October 13, 2014
Volume I, Issue 6
Asking the Right Questions

Operation managers of manufacturing plant floors and distribution centers (DCs) ask the question at least once a quarter, "Is it time for the current AGV (automated guided vehicle) system to be replaced?" There are complex answers to this question, yet there are certain instigating factors that drive AGV replacement.  When the current AGV system no longer meets production requirements and cannot be expanded without substantial cost and complexity, it may tip the scale towards replacement.  Another factor that drives the search for a new AGV solution occurs when the current AGV vendor no longer supports the equipment due to obsolescence.  Most frequently, a change is mandated because the cost of maintenance has skyrocketed.

Creeping AGV Maintenance Costs

The AGV maintenance costs creep up; they are sneaky and come on fast.  These added maintenance costs are not always the fault of the manufacturer or the equipment.  Many times it is a lack of sufficient preventive maintenance.  No matter what the cause, these unforeseen and unbudgeted costs always show up as the equipment ages and peaks in about three to five years when the batteries need replacement.


Factored into the cost of maintenance should also be the amount of time required to respond and correct issues with the system on an ongoing basis.   Many times the system slowly begins to perform at lower and lower system efficiency.  When it gets to a point where production deficiency is visible and causing pain, the reduction from new high performance automation tools is shocking and frequently causes a great deal of acrimony. This situation can be averted if tracked and fixed early in the systems lifecycle.

Specification Development 

The top 3 mistakes made in Automation selection are:


1. Not concentrating on the little things.

2. Believing that the technology or the guidance is important.

3. Failing to prepare a written specification of what is wanted and needed at the DC or manufacturing plant floor.

Economies of Scale

At the base level there are few differences between automation at the DC versus manufacturing plant floor.   In both environments automation is simply used to move product from place to place safely and in an efficient manner. The real difference between the two is in the number of applications and the complexity of those applications.  The real winner for automation is manufacturing, due to the sheer number of movements of product and the ease with which transportation can occur.  Generally most product in manufacturing is transported on pallets or in bins. The result is achieving economies of scale in transport and lowering the overall per item cost of transport within the facility using an expensive piece of equipment like an AGV. 


EMAIL jhayes@noriskautomation.com
CALL 704-774-5083
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