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Published- May 2021
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AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) is a portable robot that follows a particular path designed to it. The path can be given as marked long lines, or wires on floor, or radio waves, or magnetic tapes, or vision cameras, or laser navigation. They are most often used in industrial applications to transport heavy materials around a large industrial building, such as a factory or warehouse.
AGVs are programmed to ensure security & safety and come installed with cameras, lasers and other sensors that allow them to safely operate within the industry, plant or company. Increased safety leads to reduced cost and operational downtime, which, in turn, increases the productivity of many operations.
The growth of the AGV market is driven by growing demand for automation in material handling across industries, shift in demand from mass production to mass customization, rising popularity of e-commerce owing to COVID-19, and improved safety standards at workplaces.
Moreover, industrial growth in emerging economies, presence of intralogistics sector in Southeast Asia, and rising adoption of industrial automation by SMEs is likely to fuel the growth of the market.
Lights-out automation has been the intended result for various manufacturing facilities. Lights-out automation involves fully automated systems for various components in manufacturing.
Warehouses run completely based on automation which eliminates the need for additional costs for lighting. A majority of the factories have been trying to limit human intervention, to limit the scope for errors and increase productivity.
The overall need for high efficiency in automotive, healthcare, e-commerce, and food & beverages industries is increasing the demands for automation.
The AGV-enabled automation of industrial facilities can help meet the requirements related to material handling capacity, along with reducing production time, lessening the chances of human errors, enhancing safety, ensuring high production volumes, and increasing accuracy and repeatability.
Traditional industrial facilities are slowly evolving into smart, connected, and highly efficient automated facilities by integrating Industry 4.0 with automation systems. Industry 4.0 is capable of converting an industrial facility into an autonomous plant.
It combines computers and industrial automation solutions with the help of robotics to form a single automated unit. The network of connected devices creates a smart architecture capable of taking decentralized decisions. The growth of Industry 4.0 is changing the functioning of warehouses. Industry 4.0 also aims to create an operational environment wherein humans and robots can work together efficiently.
Low labour prices in emerging economies such as India, Bangladesh, and Tanzania restrict the adoption of automation across the industries in these countries. The automation of industrial facilities makes little or no economic sense in these countries where abundant cheap labour is readily available.
In India, automation in manufacturing facilities is less prevalent than their foreign counterparts, since the cost advantage in labour trade-off with robots is less due to the availability of cheap labour. Moreover, emerging countries such as Bangladesh, Cuba, and Tanzania have low average daily wages. The companies in emerging countries are reluctant to invest in automated equipment, such as AGVs, due to the availability of low-cost labours.
The retail industry’s growth is primarily driven by the increasing demand from e-commerce, primarily for automated warehouse solutions.
According to the e-commerce Europe report, the region’s online-sales increased by 13% in 2019, and total sales were valued at EUR 621 billion, and the concentration of the market is expected to be focused in Western Europe, a majority of the turnover from the B2C platform is from the region (66%). Owing to such developments, vendors in the market are increasingly adopting automation.
Owing to rapid technological advancements in robotics and automation, the manufacturing sector has witnessed increased adoption of technology into its production process. Manufacturers are considering factors such as load, orientation, speed, precision, duty cycle, travel, and environment before selecting the robot that will be the most effective and profitable in their manufacturing plant.
The global Automated Guided Vehicle market growth is primarily driven by the rising e-commerce industry and growing adoption of automation in warehouses for efficient and smooth operations. The use of Automated Guided Vehicle helps the manufacturers to achieve enhanced quality and reliability in warehouse operations.
Moreover, factors such as shortage of skilled workforce and high labour costs also drive the adoption of AGV across various industries worldwide. Several organizations have implemented automated guided vehicle solutions to reduce their labour costs and improve efficiency. Although the initial cost of procuring a robot is high, once implemented, it offers high productivity, efficiency, and profits.
The increasing automation in the material handling process has aided the industries to have connected factories equipped with big data, machine learning, etc., ensuing embracing of automated material handling systems.
Companies such as Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, etc., are focusing on the automation of material handling processes to reduce the operation cost and increase the inventory size. This aids them in improved quality control, and enhanced labour management.
Amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 across the region, hospitals have also been seen increasingly using AGVs for delivering medicines to the patients while reducing human interventions. For instance, in March 2020, Homagama Base Hospital in Sri Lanka has mentioned deploying AVG for assisting the treatment of persons suspected of COVID-19 virus.
Tow vehicles, also known as tuggers, pull non-powered carts carrying huge loads. This is the most productive type of AGV used for towing and tugging as it can move more load with multiple trailers than a single fork truck.
The companies are focusing on operating in a more efficient manner due to the growing pressure on retail companies to meet the ever-increasing demand of its customers. The foreseeable decline in the growth of end-user industries may have a considerable direct impact on the AGV market.
The growth of the laser-guided AGVs market can be attributed to their flexibility, scalability, and accuracy of the laser guidance technology. It also improves safety, increases throughput, and minimizes downtime. Laser guidance is the most flexible system for vehicle movement and offers accurate navigation. It allows the vehicles to operate in a warehouse without the need for invasive barriers.
APAC is likely to be the fastest-growing region in the AGV market. China and Japan are the countries driving the growth of the AGV market in APAC. The rapid growth of automotive, e-commerce, food & beverages, and healthcare industries in emerging economies, such as China, India, and South Korea, has contributed to the growth of the AGV market in APAC.
Moreover, governments in APAC countries are increasingly emphasizing safety and security on production floors, which can be best achieved by the implementation of AGVs. Asian countries under lockdown have suffered tremendous loss of business and revenue due to the shutdown of many manufacturing units. This has impacted the demand for AGV in 2020.
The market players in the automated guided vehicle market are focusing on expanding through strategic interventions, such as acquisitions, collaborations, expansion and launching advanced products in the automated guided vehicle market.
Factors such as the digital transformation and the advent of integrated Industry 4.0 with IoT, will provide considerable growth opportunities to automated guided vehicle industries.
In 2018, Nidec-Shimpo launched new versions of its automated guided vehicle, the S-Cart. The new model to be launched by Nidec-Shimpo is based on the company’s guideless navigation AGV “S-Cart” – the 100 kg payload version – that hit the market in 2016, and has been updated with a function that lets it track and follow a person or object.
In March-2020, Seegrid Corporation raised USD 25 million in an equity funding round led by venture capital firm G2VP. The company has mentioned that the funding is driven due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and industry requires non-essential workers to adhere to social distancing along with plenty of industrial roles that need people to be physically present.
In February-2020, China-based robotics firm – Geek+ specialized in robotics technologies for logistics, announced plans to expand its operations in the United States. The company has inaugurated its office in California to manage robotic warehouse and smart factory projects in the country.
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