December 8, 2014
Volume I, Issue 8
AGV Selection is Political

Recently Vishram B. Sawant and Suhas S. Mohite attempted to create a composite weight best on multiple attribute decision support for the selection of Automated Guide Vehicles (AGVs). The paper was published in the International Journal of Computer Applications (Volume 70, No. 19). The authors set out to address the issue of effective evaluation and selection of AGVs, using various mathematical and systems modeling approaches. The development is an intelligent material handling equipment selection system advisor (MHESA). The authors surmised that there were several limitations of existing expert systems for material handling equipment selection, suggesting most of them are incomplete prototypes that consider only a limited number of equipment types and attributes. What was missing from this intensive and detailed data-base research was the very political nature of AGV selection within organizations. Decision-makers have prior experiences with certain AGV vendors which introduce bias (favorable or unfavorable). No matter how commendable the formulaic process and computation, AGV selection is made by people not process. People are political.

AGV Selection: Honest Neutral 3rd Party Mediator Required

International Journal of Production Research (Volume 49, Issue 22) proposed another algorithm in the literature titled, "A GA-Based Method to Reduce Material Handling." This genetic algorithm (GA), suggested authors SS Tseng, FM Chang, and YS Chu, is a way to decrease activities of material handling, waiting time, and material storage. They argued these issues are vital to increasing productivity. The research accurately suggested that in manufacturing the largest percent of product cost is related to material handling, which cannot add product value, but does waste costs. The authors extended this assertion noting that material handling accounts for 30 - 75% of the total manufacturing costs, but a good design of material handling can reduce the plant's cost by 15 -30%. AGVs can be a buffer to decrease storage activities and decrease waiting times. While the efficacy of AGV solutions is not in question, the need to find an honest broker, a neutral third party, is vastly important. Hearing all sides of the AGV selection process is entering mediation and compromise is required.

The Frequent Failure of AGV Implementation in Food & Beverage Manufacturing Operations 

Manufacturing journalist, Thomas R. Cutler reported in The Food & Beverage Journal, that automation equipment is capable of handling loads of raw material. More than eighty percent (80%) of food firms experience defective or inferior automation implementations because an objective material handling operations strategy and process solutions within the food facility has not been carefully analyze and developed before selecting an AGV vendor. Suppliers of end-of-line automation and material handling in the food sector have a distinct scope of technology to consider, including various types of palletizing robots, stretch wrapping equipment, labeling systems, pallet control systems, and laser-guided automatic vehicles. These solutions go beyond AGVs and must contain software for scheduling, routing, monitoring, and visualization of the complete end-of-line process. The food sectors special requirements for hygiene, safety, and data tracking are leading components required of effective system designs. Four out of five of these automation projects will be troubled, resulting in a waste in time, money, and resources. Only objective and experienced project management expertise can help avoid these disastrous and misguided implementations. There is often a lack of internal expertise or resource in project management and industrial automation. AGV solutions providers, no matter how well intended, have an agenda to sell their products and solutions.

The Cost of Product Damage Averages 1% of Gross Sales

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers recently reviewed how damaging mistakes are to the bottom line. Author Mark Crawford wrote in, "Human beings aren't perfect, which is why we make mistakes, hurting ourselves on the job, or mishandling equipment that damages products and the bottom line. Palletized goods, which are hustled through manufacturing plants and distribution facilities 24/7. Pallets are often dropped, lifted, and pushed across hard floors. Pallet damage often results in damaged products and 'unsaleable' merchandise that averages about 1% of gross sales for retailers and distributors." The elimination of this damaged merchandise must be calculated into the return-on-investment (ROI) when considering the purchase of an AGV. Independent third party consultants must adjust for the damage rate when assessing the prospective cost-savings in AGV selection. ASME also noted that the most expensive part of operating a truck is the cost of the driver. This cost includes wages and benefits, accidents, injury, lost time, and errors. Human drivers cannot operate without breaks for instruction, food, and stretching, whereas robotic pallet trucks, priced at under $100K each, operate at significantly higher duty cycles, improving capital performance.

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