ABC Analysis & Its Role in Inventory Optimization

ABC analysis in inventory management

To understand the different inventory control measures and their value addition to the businesses, its first essential to understand the scope of the word ‘Inventory’. Theoretically, inventory would be the finished goods that the company holds for sale to its customers in the future. Inventory Control, on the other hand, is the systematic control and regulation of the purchase, storage, and usage of materials to maintain an even flow of production and to avoid excessive investment in materials.  The literal meaning would be easy to grasp as compared to the small nuisances it sums up to be a part of. Hence inventory control has been given that much of prime importance as its manufacturing.

What is ABC analysis in inventory management?

How often have we come across articles/blogs/literature which elaborate the plight of an operations manager struggling to have a good model in place as far as inventory control procedure is concerned? How often have we seen businesses treading on a downward slope because the inventory control processes were not good enough to land them ahead of the curve as far as operating profits are concerned. It is no surprise that the decision-making authority as far as inventory control is concerned is of critical importance for a business to gain a competitive advantage.

ABC analysis of inventory (aka Pareto’s law) is one of the most important and widely used inventory control technique. The process involves breaking down the stock items into three major classes according to their cost usage, so the company can focus on items with preeminent cost value since they account for a compelling percentage of the abc inventory costs.

ABC Analysis in inventory management works by dividing items into 3 categories

Class A– items are goods with annual consumption value the highest i.e the top 80% of the annual consumption value of the company but account for only 20% of the total inventory items.

Class B-items are the interclass items with a medium consumption value; that 15 % of annual consumption value typically accounting for 30% of the total inventory items.

Class C-items are, on the contrary, items with the lowest consumption value; the lower 5% of the annual consumption value typically accounting for 50% of the total inventory items.

Classifying the abc inventory items aims to assist the inventory managers to focus more on class A items, as they keep the top-notch priority and calls for tight control. While class B has comparatively low priority, spans items with availability either low or out of stock, and veritably, they account for 20% of the total inventory cost. Class C items have the least priority, and it uses the simplest inventory control methods.

So, ABC inventory control requires segregating inventory items based on their relative importance, for instance, resource availability, fiscal value, lead time, manufacturing requirements, etc. Practitioners claim that ABC analysis can handle cyclic inventory effectively, for ‘A’ class inventory items, counted weekly for accurate monitoring of items, consecutively, has a greater impact on the inventory cost. Conversely, ‘B’ class items, having less impact on the inventory, perhaps counted monthly and ‘C’ class items counted once in three or six months as their consumption score is low with less impact on the inventory value.

How does the ABC technique help in warehouse management?

In a typical multi-warehouse, the nitty-gritty of controlling inventory increase the inventory cost if not controlled properly. ABC analysis cyclic counting has been an effective inventory counting technique across multi-warehouse where inventory managers assign the inventory into one of the three ABC analysis class.

Inventory Management –

ABC analysis of inventory management can be a smart strategy in the ASRS (Automated storage and retrieval system) for increasing the overall efficiency in the warehouse. For disorganized storage, the categorization strategy in ABC ensures the fastest access to the items in the highest demand, for instance, storing the items with high priority in the front section of the ASRS.

Resource Management-

The analysis approach can be a part of a computerized resource management software like WMS (Warehouse Management System), subjected to access real-time data of the inventory items. Additionally, the analysis establishes a smart order routing, a quick initiation into a smooth transfer of goods across the multi-warehouse.

Picking Technologies –

To select the right picking technology, this technique helps to identify and select among different picking technologies like Voice Picking technique ( Pick by Voice, Light – Directed Picking Technique ( Pick to Light ), Artificial Intelligence and vison based  Technique ( Pick by Vision ). To improve the travel time within the manually operated warehouse, where operators are picking by forklift or by hand, or in the automated warehouse that running automatically on conveyors, with cranes and robots handling different processes.

Supply Chain Management-

ABC analysis helps the various stakeholders of the supply chain in the following ways –

By this categorization, one can identify hot spots and separate them from the rest of the items, especially those that are numerous but not that profitable. Identification of inventory items that pose the biggest business risks due to theft or damage and pose the largest opportunities from sales is also possible from this analysis.

It helps warehouse managers and other supply chain professionals to prioritize their time.

It empowers warehouse managers to achieve close to 100% inventory accuracy.

