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Once used almost exclusively in the automotive industry, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) are finding new applications across multiple industries, including the beverage and packaged food industries. Replacing forklifts, companies find that AGVs are more efficient in shifting raw materials and finished products, but there are additional benefits including reduced product damage, more cost-effective movement of materials and reinforced workforce discipline.

At recent industry event, PACK EXPO, in Chicago Mark Longacre, Marketing Manager for JBT, and Brian Keiger, Chief Sales Officer for Grenzeback, discussed this growing trend on behalf of MHI’s Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems (AGVS) industry group.

Not suitable for every plant, AGVs are best suited for multiple shift operations. In a single shift operation, the return on initial investment (ROI) can take up to five years, however the opposite is true for companies with multiple shifts. A single AGV can perform the same duties as multiple forklift operators during several shifts, saving thousands in salary dollars. The potential ROI could be as little as one year.

Space is an important factor in leveraging AGVs. In small spaces, AGVs have difficulty turning around and manoeuvring. AGVs make the most sense for operations with routine, predictable delivery of stable loads and lots of space.

For many companies, the decrease in lost or damaged product brings the greatest ROI. Longacre noted a beverage bottling facility that incorporated 20 double-sided AGVs. With 24 hour operations five days a week, the ROI was fast. Additionally, by eliminating human errors some companies have reported a 10 percent improvement in efficiency.

Labour shortages have driven many companies to incorporate AGVs. It has become increasing more difficult to fill forklift positions as fewer people are willing to perform repetitive tasks. One beverage bottling facility reported an average staff turnover of 30 days, which was their greatest reason for implementing AGVs.

AGVs aren’t for every business, but in the right operations they have many benefits. At Eclipse Automation, our team has experience implementing AGVs across multiple industries. Talk to our team to determine if AGVs could be an application for your business.

Source: Automation World