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How Employees and AGVs work Together

As the field of robotics advances, more and more companies are looking for ways to incorporate robots into their day to day operations in order to automate routine tasks. One of the most prominent areas where robotics has found a place is in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. In such areas, companies can use robots in order to automatically place items into different containers or to transport materials in a routine path around the warehouse.

For many companies about to bring in robots to their warehouse, a concern arises: How will employees and automated guided vehicles (AGV’s) work together? Many employees have fears that the AGV may interfere with their normal operations or may be a nuisance.

To alleviate these concerns, there are a number of guidelines to follow for a successful working relationship between employees and AGVs.

Best Practices for Employee and AGV Interactions

  1. An AGV should be visible at all times of the day.

The Fred 2500 at ASI features bright blue lights around all sides to ensure clear visibility. Workers working near this AGV will be able to easily detect and notice the Fred 2500 coming towards them from far away.

  1. An AGV should emit a sound while it is moving

While it is in motion, the Fred 2500 emits a small beeping noise alerting employees to its presence. If employees do not see the blue lights, they will still be able to hear the guided vehicle approaching with the beeping.

  1. An AGV should take a clear path and let surrounding employees know the path it is taking

At ASI, the Fred 2500 follows a magnetic tape path from point to the point. In many warehouses, the magnetic tape path is easy to discern and well-marked so employees will always know the path that the AGV takes throughout the warehouse. Employees should be trained prior to the introduction of AGVs into the facility to be cognizant of the path that the robots will take.

  1. Every robot should stop when an employee crosses its path

The Fred 2500 features an advanced object detection system using lasers. When an object is detected in front of this AGV, it will slow to a stop while remaining on its path. It will remain on the marked path until the employee or object in front of the robot moves. This prevents the AGV from interfering with any employee’s work and protects surrounding people in the warehouse.

In the video below, we’ll watch the robot come along to a worker distributing parts in the warehouse. As you can see, the automated guided vehicle reduces speed upon detecting the worker and waits until she is out of the robots way. At all times, the AGV emits bright blue light helping it to be easily seen by other workers in the warehouse.

  1. The AGV should operate at a safe operating speed around humans

If the bright blue lights, the automated object detection, and the clear outlined path for an AGV in a warehouse is not enough to assuage employees’ fears, tell them about the maximum speed of the Fred 2500. This robot has a max speed of 2.0 mph ensuring that any employees will notice it well before it is upon them.

  1. Employees should be informed of the introduction of AGVs into the facility and the role the robots will play.

While current generations of automated guided vehicles are designed to be safe in close quarters around people, current employees should be informed of the use of the AGVs and be trained in some basic knowledge in how the robots work.

Employees should know that most automated guided vehicles have automatic object detection systems and the robots will stop if you get in their way. They should be clearly told about the path the guided vehicles will take and they should be shown the path.

Are Automated Guided Vehicles Safe to Work With?

In many cases, automated guided vehicles can actually reduce the number of injuries in a workplace. Nearly 50% of all workplace injuries in the US manufacturing sector are related to repetitive motion, overexertion, slips, or falls.

Using automated guided vehicles in a manufacturing facility can reduce the need for employees to lift and transport heavy objects resulting in less injuries. With the slow speed, lights, and automatic object detection system, employees can easily work together with AGVs.

“The automated guided vehicle (AGV) market is driven by several advantages… it has resulted in lesser on-site mishaps and assured workforce safety.”

– PR Newswire

When AGVs first enter any manufacturing facility, employees are understandably a little bit skeptical and unsure. By following the guidelines listed above and properly training your employees in the use and operation of the AGVs, both human and machine should be able to work together seamlessly.