Also, importance of ABC analysis can also be seen via help in making Smarter Purchasing and Inventory Control Decisions as well. Warehouse owners and supply chain managers have limited time and resources, so they must allocate their energy in the most efficient way possible. ABC analysis helps them identify the areas of their business that require the most attention in purchasing and inventory control.

Smart Factories and future of robotics

Technology has always disrupted manufacturing, the first industrial revolution is driven by the steam engine led to the development of large factories symbolized by textile mills. Henry Ford, inspired by Mutton Shops, brought in Assembly line (Immortalized by Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times). In the 1970s, Computer automated manufacturing and provided scales and volumes never seen before. Now, in 2016 we are at the cusp of another industrial revolution which the experts are calling “Industry 4.0”. It consists of cybernetic systems incorporating Internet Of Things, Augmented Reality, Big Data, 3-D Printing, Simulation, and Robotics and is powered by Cloud computing. This revolution will convert the “Static Factories” into “Dynamic” and “Smart” factories driving productivity, enhancing efficiency and will ultimately alter the makeup of the workforce forever. The impact of these technologies on the workplace, job and on employees will be profound and it becomes imperative for us to understand this change in manufacturing and its subsequent impact on talent management and engagement.

Impact of Robotics

1. Industrial Relations

HR Professionals take a lot of pride in managing Industrial Relations and the “Norm Based Settlement” with the union is the flagship product of harmonious Industrial Relations. With the “Smart factories”, many manual jobs at the shop floor level on the production line will cease to exist in the way we know them today. An operator will not be restricted to managing only a production line or process but equipped with IoT, Data Analysis and cobots will actually manage the entire shift or floor, this will result in a meaningful and engaging job for the operator, which will enhance his employability as well. This in-turn will encourage flexibility in timings, rationing of manpower, redundancy of supervisory roles eventually leading to self-managed teams across factories. The workforce in manufacturing will resemble that of IT companies with more focus on jobs related to Data Analytics. In such a scenario unions will have to reinvent themselves to remain meaningful. The traditional system of norm-based settlement determining productivity and wages does not have a bright future and would have to be replaced by an individualistic and dynamic wage determination model that might not incorporate productivity as production will depend much more on technology than humans.

2. Manpower Planning

The method of recruitment has primarily been interviews with different formats such as stress interviews, behavioral event interviews, etc. Interviews typically score high on inherent biases, clubbed with inflated resumes, the reliability of the process is always questionable. This is poised for a change as Real-Time simulation created by data points from the resume and past experience of the candidate will replace the interviews. The dexterity and ability to decode dynamic instructions for completion of tasks shall be judged more reliably through Augmented Reality. These tools will be more reliable and suited to quick sourcing of candidates. Companies are already making use of these technologies to induct the employee and make his onboarding a smooth experience.

Till now organizations have been following the approach of building detailed structured Job Descriptions and Work Instruction for the employees to follow. With technologies such as augmented reality and IoT, experts sitting at remote locations would be able to guide production & maintenance professionals at different sites. Instead of hiring full-time employees, organizations would look to hire experts exclusively for particular projects. These experts will guide the resources deployed at the factories through Augmented Reality, as compared to the frequent visits that they have to make to the sites to solve problems, this will improve the efficiency by leaps and bounds. The resources to be deployed at factories would need to display high learning ability to decode dynamic instructions, as he would communicate with different experts to solve a wide range of problems on a host of diverse technologies. Along with Monster & Naukri, platforms that provide lifetime employments, platforms such as Amazon’s Mturk (Gives IT Projects today) will come into vogue for manufacturing as well. In India, start-ups such as “Flexing-It” are already providing professionals to corporate for particular projects, with Industry 4.0 insight, they will play a key role in helping companies manage talent. HR will play a key role in designing the projects and deciding which jobs are to be sourced out and which jobs need permanent deployment in the organization. The jobs of production and maintenance which would require only operational expertise of these technologies could be provided on a permanent basis and the experts would be required only for implementing and designing a project. This will require a thorough understanding of Industry 4.0 technology and will drive competitive advantage for organizations. To manage such a diverse workforce will require a different approach which we shall discuss later in “Talent Engagement”.

