Since ancient times, inventors have sought to create self-operating machines, or robots, to reduce the need for manual labor. Fast forward to today and the goal is still the same – to use machinery to perform simple repetitive or dangerous tasks and to provide safer working conditions for humans.
The global robotics technology market is growing quickly. In fact, it’s projected to reach almost $190 billion by 2027. However, if you think the only industrial robots out there are the ones you see bolted to factory floors, you’re in for a shock.
Today’s robotics market is producing a variety of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs). These dynamic bots use cameras, sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine vision to independently navigate through uncontrolled environments to complete a variety of tasks. And while there are many benefits to deploying an AMR fleet in your factory or warehouse, there are still a few challenges they must overcome.
What Are Autonomous Mobile Robots and Automated Guided Vehicles?
Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are mobile robots that perform tasks without a direct human operator. They are programmed to move throughout their environment, performing repetitive manual labor in a variety of industries like manufacturing, logistics, and farming. With the ability to understand their environment through cameras and sensors, they can adapt to changes in their workspace without human involvement.
AMRs come in a variety of sizes and designs best suited to their designed functions such as:
- Powerful pick-and-place AMRs like self-driving forklifts use machine vision technology to identify, grab and move objects from one location to another.
- Small and nimble unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones perform automated inventory checks by following pre-determined flight patterns and using RFID technology to locate and count inventory.
- Heavy-duty smart feeders ensure farm animals get correct portion sizes of fresh feed multiple times a day without human oversight.
Feeding system are a worldwide success
Examples of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) include:
- Forklift AGVs
- Towing AGVs
- Unit Load Handlers
- Heavy Burden Carriers
AMRs and AGVs such as these not only perform their tasks exceptionally well, but also provide many benefits to those companies that adopt their usage.
The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation
Through robotic process automation – the software technology that allows you to deploy and manage AMRs – companies can leverage new, affordable, and energy-efficient robots to help them scale their business.
To reduce the burden of repetitive manual tasks on employees, companies are turning to AMRs. Plus, using robots to handle certain labor-intensive duties has other benefits:
- Increased productivity
- Improved accuracy and efficiency
- More accurate data analytics
- Better customer service experience
It’s no wonder the global robotics technology market is growing so quickly. However, AMRs are not without their drawbacks.
The Disadvantages of Autonomous Mobile Robots
Unfortunately, for all their uses and benefits, AMRs and AGVs still have some challenges that prevent them from being the perfect labor solution.
For one, they’re not suitable for non-repetitive tasks. The key to their success lies in their ability to do the same thing, over and over and over again. And while their sensors can help them make minor adjustments to accomplish their pre-programmed objectives, they’re still designed to perform the same repetitive tasks.
Next, because every action they take has to be programmed, you have a decreased flexibility of operations. Any change to the workflow or process requires downtime to insert new commands into the programming.
Last, but not least, the physical components of your AMR might wear down or malfunction. Worst case scenario is you have a catastrophic failure that could lead to injuries or damages. However, the failure might just result in a discrepancy between where the robot is supposed to be and where it actually is.
While true robotic autonomy or sentience that would allow AMRs to quickly adapt and perform non-repetitive tasks is still in development, creating an AMR with more precise positioning is possible right now.
Why Do Autonomous Mobile Robots Need Precision Location Technology?
One of the most important characteristics of industrial robots is precision location accuracy.
Consider the following scenario – you’ve programmed your self-driving forklift to travel precisely 20 feet before executing a 90° turn to retrieve a pallet off the warehouse floor. However, the floor has been recently cleaned and the remaining condensation on the floor has created a slick spot.
As the forklift wheels hit the condensation, they spin freely for just a moment before gaining traction again. Because the distance the automated forklift is supposed to travel is based on the number of tire rotations, it only travels 19 feet, 10 inches, instead of the required 20 feet. When it performs the 90° turn, it’s no longer in alignment with the pallet it was programmed to retrieve.
The resulting discrepancy can lead to downtime as human intervention is required to determine the cause of the failure and how to resolve it.
This scenario is just one of many that can occur if your AMR positioning is off. However, by integrating UWB technology from Redpoint Positioning into your robotic process automation, you can ensure precise, real-time tracking for every robot in your facility, resulting in smarter navigation and better control.
Most AMRs operate using stereo camera systems or LiDAR to review and respond to their environments. However, as effective as these technologies are, they are not as accurate or precise in location tracking as a real-time location system (RTLS) with UWB.
With an active RTLS that accurately delivers target locations up to 10 cm like UWB, there’s never a question as to where your robot is supposed to be. Plus, the ability to cover millions of square feet with unlimited tags and anchors means every inch of your facility is covered.
The result is an automated fleet that has the precise data necessary to adapt more effectively to changes in their environment. Predefined, repetitive routes aren’t necessary. Instead, your fleet can use the data provided through UWB tags and anchors to find shorter, more efficient routes to accomplish their tasks.
Also, because Redpoint’s UWB tags work both independently and within the network, your robot workforce can easily avoid collisions, maintain safe zones, avoid disruptions, and increase productivity.
To learn more about how Redpoint can make your robotic process automation more efficient and productive, as well as safer, click here and send us an email.