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Nicola Tomatis, Managing Director of BlueBoticsdiscusses AGV interoperability and what to consider before investing in automated vehicles.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are among the hottest topics at trade shows these days, and for good reason, considering what the pandemic has caused: a shortage of labor and a huge increase in e-commerce orders.

Not only do companies need to move things around more, but they also need different types of vehicles and models, Tomatis says. “And sometimes you struggle to find a supplier that has all the models you need.”

This is why interoperability is crucial. “The key question is which integrator will make sure that I have a smooth operation with all these AGVs,” says Tomatis. “That’s the key role. The integrator is the one who will ensure that everything is installed correctly during commissioning.

A big mistake new investors in automated technology make is assuming the technology will solve all the problems, Tomatis says. Realizing that you need to match the technology to the process you want to automate is the first step to take before investing in automation technology. “You really have to understand what the process to automate is,” he says. “And this is where the integrator will help the end customer determine how to adapt the technology to their needs.”

Obstacle avoidance is a great example of technology fitting properly, he says. A cleaning machine, for example, moves everywhere. Making him stop and wait when he encounters an obstacle could be counterproductive. It might not be cost effective to have avoidance capability in such a machine.

Production lines are another example. Avoidance detection may not be necessary when everything is sequential and needs to be extremely precise in time. Admittedly, these are extreme examples, but they underline that the choice of technology must be carefully considered.