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AGVs Implementation And Pathway Considerations

Adding AGVs to an operation can yield higher efficiency, but make sure your human workers can co-exist

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agv navigating a pathway

Automated Guided Vehicles are no longer an anomaly when it comes to adding productivity and efficiency to operations. As robotics of many varieties infiltrate facilities and work alongside human counterparts, adoption is becoming commonplace.

With this new embrace of automation, and specifically AGVs, comes new considerations within your warehouse. Daily interactions lead to new precautions to protect workers and your new equipment from damage. One area that must be addressed is your floors and aisles, for they will see a new age of comings and goings.

Key factors when adding AGVs to your existing operation

  • Creating a clearly marked pathway with items like floor tape and proper home bases for each AGV to reduce collisions.
  • Establish operating “zones” that your AGV force will work in.
  • Realize your workers will be sharing space with new AGVs, and providing the proper training, education and safety markings to help.

How to adapt your facility to AGVs

After the decision to add AGVs to your facility comes some key considerations. Of course, you’re solving some pain points in your warehouse, but with the addition of AGVs comes new safety areas. They will be sharing space with not only human workers but other equipment on your operating floor, and that sharing must be acknowledged.

Follow the path

AGV operating in a medical environmentRegardless of adding AGVs to an existing facility or a newly constructed one, creating a clear pathway for these robots is a top priority. While adding them to a brand new operation gives you the freedom to coordinate movement areas from scratch, placing an AGV into an existing floor layout isn’t that difficult either.

To achieve a clear pathway, you will combine multiple aspects. One is to use floor tape or special markings so that your workers know the paths each AGV will travel.

Creating these marked pathways will help prevent costly accidents and give everyone from supervisors to visitors a physical viewpoint of AGV travel lanes. Another aspect is walking your facility and inputting all of the areas you don’t want your new equipment to travel into….areas like hazardous zones, restricted locations, and the like. Lastly, you want to identify where your vehicles will park and return to, and mark those areas accordingly. You don’t want items such as pallets or containers placed in the way of an AGV home base!

Read more: Why floor marking is essential to any facility 

Zone defense is critical

Designating “zones” for your AGVs to operate goes hand in hand with creating the right pathways. Once again, you’ll want to review all areas your robots will traverse in a daily sense, and figure out which zones to set for exclusivity. Several factors are needed to set these zones:

  • Clearance – When establishing travel zones, always remember that the recommended clearance between any load-bearing vehicle and an external structure (such as a pallet rack) is a minimum of 19.7 inches.
  • Aisle sharing – Just as your workers need to be aware of AGVs operating around them, making sure your aisles and zones have room for both man and machine to co-exist is a must. Also, when designing these aisles, make sure to add space for an employee to leave an aisle if necessary (called an escape route).

When these factors are established, you can continue to create zones for your AGVs. No matter how many operating zones you establish, each will depend on the clearance between the robot and the closest fixed structure. Restricting AGV access by and around doors is one example where safety is considerably high. Restricting robotic access in doorways that have a high frequency of humans coming and going keeps all parties safe.

Read more: How to evaluate AGVs for your operation 

Remember the human factor

forklift style AGV ready to start stackingAs with any new addition to your operation, adding a unit of AGVs requires employee buy-in for it to completely work. Your workers will be sharing space and (often) crossing paths with them.

To prepare your workforce for the incoming robots, think of the right education and training to implement first. Training cannot be overlooked here, as each human must be made aware of how an AGV will share their space and interact with them on a daily basis.

The programming you undertake on each AGV is essential to making the process work as well. You don’t want your robots veering off on a shared pathway or catching an employee off guard with unexpected movement. Making sure each one is visible (whether with lights or tape) helps keep awareness up.

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