As automation becomes the new standard in the world of manufacturing and warehouse operations it shouldn’t be surprising that some questions begin to appear in our minds. Perhaps the most common of them is the question of which system we should rely on for our material handling and other logistics? Are AGV robots the way to go? Perhaps AMR vehicles offer a better solution to our current challenges? Today we want to take a closer look at these two technologies and clear up which pros and cons they each offer.
An AGV or Automated Guided Vehicle refers to an industrial vehicle that can be pre-programmed to transport goods, materials, files, or beyond and offer a logistics solution to the transport of various elements inside a given environment.
When discussing AGV logistics however it is important to keep in mind that they are "guided vehicles" and what this means in practice. AGVs are guided in their path by physical fixtures in the environment like magnetic strips or wires that provide a fixed path for them. In other words, this technology works not unlike a train, with a fixed route it can complete on its own, but with little ability to adapt to potential changes in its route.
An AMR or Autonomous Mobile Robot on the other hand is a vehicle that uses onboard sensors and processors to move materials autonomously by analyzing and interpreting its surroundings, without the need for external aids or fixed paths.
When discussing AMRs it is important to understand the inner mechanics that allow these robots to accurately reach a location on their own. An AMR, in short, can interpret and learn its environment thanks to the presence of LiDAR sensors which allow it to use SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) to simultaneously map its environment and navigate itself around it. So going by the previous comparison if AGVs are trains fixed on a single route an AMR is a proper car that can change lanes and make its own choices in regards to movement.
The most obvious and important consideration when discussing the differences between AMRs and AGVs comes down to the way they navigate around their environment. Above we compared them to trains and cars, and this is by far the easiest way to understand them. As we saw an AGV requires some sort of pre-designed path to control its movement. AGVs are designed to follow a pre-set path or pathways and are not able to operate outside of it.
AMRs on the other hand can traverse their surroundings in any direction, steer, reverse, and so on just like a car. They are smarter robots with onboard artificial intelligence that can calculate paths and navigate obstacles. Meaning that as long as they have a clear destination they will be able to navigate themselves toward it without a pre-planned path.
The potential applications of AMRs and AGVs are largely equivalent, and while they are tied closely to material transport this doesn’t mean that they are limited solely to working in warehouses and industrial settings. Robots offer a great opportunity to deliver materials, goods, files, and even garbage while cutting down on the manpower these tasks would require otherwise. And that means that while they can be of great use in warehouses and factories they also have a place in hospitals, offices, and in e-commerce logistics. These vehicles cut down on the workforce needed to move items, and that’s something that almost any industry can take advantage of.
While the individual cost of a single AMR tends to be noticeable higher than their AGV counterparts, the distinction becomes less noticeable once you begin to consider all the other factors involved. An AGV might be more affordable on its own, but its functioning relies on magnetic paths that need to be bought and installed. This not only raises the cost considerably, but it requires modifications to your facility and losing out efficiency for the time that this process lasts. On top of that if you ever need to modify the pathways you will need to cover for installation and the spent time once again.
AMRs, on the other hand, are largely self-reliant, so once you have one ready to work you can change its path as many times as you want and won’t need to spend more on external assistance for it to complete its task.
In general terms, AMRs and AGVs fulfill the same purpose in the industry, with the key difference being the way they approach their movement. AGVs are guided vehicles that require a fixed path to navigate, which makes them relatively simpler and more affordable but also makes them unable to react to changes in their route.
AMRs on the other hand are truly autonomous robots that plan their paths, react to obstacles, and don’t require any physical guides installed on your building. They are ultimately self-sufficient transport solutions, and while this added complexity can raise the cost, it also means you won’t need to spend on magnetic paths or additional installations.