How software helps manufacturers better manage mobile robot fleets
Mobile robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are helping manufacturing, distribution centers and warehousing applications move materials more effectively. Software can help manufacturers with design, implementation and management of mobile robots and AGVs fleets.
- Learn the tools that enable central control of an AGV or mobile robot fleet.
- Understand capabilities of software that helps with AGV and mobile robot management, routing, testing, validation to decrease time to deploy and increase efficiencies.
AGV, mobile robot insights
- Automated guided vehicles (AGV) and mobile robots can be designed, set up, routing, tested and validated in less time and with greater efficiencies by using modular software.
- Fleets of AGVs and mobile robots can be controlled centrally by using software tools.
Movement of materials, goods and products through a manufacturing facility, warehouse or distribution center represents an opportunity for improved efficiency for many organizations. Software tools can help with related communications, fleet management, drive train control, energy management, bills of material, safety and other onboard functions, such as lifting, as explained in the presentation, “Centralized design and management of multiple AGV types,” from Craig Henry, US industry manager – IntraLogistics, Siemens Industry Inc., at ProMat 2023, March 20-23 in Chicago, organized by MHI.
Henry also explained that end users, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators can simplify design, deployment and use of AGVs and mobile robots, even when from different vendors. Additional advice from Henry’s presentation follows.
Central control of an AGV or mobile robot fleet
A fleet of AGVs can be designed, operated and maintained through a central dashboard.
Accuracy of mobile robot paths can increase by using a laser-based application in four steps.
Locate environmental features in the facility for recognition.
Record the map by manually driving through the environment.
Do layout engineering using a web-based tool by defining paths, identification points and parameters.
Deploy by transferring the data to each vehicle or the whole fleet as appropriate.
How software helps with AGV and mobile robot management
Designing and commissioning a mobile robot fleet is easier when using software that:
Is independent from specific mobile robots, AGVs and related kinematics.
Allows localization based on existing natural landmarks.
Supports common laser scanner models.
Saves costs by using existing safety laser scanners.
Is modular and open to address individual requirements.
Has easy-to-use map management, efficient layout design and easy update possibilities.
Uses a modern intuitive design with a web-based engineering tool.
Type of software used varies with number of units, fleets, interaction, interfaces, vehicle variance, routing algorithms (route complexity) and connections to host systems. With modular software a pre-configured library and function blocks specific to mobile robots and AGVs facilitate rapid code generation and shorter development time. Hardware involved can include programmable logic controllers (PLCs), industrial PCs (IPCs), servers and connections to cloud services and other systems.
AGV routing, testing, validation: Less time to deploy, greater efficiencies
Software functions when managing a fleet can include communications, visualization, fleet and individual control, fleet monitoring, traffic control, modeling, dispatching, routing, sequence control and alarming.
Software also can enable virtual commissioning of a system, allowing work on automation even before the AGV or mobile robot arrives, error correction before installation, validation with other machine during design and testing without use of hardware. It also can reduce risk and improve safety. Design, digital twin and simulation software can help. Digital twin software can result in about a 30% reduction time to deploy.
Using a full-suite of advanced tools can reduce site AGV and mobile robot implementation by 80% by reducing transport costs, flexibly adjusting to fluctuating volumes and increasing asset efficiency.
Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, email@example.com.
KEYWORDS: Automated guided vehicles, mobile robots, design software
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