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GUEST OPINION: Today, automated guided vehicles are used in a variety of industries to transport and store all kinds of products and materials, all without human intervention. Equally at home in factories, warehouses, distribution centres, and shipping areas, AGVs are a safe and secure way to increase process efficiency and improve business profitability.
Individual automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are also exchangeable with each other to ensure redundancy in system operation, all while eliminating human errors that can cause costly damages and mistakes when picking and loading. However, there is not just one type of AGV, and not all are designed and equipped for the same purpose.
With a diversity of AGV designs on the market, it may be hard to know what option is best to assist different supply chain processes. So, what are the most common types of AGVs and which ones are best suited to your environment?
Straddle type AGVs
Developed as an upgrade on and to replace repetitive manual forklift tasks, Straddle type (ST) AGVs have a slim body design which allows a tight turning radius, especially when carrying multiple pallets.
ST AGVs are suited for applications like transport between production and the warehouse, repetitive pallet movements, and product transfers from end-of-line and point-to-point warehouse routes. Its slim design allows it to work in a diversity of areas, together with the multi-pallet capacity to increase movements with various fork designs.
Counter-balance AGV series
Counter-balance (CB) AGV are used for transporting product between production areas and the warehouse, repetitive pallet movements, put-away and retrieval from storage locations, and warehouse-wide product transfers. Best suited for single selective racking, pallet live storage, drive-in rack, and floor block stacking, CB AGVs are also ideal for empty pallet replenishment and raw materials handling.
CB AGVs are designed to replace repetitive manual forklift tasks for all single, double, or quadruple pallet applications. The CB Series is equipped with counterweighs to eliminate the need for support legs. This allows the lift mast to be integrated at the end of the AGV, which in turn keeps the AGV clear of the load.
High-reach AGV series
High-reach (HR) AGV are designed specifically for high bay single selective and double deep racking, managing pallet loads up to 1.3 tonnes which a reach capacity of 10 metres high. As the ideal AS/RS alternative, HR AGVs can also operate in cold storage environments and are best used for store put-away and retrieval and interfacing with manual operations.
Very narrow aisle (VNA) AGVs are specifically designed to operate in narrow aisles. VNA AGVs operate freely in and out of the narrow aisles of pallet racking to bring the benefits of selectivity while offering high storage density and space efficiency: less room is required for access in a VNA system, so more of your footprint can be dedicated to storage.
As part of one of the most cost-efficient AGV and racking solutions, VNA AGVs are highly flexible to any changes to warehouse layouts and encompass accurate angle and distance measurements around the warehouse.
Compact transfer AGVs
Ideal for point-to-point transfers, or transfer from conveyors or production lines, compact transfer AGVs are best used for transportation to end delivery and pick-up points. In particular, CT AGVs are great for working with Robot Cells, as well as for empty and full pallet handling of raw materials and pick and go applications.
With a unit weight of less than 500kg, and a capability to carry 1,500kg, the CT AGVs are the smallest and most agile AGVs on the market and come with table-top lift, with optional conveyor or custom model options, running on high performance 24V lithium batteries with automatic opportunity charging.
In terms of high-end navigation, the CT AGVs offer the latest in navigation technology, using advanced laser guidance, natural guidance, and QR codes, all with high accuracy positioning, and travel speeds of up to 2 metres per second.
The CT AGV’s high-precision navigation of the warehouse floor, combined with its dexterous, flat-surface design allows it to utilise any warehouse space, eliminating the need for extensive use of pallet conveyors. With a smaller turning circle than a forklift truck it can easily manoeuvre in tight spaces.
AGVs are built from the most reliable, off-the-shelf components. Tailored to precisely meet any unique business needs, AGVs can serve as both a standard and custom-configured solution. Compared to other automated transport technologies, an AGV system is not tied to the floor, which allows them to make better use of the available working space.
As well as the standard range of AGVs on market today, AGVs with custom-design capabilities are ideal for addressing ever-changing or specific work environments. Likewise, with this kind of customisation, another advantage is having a local mechanical and software design team, as part of the AGV solution investment, to provide the freedom to customise AGV technology to suit each businesses’ individual design needs. Custom-designed AGVs include retort applications, reel handling, conveyors beds, container loading and outdoor transfer AGVs, to name a few.
Automation with AGVs is the future of warehousing
AGV systems provide a safe and cost-effective alternative to manually transporting goods, especially sensitive or hazardous products, and are suitable for materials handling applications in harsh conditions including outdoors and in cold stores. AGVs are increasingly being adopted across a variety of supply chain settings to speed workflows and enhance warehouse safety. Knowing which AGV is best suited to your industry and work environment is critical to experiencing automation benefits that these solutions offer.
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