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3 Common Processes You Can Automate with AGVs

Noah Cornett | 7 July 2021

“Automate it.”

Every industrial engineer is familiar with this phrase, whether it comes from executives or industry demand. Today’s businesses are always looking to make their processes more efficient and flexible, and automation can be one of the best tools to achieve these goals in light of business growth and market changes. Reaping the most benefit from a modernized system isn’t easy and requires careful planning.

Achieving operational goals of increased productivity and decreased waste within your budget, are a significant challenge. No two automated material handling solutions are ever the same. Each company and industry sector may require different solutions based on their specific objectives, parameters and constraints.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are one of the most versatile automation tools to help handle your business growth. They can take on repetitive and boring tasks without adding additional labor costs. Their modular setup also makes it easy to add-on to as your operations change and evolve over time.

Deciding to implement an AGV system is the easy part. It can be difficult to decide which of your processes are the best fit for automation with AGVs. Three common operations immediately come to mind when scoping out potential AGV projects within your operations.

1. Flexible Assembly Lines

Flexibility is of the utmost importance to modern industry. Markets change, pandemics happen, and production must shift rapidly to stay ahead. The name of the game is agility and that is where AGVs shine.

Assembly lines usually require hundreds of feet of conveyor, power and air drops and permanent changes to the floor. All of this creates monuments that are difficult or impossible to reuse if the assembly line changes.

By creating an assembly line using tunnel type or unit load AGVs, you can make changes quickly and easily. Most AGVs can also communicate with external devices or software such as PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and WMS (warehouse management system), so you can retain all the functionality of a traditional assembly line.

AGVs have the added benefit of avoiding the large initial investment of a conveyor system by allowing for a staggered install, adding two to three vehicles at a time as the project progresses.

2. Dynamic Material Delivery Routes

For certain material delivery routes AGVs can be a perfect match. By leveraging an AGV, you can increase the:

  • Predictability of delivery
  • Reduce product damage
  • Maximize labor efficiency

Unlike tuggers, which require an operator to maneuver the vehicle, AGVs use computer-controlled navigation systems. This frees up personnel for other tasks and removes them from potentially hazardous situations.

The flexibility that AGVs bring allows for improved safety and operator working conditions. AGVs can take on tedious and repetitive tasks freeing up labor for tasks that require human decision-making skills. Variable in size and capacity, AGVs can take on can manage loads of heavy and delicate weight, large and small, or a combination thereof.

3. Accurate Lineside Delivery

By using AGVs for point to point material delivery, you ensure the deliveries are always on time. As an added bonus, AGVs can operate around the clock, reducing or even eliminating downtime from shortages. 

The accuracy rates achieved by AGVs makes them suitable for movements that require exact placement like pallets and skids. This also makes them excellent for drops where accuracy is key, such as dropping a load into a kitting cell. This takes the heavy load off your personnel and keeps your production line moving at a reliable and predictable rate.

Versatile and Agile Automation

AGVs are amazing tools for automation, and if they are deployed in the correct circumstance, they can provide a great return on investment. Assembly lines, material delivery routes and lineside delivery are just three examples of the many places that AGVs can improve the efficiency of your operation.

AGV opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. At Bastian Solutions we aim to help you find every chance to create a more flexible and sustainable industry through creative solutions. We’ll work with you to help identify and leverage the right AGV opportunities.

Author: Noah Cornett

Noah Cornett is a Field Application Engineer with Bastian Solutions. Noah lives in Lexington, KY with his dog Merlin (like the wizard). He has been with Bastian Solutions for over two years and enjoys the helping customers find creative opportunities for automation in their facilities.

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