Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Optimising materials handling and warehouse operations

Automatic guided vehicles are used in a wide range of industrial handling applications. Their attractiveness lies in their ability to operate without direct human guidance.
Optimising materials handling and warehouse operations
An automatic guided vehicle system (AGVS) performs on the strength of one or even multiple computer-controlled wheel-based load carriers that are usually battery powered. The system is effective for horizontal materials handling and runs on the plant floor or in paved areas outdoors. There is no need for an onboard operator or driver since the vehicles are programmed to cover defined navigable paths or areas.

The 'AGV navigation system based on flexible and innovative UWB positioning' (AGAVE) project worked to develop an advanced guidance system for automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. The EU-funded project focused on producing a next-generation positioning system that allows goods transportation through a flexible material handling system. The project’s vision was to overcome limitations of classic guidance methodologies, including an inability to direct a vehicle in non-line-of-sight (NLOS) conditions.

The AGAVE free-range system allows a high level of optimisation to be achieved over the routes to be executed; it has an integrated system that can easily adapt to changes in the production environment. This improves the overall quality of operations and reduces the total lead-time.

A significant improvement to the project's AGV was a statistical error correction and data fusion technique allowing for multiple inputs to be fed on the vehicle's operating system. Amongst other advantages, this affords a more reliable estimation of the AGV's position.

AGVs have much to offer as a horizontal transportation method for materials handling, especially in applications where delivery requirements are stable, ongoing and repetitive. AGVs respond well in such an environment: they operate at fixed speeds and on fixed operating cycles.

The AGAVE project outcomes demonstrated that the AGVS is useful for electronic dispatching of loads and process automation, as well as in handling systems calling for flexibility. In the latter case, when system expansion and system changes are anticipated, AGVs can adapt to change where other horizontal transportation methods, such as monorail or conveyor, cannot.

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