Types of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) in manufacturing and warehousing

November 1, 2023
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Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)

Automated Guided Vehicles, or AGVs, are self-driving vehicles that can navigate through a facility without the need for human intervention. They rely on a combination of sensors, software, and navigation systems to move materials, products, or inventory from one location to another. 

AGVs can be programmed to follow specific paths, either through predefined routes or by generating paths on the go using real-time sensor data. They often use a variety of navigation techniques such as magnetic tape guidance, laser-based navigation, or inertial navigation systems. 

These vehicles are designed to safely transport goods, typically by using forks, conveyors, or lifting mechanisms to manipulate and handle loads. AGVs are known for their precision and reliability, ensuring smooth and efficient material transport within manufacturing and warehousing operations.

Use cases

AGVs find extensive applications in manufacturing and warehousing environments due to their ability to automate material handling tasks. Some common use cases for AGVs include:

  • Transportation of goods: AGVs are used to transport raw materials, components, or finished products between different stations, such as from the warehouse to the production line or from one production stage to another. This reduces the need for manual labor and enhances overall efficiency.
  • Pallet handling: AGVs equipped with forklift attachments are commonly used for pallet handling operations. They can load, transport, and unload pallets from racks or staging areas, optimizing warehouse storage space and streamlining inventory management.
  • Order picking: AGVs can be used for order picking tasks, where they autonomously navigate through the warehouse, collect items based on the order specifications, and deliver them to a designated packing area. This reduces errors, improves order fulfillment speed, and minimizes labor requirements.
  • Conveyor interface: AGVs equipped with conveyor interfaces can interface with conveyors in the production line, automatically loading and unloading materials or products to ensure a continuous flow of materials.

Automated forklifts

Automated forklifts, also known as robotic or self-driving forklifts, are a type of AMR that is specifically designed to handle material movement and lifting tasks within the manufacturing and warehousing sectors.

Automated forklifts are capable of performing a range of functions similar to traditional forklifts, such as picking up pallets, transporting goods, and stacking or unstacking materials. However, what sets them apart is their ability to operate without a human operator.

These forklifts utilize various technologies to perceive their environment and navigate safely. They are equipped with sensors such as cameras, LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), and ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles and ensure collision avoidance. 

The robotic control systems interpret this sensor data to make informed decisions, allowing the forklift to maneuver in complex and dynamic environments.

Use cases

Automated forklifts have proven to be invaluable in manufacturing and warehousing operations, streamlining material handling processes and improving operational efficiency. Here are some common use cases for automated forklifts:

  • Material transportation: These forklifts are used to transport goods and materials within production lines, warehouses, and distribution centers. They can efficiently move items from one location to another, freeing up human workers for more complex tasks.
  • Palletizing: Automated forklifts excel in palletizing operations, where they can stack or unstack pallets of goods. They can load and unload pallets from storage racks or transport them to designated areas for storage or shipment.
  • Order fulfillment: In e-commerce warehouses, automated forklifts are used to pick and pack items for order fulfillment. They can navigate through narrow aisles and retrieve specific products, contributing to faster and more accurate order processing.
  • Inventory management: These forklifts are equipped with advanced tracking and RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technologies that enable real-time inventory management. By autonomously scanning and locating items, they help ensure accurate inventory counts and reduce error risks.

Cart robots

Cart robots, also known as Autonomous Mobile Carts or Transport robots, are designed to autonomously navigate and transport goods within manufacturing and warehousing environments. 

They are typically designed with a flat platform or shelves to carry different types of goods or materials, and some models even have the capability to tow other carts.

Unlike AGVs that are guided by markers, magnetic strips, or embedded wires in the floor, cart robots have a more flexible design and can navigate using advanced perception systems, such as sensors, cameras, and algorithms. They can adapt to dynamic environments and are not constrained to predefined paths.

Use cases

Cart robots have a wide range of applications in manufacturing and warehousing operations. Here are a few common use cases:

  • Material handling: Cart robots are used to transport raw materials, components, or finished products between different areas within a manufacturing facility. They can streamline the movement of goods, improve operational efficiency, and reduce the need for manual labor in repetitive material handling tasks.
  • Order picking: In warehouses, Cart robots are employed to assist in order picking processes. These robots can autonomously navigate through aisles, collect items from designated storage locations, and deliver them to the packing area. By automating this process, Cart robots help improve order accuracy and speed up fulfillment times.
  • Inventory management: Cart robots can be utilized to track and manage inventory levels efficiently. Equipped with RFID or barcode scanning capabilities, they can scan products on shelves or in storage locations, update inventory databases in real-time, and provide accurate inventory counts. This helps prevent stockouts, minimize inventory discrepancies, and optimize warehouse storage.
  • Waste removal: In manufacturing plants, Cart robots can be employed to transport waste materials or debris from production areas to designated disposal locations. By automating the waste removal process, manufacturers can enhance cleanliness, reduce manual labor, and maintain a safer work environment.
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Sorting robots

Sorting robots are Autonomous Mobile robots (AMRs) specifically designed to sort and organize items in manufacturing and warehousing environments. These robots are equipped with advanced sensors, intelligent algorithms, and mechanical arms or grippers to effectively handle various types of objects. 

