Maintaining Precise Movement in an Automated Guided Vehicle Environment

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Maintaining Precise Movement in an Automated Guided Vehicle Environment with Polyurethane Wheels

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) use their exact location to interact with both their working environment and other AGVs. They rely on the rotation counts of their wheels to keep this information as accurate as possible. Over time the constant motion over various surfaces can put a strain on the surface of the wheel resulting in distortion, degradation, and, in extreme circumstances, delamination. Any change in wheel performance can throw off the smooth operation of one AVG which, in turn, affects the other AVG’s depending on their shared pool of data.

There are three key areas to consider to help avoid downtime or performance issues, related to your AGVs wheel performance. While polyurethane wheels are highly resilient and by far the best choice for performance, they still require maintenance which takes planning. Wheels will wear out, but a controlled life cycle is far better than an unexpected failure.

  1. Stagger Installations or Refitting Over Time

It is not uncommon for an assembly facility or warehouse to undergo a major refitting or construction using a fleet of AGVs. It is, however, likely that the new fleet will be deployed at the same time. The unexpected consequence of a simultaneous deployment is that the wheels will likely begin to fail or require maintenance within the same time frame of each other. This could cause a dramatic downtime period while all the wheels are being replaced.

A better, long-term solution (though more challenging) is a staggered integration of the AGVs. This will allow the wheels replaced or maintained in a controlled manner, keeping the fleet as-a-whole functioning.

AVG wheels are notoriously difficult to replace, taking an AGV offline for a significant period of time can be exacerbated if parts are not readily available. By implementing a staggered approach, the fleet will always be undergoing some minor level of maintenance but avoid the systemic issues when a large percentage of the population needs to be taken offline.

  1. Surface Maintenance is Critical to Performance

While the AGVs rely on the wheel for motion and position, the wheel relies on a stable, consistent point of contact with the surface. While a clean, flat surface will make up most of the AGVs route, there are areas that may have door saddles, floor tracks, or even cracks that will, over time, cause premature wear on the wheel. Luckily, polyurethane wheels are particularly strong with excellent impact resistance and durability, but even the best of wheels will experience wear. One badly worn wheel can quickly throw off the smooth operation.

Dust, grime, or liquids can build upon a polyurethane wheel leading to slippage. For those conditions where these contaminants are unavoidable, tread becomes a secondary consideration. Choosing the right wheel and the right tread can offset some environmental conditions that would otherwise damage or reduce the efficiency of the AGVs wheel.

Most regular AGV inspections include checking the wheels for rotation and smooth operation, but the surface area requires the same level of rigor. By finding and eliminating any rough surface or sharp edges, the life of the wheel may be greatly extended.

  1. Planning for Wheel Failure… That is Certainly Going to Happen

Every wheel will eventually fail, but there are three key considerations that become important; extending the wheel life, keeping replacement inventory on-hand, and developing a plan that can predict when a wheel will begin to fail. Even the best polyurethane wheels will degrade, but it is the unplanned failure that creates the most disruption. When an AGV is unexpectedly taken offline, the costs to productivity can be dramatic. This is magnified when replacement materials are not immediately available.

Planning for failure becomes the best solution. By creating a more predictable replacement plan the production line can be managed far more effectively, reducing downtime and offering a degree of predictability that ensures a smoother running AGV fleet.

Creating a Plan for Your AVG Fleet

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can build a maintenance and replacement plan for your AGV fleet, reach out to a NewcoUSA representative. We are the sole distributor of Raeder Vogel polyurethane wheels in the United States and can help you choose and specify the right wheel for your opportunity.

Contact us to learn how Raeder Vogel polyurethane wheels can extend the operating life of your Automated Guided Vehicles and improve productivity.

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