There is a growing amount of controversy surrounding the use of automated guided vehicles, or AGVs, within the materials handling industry. This feature will look at the benefits of AGVs VS Forklifts.
While some see AGVs as a threat to the traditional forklift, many are interested in the potential advantages of their use and the technology that goes into creating them. The concern lays with the possibility of job cuts, where AGVs are being looked at, or are being used to replace forklift operators, as well as the possibility of forklifts becoming redundant.
What are Automated Guided Vehicles?
Automated guided vehicles are mobile robots that are moved by a number of means, including; wires in the floor, magnetic strips or laser navigation. More recently, AGVs have been implemented with vision navigation, which involves a live video stream from cameras planted around the warehouse. They are often used in industrial environments as a way to transport products around warehouses and can also be defined as laser guided vehicles.
Benefits of AGV’s
- AGVs require a minimal amount of human interaction. Therefore, businesses have the opportunity to save a significant amount in labour costs.
- AGVs are able to work continuously 24/7, 365 days a year. (Disregarding downtime for repairs and reprogramming).
- They are a great alternative for outdoor transportation and cold storage areas, as well as any situation where forklift operators would be uncomfortable for long periods of time.
- AGVs can be fitted to a number of safety devices. These include; object detection, anti-collision and stopping devices, cameras, laser sensors, bumpers and warning lights, which all work to dramatically reduce collisions and warehouse accidents.
- They result in the reduction of plant noise and exhaust fumes.
- Human error is minimised which reduces injuries and accidents in the workplace.
- They can be set up in a very small aisle width, as small as 2 meters space from pallet to pallet.
Benefits of Forklifts
- Forklifts have a lower upfront cost compared to AGV technology, along with much lower maintenance costs.
- Forklift operators are far more capable of detecting damaged floors, avoiding debris and any environmental issues that may occur.
- Forklift operators also have the advantage in their ability to flag breakdowns and issues with picking orders.
- Forklifts can operate at faster speeds than AGVs, which are currently almost half the speed of a standard forklift operated by humans.
- AGVs require specialised path mapping and expensive technical programming. Therefore, forklifts are able to complete non-repetitive jobs more quickly and efficiently than AGVs.
- Forklifts have better market proven reliability and are more flexible at handling different sized loads and pallets.
- There is a large range of forklifts, attachments and safety products designed for specific materials handling needs, which increase productivity and safety.
Companies who are interested in AGV technology need to consider the environments which they will be used in. Although this is the same for forklifts, there are a great deal more options in regards to what forklifts can do and the type of forklifts, including forklift attachments and safety devices, which can be used within materials handling. Meaning that, for now at least, forklifts are still the more plausible option.