Autonomous Guided Vehicles, abbreviated as AGVs, is a machine that carries items in a warehouse on their own, without a driver. Due to their self-reliant nature, they do not require human intervention and are hence, also known as self-guided vehicles. They handle items usually controlled by forklifts and can repeatedly move the bulk of material from one place to another with accuracy. It is a standard tool in a warehouse used to transport raw materials or move items into the production line or from one workstation to another during the manufacturing stage. As they automate the process of carrying and transporting material, it eliminates humans from being in hazardous situations, saves the overall time in the factory and helps managers to redirect their team to more important responsibilities. This article will explain what AGVs are and how they help boost assembly line production.
How Do AGVs Work?
Traditionally, employees had long work hours where their central role was to carry items weighing up to 50kg from the factory’s inventory warehouse to individual supply racks in the assembly area. Not only was this extremely time-consuming, but it could also easily endanger the employees in the factory. This is why AGV has become a common item in factories. There are multiple AGVs used in a warehouse for different operations. From automated guided carts (AGC) to forklift AGVs, towing AGVs, unit load handlers, heavy burden carriers, and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), the amount of weight they can handle and the accuracy with which pick-ups can be executed differs. One common feature, however, is that all types of AGVs can guide themselves in the warehouse with the help of either magnetic strips or sensor-based technology. Most of the AGVs have to have their pathway defined by the developer before initiating it in the warehouse. However, an AMR is far more advanced than the other AGVs since they have dynamic navigation capabilities.
Four Ways AGVs Streamline the Assembly Line Production
The assembly line production is a hectic stage in warehouses, which refers to the phase where an item is manufactured in mass. An AGV can become an asset in this period by carrying a load which is too heavy for one person to carry. After that, unskilled persons trained to execute a specific task will have a designated role in inserting some sort of item that goes into making the product in question. Here is five ways AGVs boost assembly line production.
It Gives Flexibility
AGVs are flexible in the sense that compared to traditional methods, which require a strict or rigid assembly line production process, AGVs give the space to change it. You can change the order of the manufacturing process based on industrial requirements much easier than changing the working station completely. Instead of following set criteria, manufacturers can insert more quality checks and carry out any task that deviates from the original plan. This also makes it easy for factories that want to customise products as per consumer requirements. AGVs have also become flexible as they have evolved to carry items of all sizes. Initially, it was only used to commute large appliances, whereas AGVs can now take over the transportation of all sorts of products. Modern AGVs, moreover, offer a more flexible navigational approach. Previously AGVs relied on a guidance system, which included wires ranging from magnetic to laser, which helped the AGV navigate around the factory. However, a natural navigation system is used by certain AGV manufacturers, thereby removing any interruptions to AGV’s operations.
Scalability Becomes Less Stressful
The fact that a workstation is now open to changes and is flexible enough to deviate from the original order also makes a factory more scalable without having to change factory processes drastically. The AGV setting will simply have to process the order of items required for each process to ensure the items brought to the assembly production line are accurate. However, consider that AGVs are most suitable for repetitive tasks. Hence, while a factory can now be flexible by changing the order in the workstation, it should not mean that a different production line order should be implemented each day. It may confuse the AGV and would require it to relearn a new order of routes to ensure the raw materials brought to the line are relevant.
Creates a Safer Working Environment
The traditional environment solely depended on humans to carry heavy objects. If anyone feels unwell or loses their grip even for a split second, it could lead to a factory accident whereby an employee would be injured. In factories using forklifts and other robotic forms, human assistance is required. If not handled properly, they could risk an employee from being wounded. Removing this burden of carrying items from teams makes the factory much safer. AGVs are usually an all-in-one solution allowing factories to remove forklifts and other equipment that focus on carrying heavy objects. Hence, not only is it a cost-effective solution, but it also relieves human teams from being in hazardous environments.
Increases Labour Productivity
As humans no longer have to carry out the tedious and mundane repetitive task of carrying items around a factory, they can focus their energy on more important tasks. Humans will always be needed in an automated factory to bring in innovation. Hence, by having them spend more time on important responsibilities, factories can be allocated responsibilities more accurately based on skills. The AGVs that take over the task of carrying objects contribute to the productivity of a factory as they can do more in less time and with greater accuracy. As they are machines, unlike humans, they do not require rest and can go on for 24 hours. Since they will not be subjected to injuries, factories will not have to worry about increased downtime, which occurs when one team member is generally ill. It should be noted, however, that AGVs required maintenance to be carried out for them to function properly. Thus, it is advisable to invest in a software solution that monitors the health of AGVs.
Cerexio: Software Suites That Control Your AGVs
Cerexio is one of the few technological vendors powered by industry 4.0 technology and offers specialised solutions to manufacturers and warehouses. All of its digital suites are equipped with predictive technology capabilities that monitor the condition of all assets, automatically helping you ensure they run smoothly. Furthermore, Cerexio’s solutions are compatible with all forms of AGVs to help them navigate the warehouse, cause less disturbance and carry out their functions with no errors. Therefore, several AGV management modules are incorporated to guarantee that factories meet optimum resource and inventory mobility capabilities.
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AGVs as a Step Towards Automation
Warehouses and manufacturers, are consistently forced to adopt practices that help them to automate their processes. Some companies may not have the budget to do this at once. Hence, the transition to an automated factory is slow, requiring various technologies to be infused annually. Adopting AGVs is a step in the right direction. AGVs can reduce the need to incorporate other devices that automate the same process. By investing in a powerful digital solution that focuses on asset maintenance, you can connect your AGV to ensure you continue to face the benefits an AGV provides in assembly line production.