Running like clockwork
Isn’t something missing there? This or something similar is usually the initial reaction upon encountering an automated guided vehicle system (AGV) for the first time. “Er, a what?”, is generally the next question asked. The AGV can actually be explained quite simply and quickly: a sort of pallet truck or lift truck drives to a specific place in a production hall where it picks up pallets with finished goods and then brings them to the dispatch area. That’s where the boxes are labelled and made ready for shipping before being loaded. Although it doesn’t sound very spectacular, this process is repeated around a thousand times a day. The only major difference with the AGV is that there is no-one to be seen far and wide; no human being who pulls, drives, controls – whatever! - the pallet.
There must be a person around whenever a vehicle is moving – but not with AGV!
It really makes you take a second or even a third look and rub your eyes. Because nothing can be that is not supposed to be! Because wherever vehicles of any kind are in motion, one automatically expects to see a person at the wheel or controls. We are used to this with cars, bikes, lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners – and of course with pallet trucks as well. Where automobiles are concerned, large-scale trials have been in progress for some time to steer cars without an active driver. And it is meanwhile not uncommon to see lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners flitting, as if by magic, across the grass to be cut or carpet to be cleaned. But driverless “helpers” in the production and logistics areas? Yes indeed! The AGV is already an element of Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, or Fourth Industrial Revolution. But, no matter how you choose to call it, this development is unstoppable. In a few years it will be practically the norm to have a lot of work carried out without any active human involvement. Especially in the fields of production and dispatch at corporations, there are - naturally enough - numerous tasks that are repetitive and take a long time. For people, this is very tiring in the long term; concentration levels suffer and, in time, the quality of work and the ultimate results as well.
People are needed elsewhere
In most cases, the manpower is needed much more urgently somewhere else to be target-oriented and motivated and satisfy customer requirements with good work and good products. The internal transport vehicles at MENSHEN also move through the factory halls as if by magic, like beads on a string. At first, they were given a respectfully wide berth. Meanwhile, though, the AGV has become part of the everyday work at MENSHEN and everyone knows that the system is not a danger to anyone and that it will definitely not run anybody down. With up to 400 pallets to be shipped from Finnentrop each day and more than 60 semitrucks departing daily, this is an enormous help. At the same time, the people – who remain vital to the company – can be more sustainably and effectively deployed elsewhere. Thanks to AGV!