It has been 60 years since the concept of driverless forklifts was introduced. Back in the day, a driverless forklift was attached to an overhead wire controlling the truck. At present, a high volume of warehouses are adapting to the future by using driverless robotic equipment to assist in their moving operations.
Modern warehouses have an increased need for full case and layer picking, specifically when making route deliveries due to the increase in smaller and more frequent orders. This results in an increase in labor intensive operations and additional expenses. It also adds to safety regulations and the need for warehouse managers to come up with warehouse solutions.
Industry experts stated that by automating the picking and moving operations, warehouse operators can effectively pick fast moving SKUs by picking full layers of products at a time. If there’s a significant volume of cases needed, a driverless or robotic forklift can save time and energy.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) require no human interaction and can move stock around the warehouse without assistance. AGVs can load and unload products without human assistance and can complete horizontal and vertical movements. These automated vehicles can work in extremely complex environments and use highly engineered solutions to intelligently move equipment around the warehouse.
Will There be A Shift To Full Driverless Forklifts?
Obviously, forklift operators and drivers don’t want their jobs to be obsolete, but the technology has already been created and developed. Also, safety is a big concern among warehouse owners and operators, but due to advanced programming from automated forklift manufacturers, automated/robotic forklifts have been installed with object detection and anti-collision software for the greatest results. If these advanced features and proper programming is implemented, the AGVs are safe and the chances of incidents like collisions or human injury have gone down.
Advantages Of Driverless Forklifts
Driverless technology provides a huge potential for increased efficiency because it minimises downtime while streamlining daily warehouse operations. AGVs can also work in extremely tight spaces without showing any fatigue which is a common issues of human drivers or operators.
These machines can work around-the-clock which allows warehouse owners and businesses to reassign the human workforce into other productive areas. This will save the business labor costs and allow human workers to move away from repetitive labor and be assigned into more dynamic roles.
These modern AGVs can also be incorporated with any existing machinery, meaning that the business can save from upgrading to new and expensive equipment. Also, these AGVs can also be customised to be a hybrid machine, which means a human driver or operator can do manual operation whenever needed. Although these high tech forklifts have many advantages, humans are still needed to detect faults, hazards and errors in real-time.
AGVs like robotic forklifts and automated pallet trucks are not cheap, but if the business is focused on ROI, the productivity improvements from automation would offset any additional costs over traditional forklifts. Also, you have to take note that not all warehouses requires automated forklifts. The right environment for these AGVs are warehouses with pick-to-pallet operations or where human workers are in short supply. Also, large warehouses with lots of repetitive, horizontal travel with full pallets over long distances are good places for robotic forklifts and AGVs.
Most modern robotic and automated pallet trucks and forklifts are electric-powered with different models that include stand-up and sit-down lifts, reach trucks, turret trucks and order pickers.
As the Internet-of-Things are steadily changing the way people work, AGVs are already providing good results for the businesses and warehouses around the world.