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What Is an Automated Guided Vehicle?

What Is an Automated Guided Vehicle?

In the world of logistics, warehousing, and supply chain, there are many kinds of powered industrial trucks. They all have the capacity to do amazing amounts of work that a person couldn’t do and are an invaluable tool in the industry. They come in all shapes and sizes and perform different tasks in the warehouse space. One thing they all have in common, though, is the need for a person to operate them. Without a human at the controls, the trucks are immobile and useless.

Not anymore.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) are here and revolutionizing the industry.

What Is an Automated Guided Vehicle?

Also known as self-guided vehicles or autonomous guided vehicles, AGVs are material-handling trucks or load carriers that travel autonomously through a warehouse without an on-board human operator. They are self-driving forklifts basically. Think of unmanned trucks zooming around the Amazon warehouse full of consumer products, getting ready for shipment.

AGV Applications

Automated guided vehicles are useful for doing tasks that would normally be handled by forklifts, conveyor systems, or manual carts, moving large quantities of material in a repetitive manner. There are many applications for them in the logistical and manufacturing world. In a manufacturing setting they will transport raw materials like rubber, steel, and paper to the production lines. They are programmed to move from an area where the material is stored, to the production lines and back, over and over. The task is repetitive and mundane but necessary. Keeping the production line stocked keeps it moving and producing. If it were to run out of materials, production is forced to stop while someone retrieves more materials. As such, it’s beneficial to have a healthy mix of both AGV and human-operated vehicles to assure production efficiency.

AGVs are also useful in warehousing for stock-to-dock operations, replenishment, and pick-and-pack. They can take items from the receiving dock and locate them in a static location within the warehouse. Once in that location, another AGV can come along and pick the parts to fill a customer order. They can move inventory anywhere in the warehouse and retrieve it when necessary.

How They Work

AGVs work with a combination of software and sensors within the vehicle. They travel along a set path that is defined by magnetic tape, wired navigation, or laser target navigation. Whatever the method of the specific truck, the sensors within read the guides on the floor to know where it’s going and avoid running into walls and stationary objects. They steer themselves with a normal steering wheel–type control like in cars or via differential speed control. That is the same concept as a tracked tank; one set of wheels moves at a different rate of speed than the other, causing the vehicle to veer to the left or right.

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