3. Learning & Development

Presently, due to a large number of employees and nature of production process in factories, training programs are typically organized in lean months and one size fits all training modules are generally delivered, either through classroom sessions or through regular e-learning modules. Organizations spend a lot of time justifying the impact of these training and since the impact of these sessions is not tangible, line managers seldom take interest in these training sessions. Industry 4.0 shall overhaul the entire Talent Development methodology. Training needs identification shall again be driven by data obtained from the operations and through augmented reality and simulations training shall be decentralized and customized according to individual needs. Since the data before and after training shall be available, the impact of training could easily be quantified.
Decentralized Blended Learning i.e. training each individual according to his/her own need, time and place shall be the path forward. With a high focus on learning ability and dexterity, organizations that will have a dynamic Learning & Development program shall conquer the problem of attrition as they would have tools that will make person dependency in future extinct. This will have a big impact on the compensation strategy of the organization, as they would not need to disturb the internal parity by accommodating outliers because of their skills.

4. Talent Engagement

As is evident, many tasks of HR professionals in factories which take up a lot of time like settlement negotiations, training administration, recruitment shall change and as such this will require the HR professionals to tweak their priorities and adjust their skills. The future professionals shall have to be a mix of geek and people manager. Apart from HR analytics which will give decision points, HR Managers shall have a lot of time to engage employees. People connect shall be very important and the conventional wisdom of “Meaningful Conversations” shall be very critical. Especially with a large diverse workforce that would be working on key projects but would not be “Employees” in the traditional sense, conversations and connect shall become extremely important. Through these conversations, HR professionals shall have to ensure that they maintain their people connect and address the grievance of employees (in all forms) and get to know the employees as individuals. The ability to have these meaningful conversations shall be an important criterion on which the performance of HR will be judged. With high-quality jobs and ample time at their disposal, employees shall become more vocal and expressive, HR shall have to offer different creative avenues for employees to channel their energy. More creative ideas to engage employees shall surface in the factories as was the case in Silicon Valley companies two decades back, which changed the game of engagement.

Many experts have termed the growth that will be driven by Industry 4.0 as “Jobless Growth”. It is not going to be the case, with more technology, the manual meaningless jobs shall cease to exist and high-end engaging jobs shall be created in the manufacturing sector. In the last 30 years, organizations have incorporated practices such as Overtime, Use of Apprentices & Contract Workmen for regular jobs and many more such “Innovations” to drive up efficiency, this has created what the government calls “Bad Jobs” without any future and security. With the advent of industry 4,0 resulting in traditional jobs becoming redundant, organizations shall have the opportunity to reinvent themselves to add value to the jobs in the factories in this era. Building on the conventional wisdom of Trust and Fairness, employers shall need to harness the technology to create a vibrant workplace and an innovative workforce.

Industrial Applications of Mobile Robots

The onset of the Industrial Revolution augmented the Mobile Robots Application across different industrial functions, however, the latest developments and the pace of business operations made it almost a mandate for many companies to adopt these bots into their everyday operations. Mobile robots, descendants of driverless vehicles that were taken birth in the grocery warehouse of Mac Barret found their place not only within the four walls of the industrial warehouse but across different applications like military, security, healthcare, domestic, surveillance, and entertainment industries.

Despite their ubiquitous presence across the spectrum, we will discuss the most popular Mobile Robots Application & the associated structures here.

Intra-Logistics – Warehouse Logistics

Shelf Units – Semi-automated installation (manual intervention) – To transport semi-finished or finished goods between productions, between production and warehouse and/or in warehouse logistics. This is especially useful for automobile or electronics industries where the manufacturing of main products involves the assembly of thousands of spare parts.

Conveyor band/belts– This is one of the popular applications of mobile robotics with a conveyor top module attached to it. It is used majorly to transport material between fixed conveyor band/belts- it could be between a robotic depalletization unit to shelving unit, or from a palletizing unit to dispatch unit or between production lines or from the production line to delivery. These are usually fully automated solutions.

