AGV vs. AMR: What are the differences and advantages?

April 24, 2024
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What is AGV?

An automated guided vehicle (also known as AGV) is a highly mobile robot that follows wires or markers placed on the floor. In some cases, high-end models use vision, magnets, or lasers for navigation. 

They’re often used to move materials around a manufacturing facility or warehouse. They’ve been used for decades to transport goods and reduce the need for human operators.

AGVs typically travel on predetermined paths and are less expensive than autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which have more advanced navigation systems. 

What is an AMR?

AMR stands for Autonomous Mobile Robot. These self-driving robots can move around freely without human intervention. 

Unlike AGVs that follow fixed paths, AMRs navigate using sensors and maps. They can adjust their routes dynamically to avoid obstacles or congestion.

Key differences between AGV vs AMR 

Time for the big AGV vs AMR showdown! Yes, they’re both automated vehicles used in warehouses and distribution centers to move goods efficiently, but they differ significantly in their intelligence and navigation systems, as well as cost.

Let’s take a closer look: 

Which one is more intelligent? 

AGVs simply follow the path provided to them and can’t make complex decisions on their own. They require frequent human intervention to operate. 

AMRs have onboard intelligence that allows them to navigate, detect obstacles, optimize routes, and automate material handling processes with minimal human input. Their artificial intelligence and 3D sensing capabilities open up dynamic path planning and optimization.

What about navigation?

AGVs follow fixed paths, usually guided by magnetic tape, wires, or sensors placed on the floor. They can’t navigate around obstacles or change their path.

AMRs on the other hand, are fully autonomous. They can map their environment and navigate freely using sensors and navigation software. AMRs do not require any infrastructure changes to operate.

Which one is more expensive? 

AGVs tend to have lower upfront costs but higher operating and maintenance costs over time due to the infrastructure required. 

AMRs have higher initial capital costs, often 2-3 times the cost of an AGV, but lower operating costs since they don’t need the installation and maintenance of navigation infrastructure. 

Plus, the advanced technology of AMRs allows them to work efficiently with minimal supervision, offsetting their higher price over the long run.

So, if you’re thinking about an AGV vs AMR purchase, now you know the broad strokes. But let’s go even deeper!

Advantages of AGVs

AGVs offer several benefits over manual material handling methods. Let’s take a look:

  • AGVs increase productivity. They can move materials nonstop at a consistent speed. This constant motion and precise, automated control results in optimized material flow and higher throughput. AGVs eliminate the variability and inefficiencies of human workers. They follow the same paths repeatedly without straying, so you gain plenty of predictability and stability in your operations.
  • Very safe. AGVs reduce accidents and injuries from material handling equipment by automating the most hazardous and repetitive tasks. AGVs also separate workers from heavy machinery and mobilize loads that would otherwise require manual lifting, pulling, or pushing. Their programmed paths and sensors help avoid collisions with people, infrastructure, and other vehicles.
  • More flexible than you think. While AGVs follow predetermined paths, they offer flexibility because you can easily reprogram paths and schedules to accommodate changes in your facility or workflow. You can add new paths, change existing ones, or modify vehicle speeds and schedules through the AGV control system. This allows AGVs to adapt to evolving operational needs and support continuous process improvements.
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Advantages of AMRs

AMRs offer several benefits over traditional AGVs. Their autonomous nature means they don’t require any infrastructure like tracks, wires or tape to navigate the facility. This makes them extremely flexible and easy to implement. 

  • Long-term cost-cutting. AMRs are often cheaper than AGVs in the long run. Although the upfront costs may be higher, you’ll save money on infrastructure, installation, and maintenance. AMRs don’t require tracks, wires, or transponders to operate, so you avoid those additional expenses. They are also built with “self-maintenance” in mind, with many parts that can be easily swapped out by workers without needing a technician.
  • Even more improved productivity. Autonomous robots can navigate more efficiently than traditional AGVs. They use sensors and mapping systems to plan optimal paths in real time, avoiding obstacles and congestion. This results in faster travel and delivery times, allowing AMRs to complete more tasks in a given period. Their autonomous operation also means they can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without needing breaks. This significantly boosts productivity and throughput.
  • Next-level flexibility. AMRs offer a level of flexibility that AGVs simply can’t match. They can navigate freely without the constraints of tracks or tapes. This means they can easily adapt to changes in the facility layout or workflow. You can reprogram AMRs to handle new tasks and routes on the fly without having to install any new infrastructure. They provide an agile, adaptable solution that can evolve with your business needs.

