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When is it Time to Introduce Automated Vehicles to Your Distribution Center?

Tara Holland | 1 November 2021

Bastian Solutions and Toyota Assist with Automation in Warehouses

It’s no secret that ecommerce has changed the way people shop as well as how quickly customers expect to receive their orders. This expectation of fast delivery puts pressure on distribution centers to operate faster and more efficiently than ever before. So, how do you make sure your business can compete in today’s ever-changing, high-demand environment? The solution is automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

While traditional forklifts such as order pickers, reach trucks and stackers are extremely useful for managing inventory and transporting heavy products, it is beneficial to have automated systems in place to take some of the complex work out of fulfillment.

How do you determine when it’s time to integrate an automated vehicle solution in your DC (distribution centers)? Discover how these automated systems can help you navigate your warehouse confidently and take your operation to new heights.

Factors to Consider when Integrating Automation in Your DC

Distribution center processes, no matter what industry you are in, face some common challenges that can slow down or complicate order fulfillment. Some of those include:

  1. Growing but Lacking Physical Space – Do you want to continue to grow your operation but lack the physical space to do so? Integrating automation can provide you with more floor space, optimization of current forklift equipment, and reduce your operating expenses.
  2. High Volume Orders – Managing high volume orders each day can be challenging for your workforce. Integrating automation into your operation can help increase productivity, reduce operating costs, as well as allow your team to refocus their time and energy on more demanding tasks.
  3. Staff Can’t Keep Up – Innovative material handling technologies help reduce the need for human resources and infuse a sense of performance in the current workforce. Automation allows you not to rely entirely on your staff to ensure your warehouse operates productively and efficiently.
  4. High Error Rates – Even the most experienced associates make mistakes. The more factors your staff has to manage, the more opportunities for error. An innovative automation system can help to improve order accuracy and compliance.

AGVs For Your Distribution Center

Automated guided vehicles are one type of automation option that can help modernize warehouse operations, alleviating common distribution center challenges. This technology can be used in a wide variety of environments and applications, and there are many options to choose from:

  • Natural Features Navigation – Pallet Truck and Tugger vehicles that use natural features navigation integrate seamlessly into your existing infrastructure by utilizing technology to build a map of your facility without the need for wire guidance.
  • Wire, RFID, Tape AGVs – These systems are wire-guided, meaning that they follow a specified path that is generally built into or tapped to the facility’s floor.
  • Laser AGVs –This technology responds to multiple fixed points identified by laser technology, allowing for more flexible integration.

Toyota Material Handling (TMH) partners with Toyota Advanced Logistics, integrated by Bastian Solutions, to bring you automation technologies that meet any market challenge. Offering a variety of AGV and AMR options, including TMH’s Toyota Tow Tractor, 3A Series Magnetic Navigation AGV and Toyota Pallet Truck, Bastian Solutions can integrate these solutions with other automation technologies for a whole complete system solution.

Finding the Right Automated Vehicle Solution

AGVs provide a flexible and reliable alternative to conventional material transport methods. They’re a fast, cost-effective automation solution that can help take your distribution center to the next level. They’re often employed in scenarios where barriers, like permanent automation structures, are undesirable, but they can also be customized to your needs. As you explore this form of automation, consider:

  • Will the solution need to scale for upcoming growth or season variability?
  • What are the load characteristics (size, weight, pallet type)?
  • What level of accuracy do you need in your operations?
  • What is the facility and operation layout?

Ready to explore solutions for improved efficiency? Let us guide you on your automation journey. By combining data-driven designs, scalable material handling systems and innovative software, Toyota Advanced Logistics and Toyota Material Handling are your single source for intralogistics — from forklifts to robotics and the latest in material handling automation. 

Author: Tara Holland

Tara Holland is the Social Media and Communications Specialist at Toyota Material Handling based out of Columbus, IN. Tara joined Toyota in 2020 and is responsible for creating content that drives customers to material handling products and other software solutions.

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