The capabilities, performance, and reliability of automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) have expanded considerably since their initial development in the 1950’s. Recent advancements in drive technologies, control systems, communications, and navigation methodologies have enabled the automation of complex material handling processes by employing AGVs across various industries. The number of firms involved with designing, manufacturing, testing, and integrating AGVs has grown along with the increased adoption of AGVs for flexible, reliable, and safe material movements.
There are essentially two types of companies that end-users and advanced manufacturers work with to implement industrial automation such as AGVs. Those companies can typically be categorized as systems integrators (SI) and original equipment manufacturers (OEM). Both SI and OEM can bring value to clients looking to increase productivity, enhance safety, and improve efficiencies through the implementation of automation. That said, the roles of these companies can differ. An AGV system integrator is a company that specializes in the integration and installation of the various system components rather than the actual design and build of the equipment. An AGV OEM specializes in the design, manufacture, and installation of AGVs. When looking to implement AGVs for production duty and challenging type applications, is it often advantageous for companies to partner with an OEM that has specific experience with custom, large capacity, and robust AGVs rather than a system integrator whose experience is often with standard duty, off-the-shelf equipment?
An OEM has the advantage of being responsible for designing and manufacturing the AGVs. With that comes a more comprehensive understanding of the technical specifications and performance capabilities of the AGVs along with potential issues that may arise during installation, commissioning, and operation. An SI typically has experience with more standard-type AGVs but may not have the same level of experience implementing AGVs for custom-type applications requiring more heavy-duty solutions. The expertise of an OEM with a solid track record of providing robust systems can be crucial to ensuring that an AGV automation project is successfully installed and commissioned.
By working directly with an OEM, a company can expect in-depth support during the planning, execution, operation, and maintenance of the AGVs. Being the designer of the equipment allows the OEM to better understand how the AGVs function and the best practices for maintenance to keep the AGVs operating efficiently. The OEM has reliable access to the recommended spare parts and components that may be required for repairs or maintenance, which is critical to minimizing downtime and ensuring reliable operation. A company can anticipate cost savings through the elimination of additional margins on the equipment purchase by contracting directly with the OEM. Efficiencies and timely responses can be realized as the OEM provides the company a direct, single point of contact for project-related matters and long-term support.
For many challenging, production-type projects, it is often advantageous for a company to work directly with an OEM of robust AGVs rather than through an integrator for AGV-related automation projects. OEMs and integrators can still work closely with one another to address critical interface points or integration with other production systems such as robots and automation elements to ensure an overall successful project launch.
Handling Specialty has more than sixty years of experience in providing custom-engineered material handling solutions to companies in the automotive, rail/transportation, aerospace, power-gen, entertainment, steel/metals, and advanced manufacturing sectors. Handling Specialty provides safe, efficient, and heavy-duty solutions for production applications involving large capacities, high-duty cycles, unique configurations, robust environments, and stringent process, quality, and safety demands. Handling Specialty builds big things to help its customers build big things.
Written by Mike Roper, Sales Manager