An Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) or Automatic Guided Vehicle as the name suggests is a vehicle that is controlled and operated with the help of automated technological systems and equipments instead of the more traditional manual operations. AGVs are extensively used in the Maritime Industry.
AGV was initially introduced to enable faster delivery of goods and products in warehouses and manufacturing units. The first Automated Guided Vehicle was introduced in the year 1950 by the American company Barrett Electronics, based in Illinois. Over the years, considering the utility and the feasibility of the AGV, its usage has extended to a wide number of areas, of which, its role in maritime operations is considered as being extremely fruitful and productive.
The system of an Automated Guided Vehicle for marine ports – its workability and the benefits it offers can be elaborated as follows:
How AGV Works?
The entire concept of AGVs is based on the system of Flexible Manufacturing Systems (FMS). The most important advantage of the system is that it provides for flexibility by way of change or alteration in the operational activities in case of any unprecedented problems and issues.
The automation for the AGV is provided through the following methods:
– With the help of wires installed in the floor where the vehicle will be operational and by way of connecting these wires to a sensor placed underneath the AGV’s surface. The radio frequencies transmitted between the wires and the sensor, put the AGV in motion
– Using the help of directional tapes – magnetic and colored ones to manoeuvre the AGVs is yet another popular method. Such tapes, also known as Guide Tapes are comparatively more feasible than wires because in case of any change in the route of the Automated Guided Vehicle, the tapes can be removed and then suitably re-aligned
– Lasers are also used to mobilise the AGVs. With the help of retroreflective devices fitted onto the walls and poles and by fitting a laser emitter on the AGV, the automation is appropriately mobilised. There are two varieties of laser piloting: the Modulated Laser piloting and the Pulsed Laser piloting
– Computer systems to control and manoeuvre an AGV are also employed in the required areas. With the help of transponders, the automation moves in the specified direction and in case of any problems in the undertaken direction, a gyroscope helps to re-direct the AGV back to the route required to be taken
– The Automatic Guided Vehicle can also be attached with trailers that haul the required container. The hauling capacity of the AGV is, for cargo containers in the range of 20, 40 and 45 inches. They can move in any direction – forwards, backwards and sideways. This last point, perhaps is the most important feature of the AGVs
The benefits offered by the Automated Guided Vehicles for ports can be elaborated as follows:
- They are cost-efficient and time-efficient
- They increase the efficiency of the overall processes in the ports
- The traffic pertaining to the transportation of the cargo internally in the ports is well regulated
- Possibilities of accidents and consequent injuries are reduced substantially because of absence of human traffic
Some of the various types of AGVs that are used can be listed down as follows:
- Towing Vehicles having a towing capacity anywhere between 8,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds
- Vehicles used in the assembly chain of processes
- Automatic Guided Vehicles used for transporting lighter cargo
Since the AGV operates on battery power, the aspect of charging the batteries comes into the picture. The charging operations of the AGV can be carried out in any one of the following three ways:
- By manually replacing the exhausted battery with a full charged one
- By automating the battery charging operation – this method is a substitute for the first method. In this method, the AGV is fitted with extra machinery to make it fully automated in terms of battery charging. Such equipped AGVs enter into the battery charging station where an automated battery charger replaces the exhausted batteries with fresh ones
- In the opportunistic system of battery charging, as the name suggests, the AGV will charge itself automatically as and when the opportunity arises. Also in case the battery level drops below a certain prescribed level, then the AGV will charge itself after its present transportation duty is carried out
Automatic Guided Vehicles require charging after every shift that lasts between eight to 12 hours. However several further developments to the AGV technology have enabled a reduction in the charging time of the batteries, leading to a further increase in the efficiency and output of the automation.
With the help of the AGV system, transportation of marine cargo has become simpler and faster. Considering the success that the AGVs have achieved in their decade of existence, it can be hoped and expected that even more developments to the technology would occur, suiting the ever-growing needs of the marine cargo requirements.