60 seconds with Mark Longacre on AGVs

Chair of the AGVS group at MHIA talks to Modern about the industry.

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Mark Longacre, JBT Corp.
Title: Chair, AGVS industry group, MHIA; Marketing Manager, JBT Corp.
Location: Chalfont, Pa.
Experience: Eleven years in the materials handling industry. Chair of the AGVS industry group, 2+ years.
Primary Focus: As chair of the AGVS industry group, encouraging new members, marketing the industry group and increasing awareness of AGVs in manufacturing and warehouse applications.

Modern: There have been a lot of changes in your industry. From your perspective, what is an automatic guided vehicle today?
Longacre: We define an AGV as a computer-controlled mobile robot used to move materials around a facility. Inherent in the definition is that it’s unmanned. The way they look, what they can do, and how easy they are to use has changed, but the base definition has not changed as long as I have been in the industry. What is different about today’s AGVs is that they are more scalable and more flexible than vehicles of the past.

Modern: What’s driving the demand for AGVs?
Longacre: There is an entirely new set of markets and applications opening up for AGVs. The first adopters were the automotive industry and heavy manufacturing. Today, we’re seeing strong adoption in other industries, such as food and beverage. More importantly, manufacturers that have already optimized their manufacturing processes are now looking at distribution applications for AGVs.

Modern: Why distribution?
Longacre: It’s the same justification as for manufacturing: a reduction of labor costs, reduction in damage and increased productivity. In distribution, AGVs can support goods-to-person distribution processes. They can support replenishment processes. They can deliver empty pallets to a pick zone or take away empty or full pallets. There are a number of potential applications and we’ve only scratched the surface.

Modern: What do you make of the lift truck suppliers developing AGVs?
Longacre: In some respects, this is history repeating itself. There were a number of lift truck OEMs who entered and then exited the business 10 or 15 years ago. At the same time, we may see the emergence of a new market. We may see a segment of end users that need very customized vehicle. That’s the traditional AGV. And we may see a segment of the market that can use a much more standard product like what the lift truck manufacturers will offer. It’s a very dynamic and exciting time for the industry. 

Automation: What is an AGV?
If you think AGVs, or automatic guided vehicles, are a mature technology, think again. Since 2005, the industry has seen an unparalleled level of innovation.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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