Shortlisting for an Autonomous Mobile Robot?​

Your initial research has provided you with the basics of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and how they work. You have also analysed the processes and workflows you would like to automate. The next stage is to discover what to consider when shortlisting possible solutions, and this ranges from checking out installation times to what future alterations might entail.

Installation times and future modifications

Installation times are determined by the navigation technology used by the robot. Most AMRs use natural navigation, such as ANT (Autonomous Navigation Technology), and because only minimal infrastructure changes are required (such as adding a few reflective stickers if natural features are lacking) they are quick and cost-efficient to install.

You also need to think ahead because modern sites regularly evolve, meaning there is a decent chance you will change your robots’ missions. Think about who will carry out this reconfiguration work.

These hours of reconfiguration work are included in some regular maintenance plans, but in others they require an additional paid project by your integrator. Consider potential changes in robot missions, and possible associated costs, in advance.

Adding to your fleet

Thinking ahead is not confined to robot modifications, however. You also need to think about potential additions to your fleet of robots. Is this a simple and easy process? Think about how jobs might be allocated to different robots, and also consider how traffic is handled, for example at intersections. Some are automatic, but others you need to program behaviours.

You additionally need to know whether today’s AMR’s fleet-management-system choice locks your business into only that brand of vehicle? Or can it be used to manage different brands of mobile robots and even AGVs (as is the case with ANT)?

Multi-brand capabilities will obviously expand your fleet-building options and reduce any possible risk of relying on a single vehicle supplier.

A safe working place – for both robots and humans

Safety is paramount, so it is essential you are confident your autonomous mobile robots will operate around human staff without presenting any safety risk. Familiarize yourself with how their safety systems work.

AMRs running on natural navigation typically have LiDAR-based safety laser scanners installed that detect objects in a robot’s ‘safety field’ (a pre-defined area around the vehicle). The robot will then take an alternative route or slow and stop. You need to know the optimal safety field settings for your site, plus what height the sensors are and whether they are at both the front and back of the robot.

Adhering to national and international safety regulations is vital, including EN 1525 (Safety of Industrial Trucks, Driverless Trucks and Their Systems) and ANSI 56.5:2012 (Safety Standard for Driverless, Automatic Guided Industrial Vehicles and Automated Functions of Manned Industrial Vehicles). Such regulations are part of a wider safety environment and should be included in employee training material before robots are deployed.

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Maintenance and support plans

The multitude of benefits of AMRs are well established, but to work best they need to be maintained correctly, so make sure a well-defined hardware maintenance plan is available before your purchase. Study in detail what this maintenance plan includes. Ask also about making modifications to your AMR’s software project. Who will handle alterations to your robots’ routes and actions? Your AMR integrator? And will this reconfiguration be included in your plan?

Annual maintenance will cost approximately 10% of a robot’s price every year, but it’s well worth it to ensure high-quality performance.

Who else uses this system?

You are potentially about to invest thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars in an AMR solution, so be absolutely sure that the system you prefer is proven in the real world. How many businesses and organizations already use this system and are they satisfied? Or will you be one of the first to install it?

Be upfront about getting the information you require from the supplier, and go out of your way to try to speak with existing customers in a non-competing industry to hear about their experiences first-hand. Unfortunately, some AMR suppliers have gained an unpleasant reputation for performing utterly convincing on-site demos that struggle to be matched in on-site situations. Do your homework, get the facts, talk to existing customers, and have a healthy dose of scepticism when presented with stunning demos.

Standardize jobs before AMR implementation

Employing an AMR in place of a human-based process comes with changes to the work environment – it’s inevitable, and it means some adaptation is necessary. Therefore, before the AMR is implemented, analyse, simplify and standardize your mobile transportation processes. Mobile robots carry out tasks they are pre-programmed to do, so standardizing jobs in advance will smooth the whole implementation process.


*This blog article is based on content kindly provided to us by BlueBotics.