Robotic Arm – A mobile robot mounted with a bin-picking robot, popularly used for automatic picking solutions. This solution ensures high picking accuracy and is used for picking fast-moving goods with small order sizes and high volumes. This solution coupled with pick to light makes it a popular Paper Industry

Paper roll handling was one of the important jobs to be performed given the sensitivity of the material. It’s quite common that conventional manual handling of the paper rolls leads to damage of the outer layers of the roll, and that is as much as up to 10cm of the diameter of the roll!
This leads to the adoption of automated guided vehicles for material handling & transportation of paper rolls and pallets of sheeted paper as early as the 1970s. With the evolution of Mobile robots & flexibility, they have numerous applications.
In the paper industry, vertical paper roll warehousing and horizontal delivery of paper rolls to printing machines are very typical. To facilitate this, mobile robots are integrated with the down ender system.
Hospitals: Another interesting area of application of mobile robotics is Hospitals, where they are used for carrying surgical/medical supplies, linens, medicines, needle trays, and other generic items. Their ability to interact with one another, collision avoidance capabilities with other mobile robots, humans, obstacles like doors, walls… etc make them very flexible to use in multi-specialty hospitals where nurses and other helping staff do walk for kilometers every day carrying the essential items.

Electronics Industry:  It is characterized by the highest quality and product design. It also consists of several serial components of high quality. During the manufacturing & shipping, it is of paramount importance that these spare parts need to be dealt with extreme cleanliness and orderliness. The weights to be transported are usually of standard boxes of size 600mm*400mm. Majorly, in these production sites, flexibility is key– both the layout and the processes often change over the course of ongoing optimization. Mobile robots with their reliability and flexibility of operation, exactly fit into the demands of this industry and have been playing a vital role in material transportation for quite some time & the trend is only uprising.

Food & Beverage Industry Globally, this industry is booming at a skyrocketing growth rate with numerous players, multiple SKUs and extending every nook & corner. This continuous growth of the sector leads to a great utilization of available space plus the very nature of the products demand quick supply chain operations. Especially the beverage industry is subjected to enormous price pressure worldwide. Hence there is an acute need for operational cost savings and even the very marginal price differences can define the fate of the business. This is how automation and mobile robots came into the picture. Popularly piggyback model of mobile robots can be used to perform pallet transportation. These mobile robots are equipped with conveyors to manage pallet pick up and drop off laterally onto stationary conveyor equipment. These robots do offer a high amount of operational flexibility.

Way forward
Currently, mobile robots are in heavy or unusual payload applications, however, flexibility is at the core of their functionality, they are fast penetrating into new industries with each passing day. Mobile Robots Application will soon become the harbingers for the realization of ‘Lean Manufacturing’ that connects islands of automation across different business functions. Dynamo, an indigenously developed mobile robot from Addverb can handle multiple payloads from 50Kg to 1500Kg. Based on Natural navigation and advanced control systems this is one of the best in industry.

Read on to know more about it here: Automated solutions in fashion warehouse

Robotic Bin Picking

Order fulfillment has always been one of the core activities of the entire supply chain operations and is becoming more and more intensive thanks to the proliferation of SKUs, order volume and operational density. A typical pharma company that deals with thousands of specific, small but high volume of SKUs demand an extremely high precision order fulfillment operation. The manual process for order fulfillment here not only reduces throughput but also leads to process inefficiencies and inaccuracies. Adopting robotic bin picking solutions that deliver robotic picking of objects with the aid of computer-based vision systems and sensors delivers the right solution for picking objects that are dumped in an unstructured way.

Robotic bin picking is extremely useful while dealing with heavy, sharp, hazardous materials and to replace labor-intensive order fulfillment through picking, and bulk parts sortation. It ensures high levels of picking accuracy, throughput, high uptime with MTBF of up to 75000 hours.

Why is it a hard nut to crack?

Despite the best of its benefits, bin picking is still at nascent stages and is yet to realize full potential due to the sheer complexities involved.

Localization: A bin-picking robot has to identify the position and orientation of the object placed in the bin. This is an extremely unstructured environment where the positions and orientations of the objects keep on changing every time an object is picked from the bin by the robot. This requires training the system with thousands of orientations for each object or SKU, and, in an industry like E-commerce, where the business deals with lakhs of SKUs, it’s a daunting task.

System Integration: Robotic picking solution demands a good balance to coordinate the functionalities of vision systems, software, computing power and data crunching all in real-time. Ultimately the performance is delivered to grip the objects from a bin.
In fact, so far, a good amount of success rate has been achieved on geometrically symmetrical objects, which are with plain features, are not too heavy, and have some sort of sufficient planar surface in all of their random orientations, that makes it easy for the robots to pick and easy to grip feature.

How many types of bin picking?

There are a variety of subsets of bin picking systems that are already existing:
Structured Bin Picking: Where the robotic bin picking happens on structurally organized objects which are easy to identify and pick. Using 2D Vision, imaging, and analysis it can be done to a fair degree of success.

