Automated guided vehicle systems, or AGV systems, are used for material handling, storage, transportation, delivery and assembly solutions in a wide range of applications. They have become popular alternatives to forklift trucks, conveyor systems and manually powered push-cart transportation. AGV systems use fixed path or free range systems and autonomous guided vehicles or laser guided vehicles.
AGV systems and vehicles perform transportation operations within a factory or processing plant according to a preprogrammed route, or according to internal navigation which adjusts the route. AGV systems are used in almost all industries including aerospace, food processing, general manufacturing, newspaper and mail, storage and automotive. Fixed path systems use a physical guidance path such an embedded wire, a colored tape strip or a magnetic line which is laid out in the route the vehicle is to travel through the warehouse or manufacturing space. The AGV uses an antenna and frequencies to ensure it follows the correct route. These systems are becoming less popular due to the inflexibility of a set route. More commonly, AGV systems use computer controlled vehicles which have internal navigation systems and are able to adjust their routes based on expected traffic and obstructions. The systems can be complicated and require high levels of input and preprogramming, and usually will need to be monitored to ensure smooth operation.
Able to range in size from light load automatic guided vehicles for small parts and light assembly processes, to material handling robots which are able to assist with electronic fabrication and parts kitting. Other guided vehicles include pallet trucks which are able to move loads too cumbersome for efficient manual transportation. There are a number of advantages to including an AGV system in a manufacturing plant. They are efficient and dependable and are able to cut back on time and manual labor which can greatly slow down turnaround times in factory processes. Self propelled vehicles are able to fit into small spaces, to work in the same spaces as people, even in aisles, and with the use of the latest technology are able to efficiently adapt to changing floor conditions, ensuring the processes are not stalled. Furthermore, AGVs are able to work around the clock in processes which may not require much operator supervision, further increasing output. Although it might be a large initial investment, manufacturing productivity and operation flow are greatly improved with the addition of well-suited guided vehicle systems, making the high investment worthwhile over time.