AMR vs. AGV: What’s the Difference?

by Prime Robotics
May 3, 2024
amr,agv

With the rise of AGVs and AMRs in modern warehousing, we break down the differences so you know what is best for your warehouse automation efforts.

Understanding the differences between various automated technologies is crucial for warehouses looking to implement automation. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are two types of automated solutions that optimize operations when deployed in the right environment. 

Though they may appear similar at first, AMRs and AGVs meet distinct needs in warehouses. Below, we’ll explore the main differences between AMR and AGV systems to help you decide the best solution for your operational needs. 

Overview of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

AGVs are valuable in many warehouse settings. An AGV is a portable robot that requires a preset path on the floor to navigate through the warehouse. AGVs use magnets, cameras, or radio waves to follow these paths, which are often made of lines or wires. These robots transport goods around the warehouse with minimal need for human operators. 

The routes laid out on the floor are usually made with magnetic strips, wires, or other visual markers. AGVs follow these predetermined paths rigidly, making them highly reliable. Since their paths are predefined and not easily changed, AGVs are best used in environments where there are few expected deviations from routine.

Some of the most common industries that use AGVs include:

  • Automotive manufacturing
  • Food and beverage
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • General warehousing

If a warehouse needs repetitive material transport, AGVs are a good choice. 

Overview of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

AMRs are a more dynamic warehouse automation solution. These robots understand and respond to the environment around them, making them more adaptable than AGVs.

AMRs use a combination of sensors, cameras, and lasers to analyze their surroundings. Using this technology, they navigate autonomously, often without the need for a predetermined path. Some AMRs may use QR code navigation to move through the warehouse, while others use SLAM navigation to avoid obstacles and adapt to changes as they come. AMRs are also highly skilled at choosing the most efficient paths for their needs. They often use artificial intelligence (AI) to help them make speedy, real-time decisions when navigating through the warehouse. 

Because of their versatility, AMRs are often found in busy or complex settings such as:

  • E-commerce and retail fulfillment centers
  • Large-scale manufacturing plants with complex layouts
  • Warehouses and distribution centers that need high flexibility

If a warehouse needs highly flexible robots for transporting goods, AMRs are the best choice.

Key Differences: AMRs vs. AGVs

The key differences between AMR and AGV systems are primarily in their intelligence, adaptability, and navigation abilities. 

Navigation

AGVs need a predefined path to move around the warehouse, which requires significant work on the front end. Once these paths are laid, AGVs cannot move outside of them, limiting any flexibility to travel. 

AMRs use cameras, sensors, and lasers to navigate their environment without needing a predetermined path. They may have an internal map preloaded into their system to help them navigate around obstacles, while others have additional capabilities to adjust their route in real-time, allowing more flexibility in their usage. Some AMRs may use SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to map out these obstacles and revise their internal map, adapting to different layouts over time. 

Intelligence and Adaptability

Because of their sensors, AMRs are more capable of responding and adapting to changes in their environment. They are able to navigate around obstacles and find a new path to their destination. This minimizes the need for human intervention and enables uninterrupted operation.

AGVs, however, are unable to detect their surroundings outside of the predetermined path on the floor. They stop when an obstacle blocks their path and wait for a human to clear it before resuming operation. AGVs cannot adjust their path to respond to unforeseen events in real-time. 

Cost and Implementation

AGVs are typically less expensive to implement due to their simpler functionalities. However, they often require more time and manual labor to set up and operate.

AMRs require a higher upfront investment due to their advanced technology and real-time adaptability. However, they offer more long-term flexibility and efficiency, especially in complex warehouse environments. 

Safety Features

AGVs and AMRs are both designed with safety features, such as emergency stop buttons and bumpers. Because AMRs are able to sense and navigate obstacles in real-time, they offer an additional layer of safety, avoiding collisions with human workers and other equipment.

AGVs are designed to follow their pathways and are unable to navigate around obstacles that appear in their path, such as humans. 

Choosing Between AMRs and AGVs

Choosing between an AMR and an AGV ultimately depends on your warehousing needs. You must consider the layout and environment of your warehouse. Do you require frequent layout changes? Are there complex elements that may interfere with a robot’s path? If so, AMRs are likely a better choice.

The complexity of tasks also determines which system is the optimal choice for your operation. If tasks are simple, straightforward, and consistent, AGVs are often the better choice and will save you money upfront. If tasks need more adaptability, AMRs are the way to go. 

Final Thoughts

Both AMRs and AGVs offer significant benefits to warehouses, from increased throughput to reduced labor costs. Making the right choice ultimately depends on your warehouse’s needs. Environments that change frequently and require flexibility will see greater results with AMRs, while warehouses with more fixed processes and layouts may find that AGVs meet their needs. By understanding the advantages and challenges of each system, you can better align your automation strategy with your business goals and achieve them.

Contact us today to schedule your workflow assessment and determine the right automation system for your warehouse environment. 

Prime Robotics