Semi-Structured Bin Picking: Where the objects are positioned with a fair degree of organization and predictability to aid in picking

Random Bin Picking: Where the objects are placed in completely random positions, can be overlapping, and have multiple orientations, making this the most complicated version. Advanced technologies consisting of 3D imaging and 3D analysis will have to be created to tackle the most challenging parts yet – the shingled, packaged, or deformable parts – that are difficult to capture with machine vision. This system is called Randomized Bin Picking because the robot doesn’t know what object to pick, it will pick the objects randomly from the bin based on an algorithm that provides information of position coordinates of the object to be picked.

The way forward: Bin picking normally is referred to as ‘random bin picking’ and is the holy grail of the entire research on bin picking. With the rise of the e-commerce industry, where millions of SKUs and orders need to be processed, the most challenging part of the system is that the gripper of the robot should be able to hold a square shape soap and a conical structure of a liquid container. The same applies with other industries where bin picking can yield higher efficiencies.

What makes up a Mobile Robot, the Critical Components

With the manufacturing industry taking a shift from mass production to mid-volume and mid-variety, flexible manufacturing systems are increasingly in use. They require not only machine flexibility but also flexible material handling, storage & retrieval systems. Being the most versatile material movement system, Mobile Robots got the most deserved attention over time. To understand in-depth about the deep technical aspects of a mobile robotic system lets delve more into what constitutes this & what are the important robot components of this whole robotic system.

A mobile robot is more than just a single vehicle; it’s a system with the integration of several robot components that form the building blocks. As observed earlier, the navigation system & the control systems are at the heart of the robot elements that act as the guiding force for these vehicles. Other principal robot elements include the safety system, traffic management system, battery charging system, and hardware components like the body of a mobile robot, payload..etc.

Broadly we can divide the robot components of the mobile robot into 2 parts; software & hardware.

The critical software components that run the mobile robot are:

Navigation System

The navigation system, one of the most important robot components guides the path of autonomous vehicles and it can be a closed path or an open path. Closed path systems are used in case of automated guided vehicles, where a predetermined path plan will be there, and the path is laid by physical objects like wired navigation technology or guided tape system.

Mobile robots rather operate on an open-path system, which is laser sensor navigation system, or lidar-based natural navigation where the best path will be decided in real-time according to the changes in the environment. These are advanced systems over closed path systems and offer much flexibility. The type of navigation system can be chosen depending on the requirement of the operations & the environment in which it operates.

Control System

The control system integrates mobile robots with the Fleet (other mobile robots), WMS/WCS and also the user interface. This is a centralized system that drives the entire functionality of mobile robots by interacting with WMS/WCS/ERP for job initiation, managing the movement by calculating the optimal path, uploading and discharging of the payload as per the given commands. In the case of advanced navigation systems, like natural navigation or laser-based navigation, it stores the map of the entire warehouse and directs the mobile bot based on the input commands.

Safety System

The Safety system consists of a set of sensors and bumpers in the interior architecture of the mobile robot. These sensors take care of localization of the mobile robot, and collision avoidance. They offer 2 level safety system, one for the slowdown of bot upon detection of avoidance & the other for stopping the mobile robot to prevent a collision. These sensors help in positioning the mobile bot w.r.t the surrounding system.

Fleet Management System

Fleet management system organizes and manages the movement of AGVs in the given area such that no collisions will happen among the vehicles and with people or other objects. More importantly, it facilitates the proper integration of AGVs among themselves & external equipment such as forklifts, conveyors, shuttles ..etc.

The critical hardware components that run the mobile robot are:

Energy Supply

Energy supply to mobile robot takes care of: Vehicle guidance control, electrical, electronic and sensory systems, mechanical moving components and load transfer equipment.

Basic methods used for energy supply to mobile robots include:

  • Traction batteries (electric vehicle batteries, or EVBs) (lead or NiCd batteries)
  • Non-contacting energy transfer
  • Hybrid Systems: Non-contacting energy transfer plus a small auxiliary battery

All these technologies have their justifications in terms of cost, battery lifetime, the time needed for a full cycle charging, type of operations, power density..etc, hence depending on the requirement one can choose the system.


Payload is the maximum weight carried by the mobile robot, and it depends on the mechanical structure, motor specifications. Depending on the requirement, it can be scalable to any external MHE like a fork, conveyor, lift deck and tow trucks.

