Automated Guided Vehicles: AGVs
The purpose of an AGV is to move material from point A to B faster or more efficiently than a human with limited or no human intervention.
Mac Barrett, founder, and owner of Barrett Electronics is credited with inventing the first AGV nearly 70 years ago. The “Guide-O-Matic”, followed a wire-guided system to tow material around a warehouse floor. For years, AGVs have been utilized in various ways to provide material handling solutions and lower labor costs across countless industries.
Improved technology and capabilities are making AGVs more popular than ever. The AGV industry was already experiencing growth prior to the recent industry challenges and disruptions. But according to McKinsey, since the pandemic Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for AGVs has experienced double-digit growth with no signs of slowing down.
What is an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)?
AGVs come in all shapes and sizes and perform several different material handling functions. AGVs are operational without human drivers in that their paths are pre-programmed and navigated by waypoints to transport materials in order to improve the speed, accuracy, and safety of deliveries within transportation centers. Dual-mode AGVs provide a manual option for human operators to take over controls.
The purpose of an AGV is to move material from point A to B faster or more efficiently than a human. One case for AGVs is they free up human labor to perform value-added tasks or they fill a void when adequate labor is not available.
AGVs use either fixed guidance systems or free-range guidance systems. Fixed guidance systems or fixed path systems require the vehicle to stay within a set zone for navigation. For instance, the AGV may rely on either painted lines or wire embedded into the floor to determine the path. Free-range AGVs, like their name suggests, can move freely throughout a warehouse and do not need pre-marked paths in order to guide material from point A to point B. This is where the line between AGV and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) starts to blur.
Is it an AGV or an AMR?
AMRs and AGVs perform similar functions and provide similar solutions. The main difference between the two is autonomy vs. automated. While an AGV follows a guidance system along predetermined routes, AMRs can travel freely and choose the most efficient path. AMRs are integrated with software that allows them to make intelligent decisions as they perform tasks. This allows AMRs to perform more tasks with less human intervention.
While AGVs and AMRs have a lot in common, BALYO, a designer of material handling robots, points out several differences in capabilities and best use:
Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)
Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR)
Horizontal and Vertical
Horizontal (floor level)
General Load Capacity
Up to 2000kgs (~ 4400lbs)
Less than 200kgs (~ 440lbs)
Dual Mode (Manual & Auto)
No (Autonomous Only)
Prior to SLAM technology the infrastructure expense to install wiring or magnetic strips was significant
Free Path allows for lower installation and infrastructure requirements.
High SKU Quantities