Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) are wheel-based and computer-controlled vehicles that are extremely similar to forklifts. However, the key difference is in fact their main USP – they’re automated and driverless.
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AGV Network, among other online resources, are great places to start in helping us understand the benefits. However, this article will break down the four main benefits that an AGV can bring to your factory.
Reducing Labour Costs
Managing costs is an important part of growing a factory. The most obvious advantage of AGVs is that they’re driverless, meaning you can cut down on costs – this is particularly important in countries of high labour costs such as central Europe. It’s important to factor in what you will save in sick pay, overtime pay, pension, tax, and so on, on top of the salary. AGVs have a wide range of cost, so be specific about which one before you start running break-even forecasts from the investment.
The person in a forklift isn’t just being paid a salary, but they’re liable to human error. Many of these vehicles driven by humans do not have the same safety features, because they’re relying on the human. Of course, machines are more reliable, and so safety in the factory increases with AGVs. This also alleviates the burden for safety training, and can possibly change some safety rules that can create a more productive environment.
In and of itself, AGVs are more productive than humans. They don’t have inaccurate workflows and they don’t need breaks. The output should be faster and more accurate, and you can also integrate the AGVs more seamlessly into the management system. KPIs will be more accurately measured, inventory will be more easily managed, and your process can become more streamlined with more instantly available and reliable information that is easier to forecast.
Cheaper Than Fixed Automation
Generally, AGVs are seen as the cheaper alternative compared to fixed automation systems, such as conveyors. Of course, it’s not just the outright price, but the transition. Switching to a fixed automated system will drastically change workflow and the system in place, and how you use your factory floor space.
AGVs on the other hand are simply replacements for forklift (or similar) workflows. Their paths are quite easily programmed, and transitioning to them can be done slowly. For example, just one or two AGVs can be purchased. Then, we can test how they perform, the differences in productivity, and how buying a few more may also make an impact.
We shouldn’t ignore the disadvantages, because there are always downsides. Generally, these come in the form of high initial costs and maintenance costs, which can quite easily be factored into investment financial models. However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that AGVs cannot make sense of many non-repeatable tasks – generally, they’re like most robots and perform repetitive, pre-programmed tasks with no sense of intuition or problem-solving ability. This will inevitably decrease the flexibility of operations, but given that you can purchase just one or two, you could re-allocate these non-repeatable tasks to the workers, and give AGVs the repetitive tasks.