Manufacturers of automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) had one of their best years ever in 2011, thanks in part to increased interest in distribution applications. Manufacturing operations continue to be the primary users of AGVs, accounting for 75 percent of all systems. But distribution installations are on the rise, as the number of different types of AGVs grows, vehicles become more reliable, and the cost begins to come down, said Sarah Carlson of Daifuku Webb and president of the Automatic Guided Vehicles Systems (AGVS) group of the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA). "More companies are looking for flexible, scalable, automation. It's very easy to add vehicles or change a guide-path with some of the new technologies, making them attractive for use in warehouses and DCs," she said.
In 2011, AGVS members sold 925 vehicles (a 70-percent increase over sales in 2007) and 130 systems (a 25-percent increase since 2007). All of them were guided by laser, magnetic tape, or optical technologies; no wire-guided systems were installed last year.