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Making AGVs thrive in your plant

Installation and integration of AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) in manufacturing plants and warehouses is about organizing a strong project team and defining smart driveways. Challenging existing ways of working is part of the process and often a valuable source of insight and inspiration for making further improvements in your plant. 

True teamwork

A typical AGV project consists of people from production, IT and management. To succeed you need to understand the workflows, the digital infrastructure and the business case.

“It is much easier to install and integrate AGV systems than most people think,” says Jürgen Kammer, APM-specialist at Jungheinrich. “Sure, AGVs are automated machines, but the system is relatively small with no need for gigabytes of database space. Start by creating an internal team to make sure the project gets the right attention.”

The most important team member is the one who will be responsible for the AGVs in the long run. This person is often the production or warehouse manager.

Driveway design

Every project involves going through the current process flows. Where and how will the AGVs pick up and leave the loads?

“AGVs drive in a disciplined manner and thereby reduce waste and the risk of accidents,” says Peter Ekelund, Director Services at Kollmorgen. “You have to spend some time on figuring out the smartest driveways, but this is a good exercise. A typical customer reaction is that ‘we should have done this many years ago’ when the efficiency gains of a more structured workflow become apparent.”

Simulations are recommended when preparing for the new AGV system. You can often install most parts while your production up and running, and with some planning you can do the rest during weekends and vacations. Change management is key to ensuring that the staff feels comfortable with the new way of working, particularly if manual trucks are still used in some areas.

System connection

The AGV system needs to get data from and give data to other systems such as ERP, WMS and voice systems. AGVs based on an open platform simplify system integration as well as future changes and upgrades.

“Sometimes you have to upgrade existing systems due to the new AGV system but this is something you have to do anyway sooner or later,” says Per Hansson. “With AGVs, you get better and more precise input to your existing system infrastructure, important to consider when calculating the return on AGV-related investments.”

The digitalization of the industry is based on collecting, analyzing and using big amounts of structured data. AGVs can contribute to your future vision.

Wrapping it all up

Time to summarize. Here are the key takeaways for installing and integrating AGVs:

  • Start an internal project – involve production, IT and management
  • Define required system performance – draw up the best driveways
  • Clarify who will be in charge of the AGV system (key team member)
  • Use the improved data flow to strengthen your business

The next article will deal with service and support of AGV systems. Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you get it. And as always, feel free to contact any of our partners.

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