Safety System

On the hardware part, the safety system of the mobile robot will have different alert mechanisms like buzzer sounds, optical warning lights and acoustic warning signals, which include blinkers to indicate a change of direction as with automobiles, but with acoustic support.

These individual robot components make up one whole system that provides flexible material movement from one point to another without the need for any fixed conveyor networks or any laid paths on the floor or ceiling. To know more about how superior these systems are over its older counterparts, watch this space.

How mobile robots are influencing the RAAS trend?

Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation. This is the era of innovation. Emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality, Big Data, Cloud Computing, 3D printing, etc are making the manufacturers to rethink their production & manufacturing processes. The entire value chain of activities is undergoing a paradigm shift due to the intervention of these technologies and businesses are investing a huge sum in implementing and adapting them. Material handling is one of the core aspects of intra-logistics and inter-logistics operations technology up-gradation is essential to achieve the complete efficiency in the value chain. Introduction of automation for various movements inside the four walls of the warehouse to ensure safe, accurate and speedy handling of material is gaining popular attention. One of the most efficient and widely used automation solutions for intra-logistics operations to carry out these movements more efficiently is Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs).

AMRs can be easily integrated into any warehouse without any major change in the existing layout of the facility. These bots run on artificial intelligence and coordinate with a cloud-based system where it assigns tasks according to the operational requirement. They are also environment-friendly and can perform the task in any type of physical condition whether there is a low ceiling, poor lightening or inadequate HVAC. These mobile robots do not need any training to perform their operations, unlike the manual system where it involves huge training costs. Generally, the payback period for mobile robots is 3 years.

The growth of e-commerce in the current period has catalyzed the use of mobile robots in the warehouse and instigated R&D for continuous improvement. In order to optimize the complete value chain, companies specifically in this industry are interested to invest more in their core business and outsource the rest. Hence RaaS (Robotics as a Service) as a practice is coming up in conversations in recent days.

According to ABI research, there will be more than 1.3 million RAAS deployments worldwide by 2026. Because of its flexibility, high throughput and scalability organizations are finding RAAS as a more effective way to adopt in warehouses. It helps small, large and medium businesses to meet the growing demand and overcome major challenges faced while performing warehouse operations. Companies such as Fetch Robotics, Omron, Milvus, Ottomotors, Geekplus, MIR, Locus Robotics are some of the well-known names in the sphere of mobile robots. Meanwhile, Addverb Technologies has Dynamo in its kitty which is an autonomous mobile robot having a high payload capacity. It can be flexibly integrated into any warehouse organization and can be used for Goods-to-person picking of materials. Its natural navigation makes it possible to navigate it in the existing environment.

With Industry 4.0 on the forefront, the integration of advanced techniques and technologies with the movement across the warehouse will transform the conventional manufacturing processes and bring along great opportunities for manufacturers and end-users in the mobile robot market.

Automated Guided Vehicle

Technology has always altered the landscape of manufacturing. The advent of the steam engine marked the “First Industrial Revolution” leading to the birth of factories. Subsequently, the mutton shops of Cincinnati shaped the entire assembly line operations and paved the way for what was eventually termed as “Second Industrial Revolution” leading to bigger factories having big production capacities. One of the most critical aspects to be managed in these factories was moving the material or goods from one work station to another in a reliable manner after all this movement of material formed the backbone of the assembly line operation. Traditionally these material movement solutions have varied from having a fixed conveyor network, which has its own limitations in the form of installation time, fixed layout and rigidity to using material handling equipment, where the performance of the material handling equipment depends on the skill of the driver and as such brings a lot of variabilities.

As such, a system which can provide the mobility of MHEs and reliability of conveyors is very much required for today’s dynamic factories where the scale of operations has increased manifolds, and in such applications, Automated Guided Vehicle proves handy as they offer the best of both worlds, since they can provide reliable movement through advanced computer-controlled programs and navigation systems and are completely mobile and flexible solutions.

A brief history of AGV

AGVs have been in the industrial arena for quite some time. Conceptually they were born in the early 1950s, in the grocery warehouse of Mac Barret, who thought of driverless vehicles to carry the loads from one point to another point. He modified a towing tractor with a trailer to pull loads that tracked the signal in a wire, mounted on the ceiling of the warehouse. Later he went on to build these ‘Driverless Vehicles’ under the brand ‘Guide-O-Matic’, from his company Barret Electronics.