Sorting robots utilize computer vision systems and machine learning algorithms to recognize and classify objects based on their shape, color, size, or other visual characteristics. This allows them to quickly identify and sort items based on specific criteria.

These robots are equipped with robotic arms or grippers that can grasp and handle objects safely and securely. They use this capability to pick up items from one location and place them in the designated sorting location.

They are especially useful in automotive manufacturing plants to sort various parts and components for assembly lines. 

Use cases

Sorting robots have a wide range of applications in manufacturing and warehousing, including:

  • E-commerce order fulfillment: Sorting robots play a critical role in e-commerce order fulfillment. They efficiently sort and organize products based on customer orders, ensuring accurate and timely delivery.
  • Parcel sorting: In logistics and distribution centers, Sorting robots are used to sort and route parcels based on their destinations. This minimizes errors and reduces manual labor required for sorting operations.
  • Postal services: Sorting robots are utilized by postal services to automate the sorting of mail and packages. They can quickly process large volumes of mail and separate them based on postal codes, addresses, or other sorting criteria.
  • Recycling facilities: Sorting robots can be used to automate the sorting of recyclable materials such as plastics, metals, and paper. They help increase recycling rates by sorting materials more accurately and efficiently.

Inspection robots

Inspection robots are a type of Autonomous Mobile robot specifically designed for conducting inspections and quality control tasks in manufacturing and warehousing environments. These robots are equipped with advanced sensors, cameras, and other specialized tools that enable them to efficiently and accurately examine products, equipment, and facilities. 

There are several types of Inspection robots available, each with its own unique features and capabilities. Some common types include:

Visual Inspection Robots: These robots use high-resolution cameras and image-processing algorithms to perform visual inspections. They can detect defects, anomalies, and other quality issues in products or equipment, such as scratches, dents, or misalignments. 

Visual Inspection robots are commonly used in industries where visual quality control is crucial, such as automotive manufacturing and electronics assembly.

Ultrasonic Inspection Robots: They use ultrasonic sensors to detect flaws or defects hidden beneath a surface. These robots emit ultrasonic waves that penetrate the material being inspected, and the sensors analyze the reflected waves to identify structural irregularities, cracks, or abnormalities. 

Ultrasonic Inspection robots are commonly used in applications such as weld inspection, pipeline integrity assessment, and non-destructive testing in manufacturing and maintenance operations.

Thermal Inspection Robots: These robots use thermal imaging cameras to detect variations in temperature and identify potential issues. They are often employed in electrical inspections to identify overheating components, faulty wiring, or insulation problems. They can also be used for monitoring equipment and detecting leaks in industrial processes, such as steam pipelines and HVAC systems.

Magnetic Particle Inspection Robots: They use magnetic fields and magnetic particles to identify surface or near-surface defects and cracks in ferromagnetic materials. They apply a magnetic field to the material being inspected and then introduce magnetic particles that adhere to any discontinuities. 

By analyzing the way the particles accumulate, Inspection robots can detect defects that may not be visible to the naked eye. Magnetic Particle Inspection robots are commonly used in industries such as aerospace, manufacturing, and oil and gas.

Use cases 

Inspection robots have a wide range of applications in manufacturing and warehousing settings. Some common use cases include:

  • Quality control inspections of manufactured products to ensure they meet the required standards and specifications.
  • Safety inspections of equipment and machinery to identify any potential hazards or malfunctions.
  • Facility inspections to assess the condition of buildings, infrastructure, and storage areas.
  • Inventory management inspections to accurately track and monitor stock levels.
  • Compliance inspections to ensure adherence to regulatory requirements and industry standards.


It's clear that the use of Autonomous Mobile robots (AMRs) is not just a fad. As manufacturers and warehouses around the world continue to recognize the manifold benefits of these innovative machines - from increased productivity to reduced operational costs - the adoption of AMRs is only expected to rise. 

Looking ahead, we can expect this technology to evolve even further, with improved accuracy, efficiency, and an expanded range of duties that these robots would be able to perform. With advancements on the horizon such as increased AI integration and improved machine learning capabilities, one wonders how much more capable these machines will become.

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