Firstly, let’s break down what these acronyms stand for. An AMR is an Autonomous Mobile Robot, while an AGV is an Automated Guided Vehicle. While a mobile robot sounds awfully similar to an automated vehicle (and they can look almost identical) the two differ in some very important ways.
1. AMRs vs AGVs: Navigation
The main difference (which plays a major role in just about every other difference we’re going to look at) is in the words “autonomous” and “guided.” The way these two navigate is rooted in these words.
AMRs are autonomous, they move on their own accord, think for themselves, and plan new routes. AGVs are guided, they move along fixed routes using magnetic strips, QR codes, lasers, or other means.
To borrow from Mobile Robot Guide’s article on the same subject, a good analogy for comparing the difference in their navigation systems is to look at taxis, Ubers, or Lyfts vs trains, trams, or subways. They all transfer people from one point to another, but they do it in fundamentally different ways.
An Uber will pick you up from wherever you are, reroute if there’s bad traffic, and drop you off at your destination. If there’s an unexpected roadblock, the uber can turn around and find a new route. The Uber is your AMR.
A tram will pick you up from a specific location, follow along predetermined tracks, and drop you off at a location close(ish) to your destination. If something gets in the way of the tracks, you need to either wait for someone to move it or get off and find a new way to get to your destination. The tram is your AGV.
2. AMRs vs AGVs: Infrastructure
Due to the major difference in navigation, AMRs and AGVs have different needs when it comes to your facility’s layout.
AMRs can operate in almost any warehouse environment without the need for preinstalled guiding systems. They can adapt to changes in the layout of the warehouse and can be deployed quickly and easily.
AGVs require a warehouse to install guiding systems, which can be time consuming and costly, and may have areas that can’t be reached unless you remodel your warehouse floor. Furthermore, if you want to make changes to your warehouse layout to improve efficiency, you have to work around your preset guiding systems or reinstall new ones to match.
3. AMRs vs AGVs: Flexibility
AMRs are the most flexible form of automation to date. They can be deployed in warehouses of all sizes and layouts, and can adapt to changes in the environment with ease. If you move to a new site, you can bring the AMRs and be ready to take advantage of them immediately. If your business grows, you can scale up the fleet in as little as one day.
AGVs are also flexible to some extent, but they require more work to adapt to your changing business and environment. If you want to adjust the warehouse layout, you either need to work around the preset guiding systems or spend time modifying them which may cause downtime in operations.
4. AMRs vs AGVs: Efficiency
AMRs and AGVs both increase efficiency in your operations by automating tasks and decreasing labor intensity, but AGVs are much more limited.
Due to the flexibility of an AMR to travel to any point and the ability to reroute and make decisions for itself in real-time, AMRs significantly increase picking efficiency and boost picking levels by up to 3x and sometimes even more.
AGVs, on the other hand, are more limited in their capabilities. If you are 100% sure that you’ll only ever need the robot to move along a fixed path, AGVs can reach similar levels of productivity as AMRs but they would require much more foresight and planning to do so.
5. AMRs vs AGVs: Cost
Costs vary significantly depending on the type of AGV or AMR you need: the payload, the size, the workflow, etc. and they both are generally cheaper systems than traditional fixed automation that you’re used to seeing. New pricing models such as leasing or renting robots are becoming more popular with AMRs (known as robots-as-a-service or RaaS) to bring those costs down even further for initial investments thus reducing risks and offering a faster ROI.
The cost of AMRs vs AGVs are similar. An outright purchase of AMRs may be slightly more expensive than their AGV counterparts due to the technology involved, but AMRs don’t have any hidden costs in warehouse remodeling or guiding system installations. The overall cost will depend on the workflows you need them for. The more complex it is, the cheaper the overall cost is for AMRs when compared to AGVs.
While AMRs and AGVs may look the same and share many similarities, they differ significantly in terms of navigation, infrastructure, flexibility, efficiency, and cost. AMRs are autonomous allowing them to be more adaptable, scalable, and flexible without requiring preinstalled guiding systems. However, AGVs still have their place in more simplistic workflow requirements with repetitive and predictable tasks.
Ultimately, choosing between an AMR and AGV comes down to understanding the specific needs of your warehouse and business. It is crucial to evaluate factors such as workflow complexity, warehouse layout, future business projections, level of adaptability and flexibility required, the nature of the tasks you want to automate, and your budget. By considering these factors and weighing the pros and cons, you can make an informed decision that will help you optimize your material handling operations and drive productivity and profitability in your business.