However, the name Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) was coined only in the mid-1970s with the introduction of unit-load vehicles, by then the wires in the ceiling were moved to magnetic tapes under the surface of the floor. The advent of these unit-load AGVs brought high hopes to the material handling industry, in fact, they were touted as a technology that would revolutionize the entire material handling industry. However, because of some of the early day limitations like lack of flexibility as the guidance of AGVs was on fixed path, reactive pattern instead of being proactive in case of obstacle encounter, and lack of intelligence hampered their ability to live up to the hype created & drew some negative experiences to the early adopters of this technology.

As the research continued, the initial wired navigation technology, which guided the vehicle by determining the position of AGV & the path, through communication between the signals emitting from the wire & the sensor on AGV, was replaced with the ‘Guide-Tape Technology’. This tape technology worked by the creation of a magnetic field & the vehicles that traversed based on this navigation was named to ‘Automatic Guided Carts (AGCs)’. This technology was an improvement over the wired one in terms of flexibility as the tape could be easily replaced & relocated in case the course needed to change. However, the damage to the tape posed a major hindrance to this technology and as such limited its application.

The Turning of the Tide: AGVs Galore

The AGV, Automated Guided Vehicle have reached an inflection point in the recent years as they have become common sight across manufacturing & distribution centers, carrying a load of raw materials to feed the assembly line in manufacturing or carrying a tow truckload of finished goods for storage or the neatly packed pallets of finished goods for shipping, now AGVs in warehouses are gaining the place they were hyped for once.

This run for Automatic Guided Vehicle is being fuelled by multiple factors, the primary one being maturing of technology as companies from different fields like automobiles, software, robotics entered the fray leading to a faster learning curve in general and faster maturity of technologies like LIDAR, Sensors, Cameras, Computer Vision, etc. Another critical factor for the push of AGVs came in the form of the rise of organized retail and e-commerce. The nature of the operations demanded a very dynamic warehouse with highly mobile solutions, as such Automated Guided Vehicle System proved to be the only viable option and the companies operating in this domain proved to be one of the early adopters of Mobile Robotics. Along with this, the businesses were looking to scale up and as such the warehousing operations must be automated to meet the scale and automated solutions based on AGV have proven to be one of the most reliable solutions.

Due to these developments, the primitive “Wired Navigation Technology” & “Guide – Tape Technology” paved the way for, ‘Laser-based Navigation technology’ and “Camera-Based Navigation Technology” wherein a laser head / Camera mounted on the vehicle scans & compares the area where reflectors are placed, which is already mapped & stored in vehicle’s computer memory. This allows the navigation system to triangulate the position of the AGV & guides the path of the vehicle.

What makes up an AGV in warehouse, the critical components:

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) is more than a single vehicle, it’s a system with integration of several components that form the building blocks. As observed earlier, the navigation system & the control systems are at the heart of the system that acts as the guiding force for these vehicles. Other principal components include the safety system, traffic management system, battery charging system and the payload.

Understanding these components is very critical to understand the strength of the navigation system, to know in-depth about these systems, watch this space.!!!!!!

A system which may provide the mobility of MHEs and reliability of conveyors is extremely required for today’s dynamic factories where the size of operations has increased manifolds, and in such applications, Automated Guided Vehicle in India , as well as globally proves handy as they provide the simplest of both worlds, since they will provide reliable movement through advanced computer-controlled programs and navigation systems and are completely mobile and versatile solutions.

The Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) or Mobile robots have reached an inflection point within the recent years as they need become common sight across manufacturing & distribution centers, carrying a load of raw materials to feed the production line in manufacturing or carrying a tow truckload of finished goods for storage or the neatly packed pallets of finished goods for shipping, now Automatic Guided Vehicle System are gaining the place they were hyped for once.

These Material handling robots have been used for material handling, picking, special applications like disinfectant robots, etc. Therefore, an intelligent mobile robot is required that would travel autonomously in various static and dynamic environments. Several techniques are applied for Mobile robots navigation and obstacle avoidance. There are various options available in the market for Mobile Robots globally. Addverb is one such Mobile Robotic Companies and one of the AGV manufacturers in India which offers world class robotics with reliable services to your facility.

Also Read : Types of Mobile Robots – What to use where?