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5 Questions to Ask When Considering AGVs

Mason Cole | 30 November 2018

Wondering whether AGVs are the right solution for your material handling problem? Use the 5 W’s to find out.

Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) technology has been around for quite some time. As the technology improves more and more, businesses are looking for places to implement AGV’s to help with their material handling needs. Although reasons for wanting to implement an AGV solutions can vary from business to business, they typically include labor reductions, consistent through puts, flexibility, and reliability. AGV technology can be very beneficial to your process, but it may not always be the answer. In some cases, the thought of implementing a new technology like an AGV system can overshadow the simple fact that it may not be the best for the job when compared to more conventional material handling solutions. With that said, if you are considering an AGV solution for your material handling problem, ask yourself these 5 questions to help determine if an AGV system is the right fit.


The “who” question is often related directly to labor when you are speaking in terms of implementing a new material handling or AGV system. Often AGV’s are used to replace conventional forklift or manual tugger handling operations. In fact, many facilities are steering towards “fork free” environments to help improve upon safety within their facility. In this scenario, the “who” would be the operators that drive these vehicles. How would they be repurposed? Would this significantly benefit your day-to-day operations? These questions involving labor may also help you discover what your return on investment (ROI) may be for an AGV system. If this ROI aligns with your financial needs, then maybe the AGV system would be a good fit for who it may be replacing.


The “what” question relates directly to the product and may be the most important question in not just AGV systems, but all material handling systems. What is the product you will be handling? Not all products make sense for AGV implementation. Size, weight, and rate are all very important considerations and may quickly rule out an AGV solution simply by the capability of the unit to handle the product. It would be good to get as much detail as possible on this information upfront, then a Bastian Solutions Engineer can help determine if it is a product that could be handled by an AGV.


The “where’ question is all about the environment in which the AGV system will be implemented. Where will the AGV system be used? Just like everything, AGV’s have limitations on where they can operate. Although there are several different guidance technologies, some may not be usable depending on the environment. Another consideration is the floor that the AGV will be traveling on. Uneven concrete, steep grades, and large cracks can all cause issues with proper operation of the vehicles. The conditions in which the vehicles need to operate are very important to consider and should be discussed very early on to make sure an AGV system makes sense.


The “when” question can be considered in two different ways: lead time and implementation. When can an AGV system be provided? This is not an easy question to answer as it varies based on a variety of variables. Generally, lead times for an AGV system may be a bit longer than conventional systems such as a pallet handling system or a new tugger fleet. Again, this depends on several factors which include the complexity of the product, customization needs for your system, and vehicle quantities. The other way this question can be asked: When would my facility be able to manage the implementation of an AGV system? Best-case scenario would be for the system to be implemented along with your new process. But realistically, we all know this is usually not the case. Most times an AGV system is considered after a process is already in place. With this being the case, you must consider when the changeover to an AGV could take place at your facility. Generally, the implementation process of an AGV system may be faster than a conventional material handling solution. This is to be considered if your process has limited down time availability or other means of doing the operation while the system is being implemented.


The “why” question is pretty broad and varies based on your needs. Why should you consider an AGV system? Why is an AGV system a better choice over other conventional material handling systems? Maybe your current operation lacks flexibility and is a “monument” in your facility that is not easily moved or expanded upon. AGV systems have that flexibility. One example that we have seen frequently as of late is in assembly line operations. Many businesses are using the flexibility of an AGV system as the back bone of their production line, without being locked in. It can be easily modified or moved as your business grows and evolves, unlike a more classic assembly line that would require significant rework to accommodate moving or expanding its capabilities. Maybe your current forklift or tugger operations struggle with reliability and throughput capabilities. These operations have human error involved, whereas an AGV system is very repeatable. Being a machine, they will not call in sick for work or get distracted with other duties they may have, both of which can impact your day-to-day operation. Each business’s individual need is different, but these are just some examples of why an AGV system should be considered. After considering these 5 W’s, you should be on a good path to helping determine if an AGV system is the right solution for your material handling needs. With this information, a Bastian Solutions Engineer will be able to help you determine if AGV’s make sense or if we should continue down another path. If you are interested in an AGV system for facility, contact us today and we will be glad to assist you!  

Author: Mason Cole

Mason is a Bastian Solutions Field Application Engineer based in Novi, MI. He also worked at Bastian as a Project Engineer prior to his current role as an FAE. His expertise includes manufacturing automation and conveyor systems. Mason currently works remote and covers the Southeast Michigan/Northwest Ohio territory.


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