Automate your pallet transport? Choose the conveyor, AGV or RGV

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Automated pallet transport in your warehouse? Choose the conveyor, AGV or RGV

The use of a moving transport system is nearly a hundred years old. Much of the pioneering was done by the Ford Motor Company, which was the first with an automated production line and was able to gain significant efficiency improvements with it. Later, we have seen many variations for this internal transport: belt conveyors, conveyors belts,  roller conveyors, chain conveyors, driven or not driven and so on. It is certainly not easy to make the right choice, especially because there are so many matters to consider.

Basically, when transporting palletized goods, one can choose amongst a conveyor system, an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) and the relatively unknown Rail Guided Vehicle (RGV). Let’s have a closer look at these options.

The conveyor

When transporting pallets, we mostly see the driven roller conveyors applied. The choice for this options is mostly practical;  the technology has proven to be reliable, installation is relatively simple and there are no special requirements regarding the floor surface. It is an excellent system for the shorter distances and pallets can be transported without problems from A to B. In terms of investments, the system will satisfy the financial controller, as they are relatively contained.

Yet there are some downsides about the conveyor: the fixed set-up will create an  obstacle to staff or other materials handling equipment and therefore the company should consider the routes very carefully. It also takes time (read money) to adapt the installation, which makes the solution perhaps less suitable for frequently changing situations (think lean manufacturing environments or warehouses with a “continuous improvement” philosophy). Also, don’t forget the downtime when  maintenance is needed. In that case, the roller conveyor cannot be used. The scalability of the system is limited, although modern, modular conveyor are a lot easier to dismount or to reassemble.

The AGV

Choosing an AGV system means choosing an automated transport system with unmanned vehicles. They are well-suited for short and mid-range transport of pallets from A to B. As the AGV requires no installations or other obstacles and it ‘knows’ where to go, this system has no problem in increasing your productivity. Besides, adapting routes is relatively easy. The gain is efficiency increases if you are able to deploy the AGV the whole shift. These advantages makes the AGV ideal for multi-shift operations or environments where a certain degree of flexibility is a must. In the case of maintenance, only the relevant AGV is taken out of the process, whilst the other AGV’s can keep on doing their job. The improved continuity of the AGV is one of its advantages. AGV’s are very popular in the paper industry, automotive and production environments, but these days they are also usable in all kinds of warehouse operations.

However there are limits to its deployment. Firstly, the floor has be completely flat and undamaged and it is not always each to achieve a justifiable Return On Investment period considering the relatively high investment. So it all really depends on the application.

RGV; is this the ideal alternative?

An RGV is a transport system with trolley travelling on rails. The trolleys can often also pick up the pallet itself. Usually, an RGV system is mounted on the floor, but there is also a hanging alternative. Because of its high speed (more than 3 meters per second!) the trolley covers large distances very quickly. In addition, the pallet loads can be much heavier than a standard conveyor or AGV can carry: up to 10.000kg! Like with the AGV, when an RGV needs maintenance, the engineers only has to take out the relevant trolley, while the others keep on working.

Also the RGV has its drawbacks: as the conveyor is a fixed installation with all it limits  and making adjustments to routes is not quick and easy. Moreover, the investment is usually slightly above that of a conventional roller conveyor.

Can we conclude that the RGV is a better alternative to the conveyor or AGV? No, we cannot. How cliché this may sound; it really depends on your processes to determine which the system scores best.

Costo is more than happy to visit you to discuss your wishes and all the (crucial) details, with which we can determine the optimal configuration for your situation. Call us today for a check-up: +31(0)183-745045.

 

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