Give your lift truck a break. A new generation of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) is taking over distribution centers nationwide. These AGVs are nothing like those that the distribution industry previously rejected as too costly, too cumbersome, too complicated, and with a painfully long return on investment (ROI). The AGVs of today are different, in a good way.
Photo courtesy: Dematic
Robotics Tomorrow calls AGVs the “hot trend in distribution centers.” As many as eight out of 10 large distribution centers plan investments in automation over the next two years. And sales projections for AGVs are very strong for 2014, especially in distribution. These developments are even more significant if you consider that as recently as 2006, only 1% of the AGV system deployments in the United States were in a specific distribution center application. Since then, the number of applications has increased more than seven times.
So what has driven so many logistics managers to finally embrace AGVs and what do you have to gain from doing the same?
Let's consider the following:
The level of unparalleled technological innovation should cast aside any doubts about the applicability of AGVs in your distribution center. If the systems of yesterday were your rambling uncle, the expanding portfolio of flexible AGVs is your genius cousin.
Take, for example, one of the most recent products launched by Seegrid Corp. — the unmanned GWSL3 walkie stacker. Using patented vision-guided technology, it automates the horizontal transfer of goods and travels without wire, tape, magnet, or laser.
The fact that Seegrid in 2013 saw a 350% increase over the previous year in the orders of robotic industrial trucks, or flexible AGVs, says it all.
The flexibility of these robots enables them to handle almost any environment, making them ideal for evolving distribution centers. A recent survey by the Material Handling Industry cited the systems' versatility and the ensuing cost savings as key selling points. In short, they help you do more with less.
Additional benefits include an improvement in safety and accuracy as a result of advanced vision systems. AGVs also allow you to transfer workers in a labor-intensive distribution center to value-added positions to focus on tasks that these driverless vehicles still can't do. And with centers growing larger and labor costs rising, zeroing in on automation makes perfect sense.
Some say this may be the iPad-moment of the distribution industry. Are you on board?