If you have worked in a warehouse or a distribution center, you have most probably come across an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV). AGVs have been moving things around for over half a century.
But these days, organizations are leaning on Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) to automate critical workflows.
So how are AMRs different from AGVs? And why should you consider AMRs over AGVs for your facility? Let’s understand the key differences and much more about AMRs.
What’s the fundamental difference between AGVs and AMRs?
An AGV follows fixed routes, usually along wires or magnets embedded in the ground — not unlike the difference between a train and an automobile. An AGV is probably clever enough to use simple sensors in order to avoid hitting obstacles on its way, but it’s not clever enough to go around them.
In fact, AGVs aren’t clever at all — without much on-board intelligence, they can only obey simple orders. This means that AGVs tend to get into trouble when anything isn’t exactly the way they like it. AMRs can move around dynamically using a facility map that you create during the initial setup.
Apart from that fundamental difference, what stands out when it comes to AMRs is obstacle avoidance. They can see an obstacle and move around it to complete their designated task. AGVs, on the other hand, can sense an obstacle but they just stop and wait until that obstacle is removed by someone.
How do AMRs handle obstacles compared to AGVs?
AMRs know their destination so they can change their route to reach wherever they’re supposed to. For instance, in Google maps you can see many routes to reach your destination and you take the one that’s most suitable for you, whether it’s to avoid traffic congestion or accidents. Similarly, when AMRs sense an obstacle on their way, they can turn around and take another route if they’re unable to bypass obstacles safely.
In fact, AMRs can even avoid moving objects; they’re equipped with sensors, 3D depth cameras, and LiDAR technology to ensure the safety of people around them. These sensors work together to facilitate vision and smart identification of both static and dynamic objects within the robot’s field of view.
What infrastructural changes are required for AGVs vs. AMRs?
For AGVs, you need to create a route in your facility using tapes or wires or beacons, and an AGV is restricted to this fixed path only for completing tasks. For AMRs, you don’t have to make these physical infrastructural updates. AMRs can take multiple routes to complete their tasks; you just need to create a map of your facility on the robotics software.
In terms of the IT infrastructure, if you’re using a cloud-based AMR, it can work with any facility’s existing Wi-Fi networks. And since workflows are built on software using drag-and-drop features, just about anyone can work with these AMRs. You don’t have to be an IT expert to use these robots. And data is being stored on the cloud, so you can even add more robots to your facility.
Are AMRs safer than AGVs?
One of the best things about AMRs is that they’re considerably safe. In the case of AGVs, it’s better to train employees to avoid the robot. So, the usual practice in facilities that use AGVs is to ask humans not to walk on the path that has magnetic tapes.
AMRs are trained to avoid humans and smart enough to identify obstacles of all kinds including people, forklifts, carts, racks, boxes, and just about anything. AMR providers are designing intelligence into these robots. For instance, cloud-based AMRs can leverage machine learning algorithms to identify different types of materials handling equipment.
Do you need to spend a lot on the maintenance of AGVs vs. AMRs?
With magnetic tapes for AGVs, you need to spend a lot of time and effort on maintenance. These tapes are fragile, and people walk over them all the time or forklifts move on them. This amount of traffic can damage the tapes, so you need to maintain these regularly. If there’s any damage, the AGVs can’t move on their route.
Since there’s no infrastructure on the ground for AMRs, there’s not much to maintain.
What is the ROI or investment on AGVs vs. AMRs?
While it’s certainly true that AMRs use advanced cameras, laser sensors, and hardware, AMRs can be significantly cheaper than AGVs in the long run. You don’t need wires, magnets, beacons or any other costly hardware to deploy AMRs, so it’s fast and relatively inexpensive to setup AMRs. You’ll also find that AMRs complete their tasks much more quickly and reliably, and that can save you time and money.
AGVs are massive capital investments with a potentially longer payback period. With AMRs, if you don’t want to buy the robots outright, you can go for Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) model which works like leasing and there are monthly subscription options. That way, you can get your return much quicker. You can also scale your operations easily if your requirements change.