Sometimes called self-guided vehicles or autonomous guided vehicles, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are material handling systems or load carriers that travel autonomously throughout a warehouse, distribution center, or manufacturing facility, without an onboard operator or driver. In this post, we’ll explore the various types of AGVs, how they work and their benefits.
Applications for AGVs
Automated guided vehicles are used for tasks that would typically be handled by forklifts, conveyor systems or manual carts, moving large volumes of material in a repetitive manner.
AGVs are used in a variety of applications. They’re often used for transporting raw materials such as metal, plastic, rubber or paper. For example, AGVs can transport raw materials from receiving to the warehouse or deliver materials directly to production lines. AGVs consistently and reliably deliver raw materials needed without human intervention, ensuring that production lines always have the materials they need without interruption.
In addition to transporting raw materials, AGVs are used in work-in-process applications and with finished goods to support production or manufacturing lines. According to Investopedia, the term work-in-process describes “partially completed goods, which are typically turned from raw material to finished product in a short period of time,” such as manufactured goods. In work-in-process applications, AGVs move materials or parts from the warehouse to production lines or from one workstation to another, providing repetitive and efficient movement of materials throughout the manufacturing process. Without AGVs, manufacturing processes may come to a halt when processing lines run out of materials. Manufacturing is then delayed while a human worker retrieves the necessary materials from storage and transports them to the production line.
AGVs are also used in inbound and outbound handling for replenishment and for picking. For example, AGVs may be used to transport inventory from receiving to storage locations or from long-term storage locations to forward picking locations to replenish stock. Moving inventory from long-term storage to forward picking locations ensures that adequate inventory is accessible to pickers, making the order picking process more efficient. AGVs such as collaborative mobile robots assist in the picking process by guiding warehouse associates through tasks and transporting picked orders to packaging and shipping workstations.