Getting Started with AGVs
You know the productivity and cost-saving benefits that AGVS can offer to your business, but implementing AGVS into your existing material handling process may sound like a daunting task. At Jungheinrich, we follow a tried and tested process that ensures an overall improvement in productivity and long-term reduction in costs for your business with minimal disruption to your day-to-day operations.
If you’re considering AGVS for your business, here are the 6 steps that we follow when implementing AGVS into a warehouse.
Step 1: Gather Information
To get started, you will need a detailed analysis of your intralogistics requirements, which will serve as the foundation for implementing AGVs into your warehouse. Based on your transport matrix, we will work with you to establish your required transport volume and assess the condition of your pick-up and drop-off points, also known as sources and destinations. We will verify information such as types of loads that are being transported, loading aid requirements, travel route descriptions, and if there are any special considerations, such as lifts, ramps or gates, that should be taken into account.
Once we have obtained a detailed picture of these requirements, we will want to consider your IT setup to address matters such as data exchange. Some questions we will consider:
- Is a wireless network already in place?
- Are you already working with a warehouse management system?
- Which system interface will need to be considered for your warehouse equipment?
Based on that information, we can then determine suitable AGVS for your business, along with a charging concept tailored to the number, type and operating times of the AGVS, and necessary peripheral parameters. For example, you may want to include any signal units such as buttons and terminals for any conveyor technology as well as the I/O boxes that communicate with external controllers for doors, sensors, etc.
At Jungheinrich, we have a full set of Automated Guided Vehicle solutions that will allow us to gather all necessary information about your business and make tailored AGV recommendations that align with your business needs. We make it easy for AGVS to be implemented as a standalone system or integrated with your warehouse management system via our middleware. The connection to a Warehouse Management System or SAP EWM is also standardized, so you benefit from rapid, straightforward integration.
Step 2: Define your processes
In preparing for a functional specification, you will want to construct the foundation for all technical processes and scheduling of your project.
Individual real-time simulation
Depending on the complexity of your future AGVS, it can be useful to factor in a real-time simulation. Based on the supplied computer-aided design (CAD) data of your warehouse, we may want to consider creating a layout of the virtual travel routes using a particular program.
In addition, the individual vehicle properties should be taken into account along with the visited stations and battery charging processes. The real-time simulation can also be used to check borderline situations such as performance peaks or bottlenecks.
You can also commission a real-time simulation from a specialist regardless of any later implementation, thus allowing you to assess the deployment of AGVs into your company. This provides you with a vital decision-making basis and offers additional flexibility when it comes to awarding the contract for the final system.
After that, the next step is to order your automated guided vehicles.
Step 3: Preparation for Implementation
Once you have placed your order for AGVs, setup and installation of all necessary software programs for your AGVs will need to be performed. Testing of the software will also be performed, which may require using a virtual server, in order to conduct the individual or prepared programming of the master computer and the necessary programmable logic controller (PLC) interfaces. Testing of the function of the I/O boxes, which are used to control the peripheral technology, will also need to be performed before installation.
During preparation for implementation, the signal units and I/O boxes will be installed in your warehouse. Based on practical experience, we recommend that the preparation of the environment, such as the electrical wiring, be completed by your inhouse technicians as they are more familiar with your conditions. Depending on the environment, fitters may install reflectors for the AGVS laser navigation. Luckily, with Jungheinrich AGVS, there is no need for conversion work in your warehouse.
Our team will complete on-site measures, where the entire navigation environment is measured out and any necessary adjustments are made for the final route layout. On the software side, network integration will be completed, and testing will be carried out to ensure that communication works properly. The preparatory work is then concluded with a practical test of all interfaces. Only when everything is working without issue will the AGVS be delivered to your warehouse, which means that you are then ready for phase 4 – on-site implementation.
Step 4: On-site installation and integration
Introducing your employees to the Automated Guided Vehicle System
Your operators and key users will need to receive specialized training in order to familiarize them with the new Automated Guided Vehicle System. Once your employees are familiar with troubleshooting operations, vehicle engagement and charging, they will primarily be able to work independently. This ensures that your processes run reliably and without problems.
Since AGVS are generally suitable for mixed operation with manual trucks and pedestrians, all of your employees should get to know their new “colleagues.” For this purpose, a safety briefing should be delivered to demonstrate the functions and various safety features of the AGVS. See our video for the top 5 rules of working with AGVs.
Fine-tuning during live operation
Directly after delivery, you will want to check the functionality of the AGVS and make necessary fine-tuning by designating a test area for the AGVS. You will then test whether the AGVs follow the optimum routes on the programmed travel paths. Trained technicians should walk alongside the vehicle, record any deviations, and then correct them in the layout program.
Following the successful integration tests of connected conveyor technology, lifts, high-speed doors, etc., your customer-specific documentation will be completed and transferred. Throughout this process, attention should be paid to safety-relevant matters, which should also be covered separately in a dedicated training course. The next step includes handing over the operating system to your operators and key users, and then beginning phase 5 - the test phase.
Step 5: AGVS Start Operation
When your AGVS goes live, this represents the start of the commissioning phase and a turning point in the execution of your intralogistics processes. Throughout this phase, you will likely need start-up assistance to your operators and relevant employees, so it will be critical to have someone available to contact regarding all your questions and issues that you experience on site. Luckily, by partnering with Jungheinrich, you will not be left alone. We will be available for all your questions, provide start-up assistance to your operators and will rectify any problems directly on-site.
During their on-the-job training, your employees will discover the advantages and possibilities offered by AGVS, but they may have some concerns about the new changes to their work environment. Having someone that they can address their questions to will go a long way in demonstrating that the interaction between man and machine can be a smooth and problem-free process, making every day work a great deal easier. The commissioning phase will conclude with a quality assessment of your automated system.
After this step, everything should be working smoothly. Which leads us to the final step.
Step 6: Maintenance and Support
As you settle in with your new AGVS, if there are any faults or general questions regarding your system you will want to have a support staff just a phone call away. Your AGVS may be running during non-business hours, so it will be important to have support that is available 24/7 and 365 days a year.
Rest assured that by partnering with Jungheinrich, we will provide support round-the-clock with our 24/7 support hotline staffed by AGV experts. We can quickly solve the majority of issues directly via remote access, but can also send a local service engineer to repair any issues. Depending on your warehouse requirements, you can choose between different levels of product support and maintenance options.
Ready to Get Started?
From proposal to implementation to maintenance and support, Jungheinrich knows what it takes to get AGVS up and running. Our systematic automated guided vehicles process takes into account your specific needs and provides you with the AGVS solution that maximizes your productivity.
Find your Jungheinrich dealer and ask them about Jungheinrich’s AGVS solutions.