AMRs vs AGVs: System Comparison
For order fulfillment operations looking to streamline their facilities with automation, there have never been quite as many options as there are today. Regardless of the size of your operation or the type of product that you handle, there are bound to be a number of technologies that you can use to increase the productivity of your company.
Two technologies that are often discussed together are automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), two technologies with a number of similarities—and differences.
Below, we explore the major differences between AMRs and AGVs so that you can have a better understanding and choose the technology that makes the most sense for your operation.
Similarities Between AMRs and AGVs
Though it is important to understand the differences between AMRs and AGVs in order to choose the best technology for your operation, it is also important to understand their similarities.
AGVs and AMRs can both be used to accomplish the same basic task of moving product or materials from one location to another within a facility. Because this is a low-skill task that does not add a lot of value to an operation, using AGVs and/or AMRs in this way can enable an operation to increase efficiency and productivity while simultaneously reducing labor costs. The tech can also be a boon for operations that are facing a labor shortage or tightening labor market.
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Additionally, AGVs and AMRs can both be implemented on a modular, piece-by-piece basis. This can help an operation avoid tying up too much capital in their initial investment in automation, enabling them to utilize those funds for other initiatives while expanding the fleet at a later date.
Differences Between AMRs and AGVs
Similarities aside, there are a number of very important differences between AMRs and AGVs which need to be considered so that you can be sure the technology you choose meets the unique needs of your business.
1. Fixed Routes vs Intelligent Navigation
Of all of the differences between AGVs and AMRs, the most important difference is the fact that their navigation systems rely on very different technologies.
AGVs operate by following fixed routes within a facility. The AGVs are typically guided by devices in the floor (wires, magnets, or tape) or lasers mounted on the vehicle using reflectors mounted throughout the operating area. Each type of guidance has its advantages and disadvantages Though AGVs will often have a variety of onboard sensors, these are used primarily to identify obstacles so that an AGV can stop (and avoid causing an accident).
AGV’s fixed path designs require a fair amount of time and cost to change. The hardware and software usually need to be modified by the manufacturer and there could be physical limitations caused by the build or equipment within the building. In the case of laser-guided systems, They require a straight line of site to each reflector. If there is an obstruction (equipment or building) certain paths and Pickup & Drop Off (P&Ds) points may not be possible. As such, AGVs may be better suited for operations that do not experience much change—mature businesses following a traditional business model.
AMRs, on the other hand, do not rely on wires or magnetic markers in order to operate. Instead, they utilize a complex set of onboard sensors and maps in order to interpret their environment and dynamically create their own efficient path from point A to B within a facility.
Because AMRs work by sensor and not by pre-set routes or tracks, it is relatively easy to adjust the task that they perform or the zone that they service within a facility. Their navigation technology, inherently, does not require much time and cost to change the available paths or P&D points. This reality likely makes AMRs a better choice for younger, more agile businesses that regularly experience change.
It can be difficult to compare AGVs and AMRs on cost alone, as the cost will ultimately depend on a number of factors, from the supplier you work with to the model you choose, etc. But it is possible to make a few generalizations. One such generalization: AGVs are typically more expensive than AMRs—up to 40% more expensive, in some cases.
The reasons for this price difference are many. First and foremost is the fact that, as discussed above, AGVs follow fixed routes. Establishing these routes requires physical changes to the infrastructure of a facility, which adds to the cost of the system. AMRs do not require such infrastructure changes, allowing them to deploy more quickly and with less expense.
AGVs have historically been built larger and heavier in the physical form of automated lift trucks, and have been applied to similar tasks that require heavier vehicles. This reality makes AGVs more expensive purely from a materials perspective, whereas AMRs have been built for tasks that require less heavy-duty capability.
3. Ability to Collaborate
The primary goal of automatic guided vehicles is to transport product from one location to another. Because this typically does not require human intervention, AGVs are best suited to work independently of human operators. Most are simply too bulky and rigid to work in a collaborative setting like order picking.
Autonomous mobile robots, on the other hand, were designed to be much more collaborative. Their sophisticated sensors and relatively compact size make them safe enough to operate in the same floor space as laborers, meaning they can facilitate other tasks besides simply moving product (such as, for example, in an order picking operation).
4. Size and Maneuverability
As mentioned above, AGVs tend to be built to handle much larger loads than AMRs. Naturally, this means that AGVs are often much larger than their AMR counterparts. Because they are smaller, AMRs are typically better able to navigate facilities with small footprints and narrow aisles than AGVs are, because it is easier for them to maneuver tight corners, etc.
Determining the Best Technology for Your Operation
Whether AGVs or AMRs will be a better choice for your operation will depend on the specific needs of your business. A skilled systems integrator can help you determine the best path forward as you embrace automation.