If you are investigating the possibility of automating pallet moves in your facility there are three considerations you’ll need to take as you reach out to potential partners.
AGVs vs AMRs – Know the difference
Some people interchange the terms AGV and AMR freely when there really is a technological difference between the two. AGV stands for an Automated Guided Vehicle while AMR stands for Autonomous Mobile Robot and the difference and the main difference is in how they move through your facility.
An AGV is automated, but can only follow a discrete path like wire guidance or tape on the ground. Newer technology requires zero infrastructure (no wire or tape) but follows a “digital wire” or path in their software. An AMR requires no such path, it is designed to work in a given space and the software decides the most optimal path to it’s destination.
What this means in the real world is that if there is something blocking the path of an AGV it will most likely stop and wait for obstacle to clear. An AMR will have the freedom to move around objects or find a better way inside the building if allowed. The increased travel time is a significant gain in efficiency that is usually not represented in a simulation or fleet estimation.
Understanding Job Density
Your best ROI comes from eliminating manual horizontal transport of pallets and should be your first consideration when thinking about how to automate your facility. While fleet manage software can handle an unlimited number of pick and drop combinations, the more you can consolidate pallet pick locations and drop locations the more efficient the system becomes.
For example setting up staging lanes (locations with multiple pallets) at dock doors for pallet retrieval is better than multiple single pallet locations. The same goes for drop off locations. Instead of dropping pallets off at the end of many end of aisle locations, pallets being dropped off at more central location is more efficient for the system overall. Human operators are still faster and more efficiency at skilled and complex actions like putting pallets into more confined locations or putting away at height. When designed a facility workflow, you can reduce automation costs by picking up pallets from a large staging area and dropping them off at smaller staging areas throughout the facility and allow manual operation doing short runs within the warehouse.
Dead End Missions
If you’re automating a pallet transfer in one direction, it is best practices to identify additional jobs for the robots to do when returning to a pick location or it’s parking area. While it’s already best practices in manual operations, there may be some instances where there is no work to do during the return trip. This is where some out of the box thinking can be helpful. One example is having the robot take out the garbage. There have been some instances where facilities have designed garbage bins or empty pallet skids with fork pockets so that the AGV or AMR can bring them to the appropriate location. This would normally be done manually and something that wouldn’t be considered to automate.
If you’re interested in automating your material handling application, make sure you reach out to ELT Systems Group and see how we can help.