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AGVs: Are They Right for Your Warehouse?



Nicola Tomatis, chief executive officer of BlueBotics, discusses interoperability of AGVs and things to consider before investing in automated vehicles.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are among the hottest topics at trade shows these days, and with good reason, given what the pandemic has caused: a shortage of labor and greatly increased e-commerce orders.

Not only do companies need to move things around more, but they also need different types of vehicles and models, Tomatis says. “And sometimes you struggle finding a supplier that has all the models you need.”

That’s why interoperability is crucial. “The key question is which integrator will make sure that I have a smooth operation with all these AGVs,” Tomatis says. “That’s the key role. The integrator is the one that will make sure everything is installed correctly during commissioning.”

A big mistake that first-time investors in automated technology make is in assuming that technology will solve all problems, Tomatis says. Realizing that you must match the technology to the process you want to automate is the first step to take before investing in automation technology. “One really has to understand what the process is to be automated,” he says. “And that's where the integrator will help the end customer figure out how to match the technology to your need.”

Obstacle avoidance is a prime example of matching technology properly, he says. A cleaning machine, for example, moves everywhere. Having it stop and wait when it encounters an obstacle could be counterproductive. It might not pay off to have avoidance capability in such a machine.

Production lines are another example. Avoidance sensing might not be needed where everything is sequential and must be extremely precise in timing.

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