Use cases for AGVs

AGVs are excellent for transporting heavy loads or hazardous materials in industrial environments. 

Here are some of the tasks where they excel: 

  • Moving extremely heavy loads. In manufacturing facilities and warehouses, AGVs are commonly used to move bulky, heavy items like pallets of raw materials, finished goods, or equipment. AGVs can lift and haul loads weighing up to 100,000 pounds at a time.

    They navigate pre-defined paths to transport goods between loading docks, storage areas, and workstations. This automated process reduces the risk of injury to human workers and increases productivity.
  • Dealing with dangerous materials. AGVs are well-suited to handle the transport of dangerous or volatile substances in a safe, controlled manner. Their sealed components and predefined routes minimize the risks of spills or exposure. 

    AGVs can transfer hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials, or waste between restricted areas in research labs, hospitals, and industrial plants. 
  • Dealing with mundane jobs. Doing the same transport job over and over can be tedious and mind-numbing for human workers. AGVs thrive on repetitive tasks and never tire or become bored or distracted. They follow the same paths and schedules with precision each and every time.

    This makes AGVs ideal for moving goods or materials in high-volume manufacturing and distribution centers where transport needs are frequent and ongoing.

Use cases for AMRs

AMRs are incredibly well-suited to extremely repetitive tasks in structured environments. 

Let’s take a look at some of the environments where they shine: 

  • Warehouses and logistics centers are perfect use cases for AMRs. They can shuffle goods between fixed locations on predetermined paths. AMR fleets in warehouses can efficiently move materials from receiving to storage to shipping. Some AMRs even have high-tech robotic arms that can grab and move boxes and pallets.
  • Hospitals and other healthcare facilities utilize AMRs for routine transportation and delivery tasks. They can move medical supplies, linens, food, waste, and other materials on set routes. AMRs reduce the risk of cross-contamination by limiting human contact with materials. They can also navigate tight spaces and avoid interference with staff and patients.

    Some hospitals even use AMRs to deliver prescription medications directly to patient rooms — under the supervision of a pharmacist, who unfortunately still has to walk.
  • On factory floors and assembly lines, AMRs take over repetitive chores like moving parts and supplies between workstations. They handle the monotonous tasks while human workers focus on more complex jobs. AMRs can operate continuously without breaks, maximizing productivity. They are also well-suited to hazardous environments where human exposure needs to be limited.

    Many manufacturing AMRs have manipulators to grasp and place parts. 

Summing up

At the end of the day, both AGVs vs AMRs have their pros and cons. 

AGVs follow their pre-established paths and work well in structured environments like warehouses. 

However, AMRs are more flexible since they navigate on their own with high-tech sensors. Sure, AMRs are pricier right now but costs are dropping. 

If you ask us, the flexibility of AMRs makes them worth the investment for many companies. But as always, think about your specific needs before you make a purchase! 

Next steps

Thinking about giving automation a real shot? RO1 by Standard Bots is a top choice for shop floors of any size:

  • Affordable: RO1 is priced 50% less than its closest competitors, making it the most cost-effective robotic arm in its category.
  • Superior performance: RO1 exceeds its competitors in speed and precision, and leads its class with an impressive payload capacity of 18 kg.
  • Adaptive intelligence: Equipped with AI capabilities comparable to GPT-4, RO1 continuously learns and evolves to enhance its performance alongside your business.
  • Collaborative excellence: Forget about safety barriers; RO1’s advanced vision systems and sensors ensure a completely collaborative workplace. 

Reach out to our solutions team today to set up a complimentary, 30-day onsite trial and get comprehensive advice on deploying your first robot.

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