Blog : Automated Guided Vehicles Vs Autonomous Mobile Robots

AGVs give way to AMRs

AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles) have been seen in Australian manufacturing facilities and warehouses for over 50 years.

They have automated repetitive tasks like moving pallets along specified routes quickly and safely. Now with the advent of cloud computing, AI and robotics, manufacturing is moving towards Industry 4.0.

There is a need for smarter technology and flexible intelligent automation. AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) fit the bill.

The term ‘robot’ was first introduced to the world in a 1920 science fiction play titled Rossumovi Univerzální Robot (Rossum’s Universal Robots) by Czech born writer Karel Capek. Although the robots in the play were human-like androids made in a factory, the term ‘robot’ has remained synonymous with machines capable of carrying out a series of complex actions automatically.

In the last 10 years, robotics has continued to evolve from large, heavy, stationary machines, into nimble, lightweight, sophisticated mobile platforms that can ‘see’, and the latest innovation in the industrial sector is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR).


The difference between AGVs and AMRs

AMR’s are different from automated guided vehicles (AGV) in their level of autonomy.

Automated systems are designed to perform a set of repetitive tasks by following pre-defined instructions with minimal or no human intervention.

Autonomous systems, on the other hand, are not only able to perform defined tasks automatically but also have the intelligence to make independent decisions in ‘never-seen-before’ scenarios.

AGVs follow fixed routes, usually along wire guidance, laser guidance or magnets embedded in the floor like trains. They are typically pre-programmed to follow a set of rules and have very little onboard intelligence.

AMRs are robots so they have onboard computing and logic. AMRs navigate via maps that its software constructs on-site based on a walk through or via pre-loaded facility drawings like a car with a GPS. When it is given start and end locations, it generates the most direct path based on the map. They can dynamically respond to their operating environment to navigate around obstacles like pallets, people or forklifts, finding alternative routes to perform tasks and move loads.

This autonomous operation makes an AMR far more flexible than an AVG giving businesses the agility and flexibility they need for Industry 4.0.


AGVs from Foodmach

Foodmach offer laser guided, fork-style, trolley-style AGVs.

Apart from those that use fixed infrastructure, most of today’s AGVs use laser-guided navigation, although we do have combinations that use multiple navigation modes depending on where it is in a facility.


AMRs from Foodmach

The unique point of difference of all of the autonomous vehicles from Foodmach is their ‘natural navigation’ system.

The Foodmach AMR system uses a patented sensor system to first map the ‘permanent’ obstacles in the area of operation.

After the vehicle has had its routes programmed, if the sensing system sees any ‘non-permanent’ obstacles e.g. people or other vehicles, then it will reroute and avoid the obstacle or slow down and stop if an alternate route is not possible.

Foodmach AMRs offer infrastructure-free, natural navigation and are safe and flexible for collaborative operation. They offer a quick return on investment, machine learning, cloud-based analytics and handle loads in all shapes and sizes: pallets, racks, totes and trolleys.

Artificial intelligence combined with robotics is becoming more and more prevalent in the manufacturing industry and AMRs are just one application with many more to follow making our factories smarter, more efficient and competitive on a global scale.


Which is better—AMR or AVG?

The autonomous path selection of AMRs is just one form of intelligence and is by no means the most important form of intelligence.

Selecting the right forms of automation and intelligence for a particular process after determining the ROI is what generates value for the business.

For example, in a lean factory for a JIT (just-in-time) process, it is important that parts arrive in a pre-determined sequence. Shortest path might seem like a form of higher logic, but if this form of logic causes parts to arrive out of sequence, it is counterproductive.

Cost is another aspect. AGVs may need fixed infrastructure to navigate and fixed amount of floor space to move around in. It can also be expensive and time-consuming to expand the scope of AGVs tasks or routes. AMRs do not need any fixed infrastructure to move around and can be easily used in any part of the facility.

AGVs/AMRs can both be integrated to MES, WMS and other line management systems to allow them to better, or more fully, complete their tasks. In many cases, AMRs are used for tasks like picking inventory, facility cleaning and other tasks while AGVs are mainly used for logistics applications.

Some other applications for AGVs and AMRs include:

  • connecting islands of automation 
  • lineside delivery of materials and parts
  • storage and retrieval applications 

No matter what technology you use, make sure it is the right technology for your needs. In some applications, an AMR-based system might be the best for you; in others, an AGV-based system is the better choice.

Talk to Foodmach to discuss your application and let us guide you through the selection process. We have both technologies and will recommend the best fit technology for your facility, process and application.

Just ask us