NextGen Supply Chain: How do you know a NextGen development when you see one?

An evolution in mobile navigation is underway.

By ·

Sometimes, the NextGen Supply Chain looks much like the current one. And that’s what makes certain advances easy to underestimate or even overlook altogether. Consider what’s going on in the automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and mobile robots markets.

While some vehicles don’t look anything alike, that’s not the case for others. AutoGuide’s new Max N10 mobile robot and its established AGV are examples of the latter. Both are tuggers. Both have the same large, rugged industrial design. Tugging 10,000 lbs. is not beyond either.

And when Modern Materials Handling did a story in December on AGVs and mobile robots, the publication got it wrong when it said AutoGuide does not offer mobile robots. The company most certainly does.

When it comes to getting from point A to point B, AutoGuide’s mobile robot is very different than its AGV predecessor. While their AGV follows a magnetic tape guide path, their new mobile robot uses natural feature navigation, and is designed as a smart modular platform with a range of attachments. Clearly making it part of the emerging navigation technologies coming to market.

As AutoGuide’s president and CEO Rob Sullivan explains, their new mobile robot platform maps a facility using laser-based LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to identify fixed objects, everything from walls and columns to equipment. The resulting two-dimensional map of the facility is uploaded to a centralized traffic control system which shares it with entire robotic fleet and coordinates all routing for efficiency and control. That ensures the right mobile robot is assigned for each task and gets there unimpeded.

“As this next generation of mobile robots are introduced into factories and warehouses, it is important that the people working alongside of them can anticipate the robot’s behavior,” says Sullivan. “Allowing the robot to use defined and easily changeable virtual paths, and providing oversight through centralized traffic control is one way we accomplish this.”

AutoGuide uses proven technologies and components in its products like the LiDAR system used to map and navigate throughout facilities. Sullivan fully expects that to be augmented and fused with additional technologies under development today, allowing the robots to dynamically perform an even wider range of tasks.

New technologies do not eliminate the need for established navigation solutions such as magnetic tape. Both have their place.  But there is an evolution underway in AGVs that is all part of the NextGen Supply Chain evolution.

Gary Forger is the special projects editor for Supply Chain Management Review. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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