Driverless vehicles have made tremendous strides in recent years, but they are still some ways off from becoming available for mass consumption. This concept is nothing new for the material handling industry, however, where Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have been around for quite some time now. These vehicles can masterfully handle tasks like pallet retrieval, pallet loading and unloading, and vertical storage. Nevertheless, despite all their abilities, driverless robotic vehicles are not about to displace workers.
So far, these vehicles have only been trusted with repetitive and low-complexity movement of materials. Even Toyota Material Handling, which is behind the development of the driverless Autopilot AGV forklift range, says there is still plenty of value in human operators in automated warehouses given their superior ability to identify issues and picking order problems. In fact, by allowing the automated systems to carry out routine tasks, human operators can take on a more dynamic role in their companies.
Driverless robotic vehicles hold an incredible amount of potential, with experts predicting a possible three-year ROI on them and productivity gains for order picking of as much as 25 percent. The road will not be easy, however, as some firms might encounter difficulties in integrating legacy applications with the new real-time technologies. One example cited by David Maloney and Marc Wilfraat of DC Velocity shows that an order selector in a grocery distribution might be able to pick 200 cases per hour, but a 5-second delay on account of system latency could bring this down to just 141 cases per hour.
Another problem that must be overcome with driverless vehicles is related to situations where one vehicle needs to pass another one in the same operation aisle. Some warehouses might be able to provide an acceptable minimum clearance, but those with narrower aisles will struggle.
This blog post was based off of an article from Argentus. View the original here.