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There is an obvious trend going on in warehouses these days. They are becoming more automated and that includes the use of automated vehicles over standard forklifts. All you have to do is look at what Amazon is doing to understand the rapid growth of automated vehicles for material handling.
Of course, warehouse managers are looking for ways to cut costs and offer a more efficient operation. But forklift operators are concerned about their jobs.
So the obvious question is: which form of vehicle works best in a warehouse environment?
First, I think we need to define what automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Are. These vehicles are actually robots that travel via a number of methods including wire in the floor, magnetic strips or laser or vision navigation.
Advantages of AGVs
Probably the most important benefit of these machines is that they work without any human interaction. As a result, many warehouse managers favor them because they can significantly reduce labor costs. They can be used constantly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Of course, like standard forklifts, they will experience down time for repairs and reprogramming.
They also are ideal for use in conditions that don’t suit human operators – extremely cold weather, rough terrain, handling toxic materials, etc.
They are safe to use and can easily be integrated with a variety of safety devices like object detection and anti-collision technology, automatic stop, bumpers and warning lights and are designed to minimize accidents that can lead to injuries or even death due to human error.
They operate quietly in comparison with internal combustion forklifts and they are more environmentally friendly because there are no polluting emissions.
Advantages of Forklifts
Benefits of forklifts over automated vehicles include lower upfront and maintenance costs. Moreover, the presence of a human can also offer benefits. For example, a human operator can detect damaged floors and other problems in the aisles and respond to them quickly. A human operator can also inspect a forklift daily and make any necessary repairs or take maintenance action when necessary and immediately respond to any order picking problems.
A standard forklift travels at faster speeds than AGVs, which operate at half the speed of a standard forklift. This assures enhanced productivity.
Since AGVs use some method of path mapping and expensive technical programming they are not as flexible as a standard forklift that can perform non-repetitive jobs faster and more efficiently.
Finally, standard forklifts are capable of accommodating different size loads and pallets better than an AGV.
Forklifts come in a variety of styles and can integrate with a large assortment of attachments and safety products that are designed for specific needs and that ensure better productivity and more efficient picking.