allow for product handling to the nearest quarter of a centimeter.
      • They are particularly adapted to medical applications.
    • Wire guidance:
      • The AGV travels along a ground track that can be composed of wires, tracks, magnetic lines or cables.
      • You have to install rails in order to use this technology however.
      • You should only choose this option if your applications don’t require flexibility.
    • Visual guiding:
      • The AGV follows a path painted on the ground that its camera recognizes.
      • The installation cost is lower than wire guidance and this type of AGV does not require any special installation work.
    • Geoguiding:
      • The AGV contains a mapped representation of its environment in its system that allows it to move independently, without having to adapt infrastructure.
      • It calculates its trips by itself automatically.
      • This technology is very flexible because it is possible to modify the AGV’s mapping whenever you want by working directly on the mapping software.
      • It’s the most reliable solution.
  • What different types of AGV are there?

    MSK electric fork AGV

    There are 3 main types of AGV: unit load, forklift and tugger.

    • Unit load vehicles:
      • These are motorized vehicles capable of transporting a single product (i.e. a coil, a motor) or a pallet or bin containing products.
    • AGV Forklifts:
      • They are used to move pallets.
      • Many models have sensors on their forks (for example infrared sensors).
    • Towing (or tugger) automatic guided vehicles:
      • They are motorized vehicles capable of pulling one or more non-motorized vehicles with loads behind them, like a train.
      • They have a capacity up to 8 tonnes.
      • They are also equipped with trays that can be lifted, lowered, with motorized rollers, belts, etc. to ensure the automatic transfer of loads.
  • What are the main uses of AGVs?

    AGVs are used to transport many types of materials, including pallets, rollers, carts and containers.

    They are particularly suited for:

    • Production centers, for:
      • Handling raw materials (paper, steel, rubber, metal and plastic).
        • This includes transporting received materials to the warehouse and delivering materials directly to production lines.
      • Transporting products during the manufacturing process.
        • AGVs allow you to move products from the warehouse to production/treatment lines or from one processing area to another.
      • Delivering parts and tools.
      • The transport of finished products, which requires gentle handling as the products then go to customers.
        • As AGVs operate with precisely controlled navigation, the risk of damage is reduced to a minimum.
      • Transporting waste to recycling centers.
    • Logistics centers (storage/distribution) for:
      • Storing and retrieving products.
      • Pallet handling as it is a repetitive and frequent movement.
        • AGVs can move pallets from the palletizer that packages them to the warehouse or shipping docks.
      • Automatically loading a trailer.
        • This is a fairly new use of AGVs but is becoming increasingly popular.
        • AGVs can take pallets from conveyors or racks and deliver them to the trailer.
      • Handling product flow in a warehouse.

    SSI SCHÄFER handling AGV

  • What are the latest AGV trends?

    In recent years, the capabilities of AGV systems have skyrocketed as sensor software and technology have improved. Manufacturers are now offering vehicles that are more precise, efficient and safer.

    Several kinds of technology could have a great impact on the AGV industry in the next few years.

    • LIDAR
      • A LiDAR sensor transmits laser pulses that measure the distance between an object and the AGV equipped with it. This compiled data allows a 360° map of the operating area to be drawn, allowing the AGV to navigate without any additional infrastructure.
    • Camera vision systems
      • The camera allows information to be captured in real time, which helps the AGV “see” the obstacles and infrastructure of the installation.
      • When this information is combined with the data provided by LiDAR sensors, a dynamic and complete 3D image of an operational area is obtained.
    • New software
      • Software is the backbone of an AGV system. It can solve the unique challenges of each installation and thus implement specific solutions to best meet certain applications.
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