Introducing autonomous forklift technology into warehouse and logistics processes poses significant challenges. Many managers see it as a crucial step towards enhancing the efficiency and precision of these operations. However, such a major change comes with numerous questions and uncertainties. A response and verification method for computerized estimations is the pre-deployment testing service. We present the benefits and challenges associated with this service, and propose indicators and goals that help accurately verify the test outcomes.
Benefits of Pre-deployment AGV Testing
- Problem Identification: Pre-deployment tests facilitate the detection of potential issues or shortcomings. These pertain to both the environment in which autonomous forklifts operate and their functioning within a specific facility. This enables necessary adjustments to be made prior to the actual deployment.
Performance Optimization: Testing allows for the assessment of forklift performance in real warehouse conditions, enabling precise customization of parameters and navigation algorithms. Tests enable individual tailoring of forklifts to the specific needs of a given warehouse or logistics process.
Safety: Testing assesses the effectiveness of obstacle detection systems and the response of forklifts to potential threats.
Challenges of Pre-deployment AGV Testing
- Complexity of Environment: The diversity of warehouse or production conditions can complicate the testing process, requiring accurate simulation of various scenarios.
- Time and Resources: Conducting pre-deployment tests can be time-consuming and costly, but this investment typically yields significant benefits in the long run.
- Algorithm Optimization: Tests can reveal the need for optimizing navigation and control algorithms, as well as adjusting the routes for autonomous forklifts to traverse.
Based on completed tests and deployments, we know that these trials are incredibly crucial. Here are specific and practical examples of events that are difficult to identify without the physical presence of the agv forklift in a warehouse:
Irregular Wi-Fi Coverage in the Facility: Continuous connectivity is a safety requirement for AGVs. However, uneven Wi-Fi coverage can pose challenges. While a constant connection is crucial, local network adjustments, reinforcement, or configuration changes might be necessary.
Adjustments to Virtual Pathing: Often, live testing reveals the potential for significant improvements over computer-generated routes. This directly impacts task execution speed and subsequently the overall efficiency of the forklift. Such optimization doesn't always entail creating a new path; at times, adjusting turn angles or refining the designated AGV maneuvering area boundaries can suffice.
- Calibration: In theory, all warehouses have perfectly smooth floors. In practice, what might be a minor jolt for a manual operator can significantly slow down robotic vehicles. Hence, during testing, we carefully examine how the vehicle copes with expansion joints and other irregularities. Through software-level adjustments, we aim to minimize the risk of unnecessary disruptions to AGV operations caused by such factors.
Methods of conducting pre-deployment tests
- Computer Simulations: Using advanced software, various operational scenarios of the forklifts can be simulated based on a virtual model of the facility.
- Real-Environment Pre-deployment Tests: Conducting small-scale tests within an actual warehouse environment allows the assessment of forklift performance under real conditions.
- Staged Tests Leading to Final Deployment: Gradually integrating forklifts into warehouse processes, starting with simpler tasks and progressively expanding responsibilities. Simultaneously, training is provided for the staff directly and indirectly interacting with AGVs.
Defining metrics and objectives for tests
- Effectiveness: Measuring the time and quantity of tasks performed by the forklifts (e.g., the number of transported pallets per unit of time).
- Process Stability: Checking the repeatability of task completion times over extended periods, such as a 24-hour loop (with breaks for charging/battery replacement).
- Navigation Precision: Evaluating the accuracy of the forklifts' movements in different warehouse areas.
- Obstacle Responses: Testing obstacle detection systems and the effectiveness of forklift responses to threats.
- Energy Consumption: Measuring energy consumption during operations in comparison to traditional forklifts.
- Safety: Assessing the effectiveness of safety systems in detecting and avoiding collisions.
- Scalability: Examining whether the forklift system is scalable as the warehouse's needs grow.
Pre-deployment tests 40% cheaper
The main costs incurred during pre-deployment testing involve the time of experts implementing and configuring the robots. Recognizing that such tests are an almost indispensable element of the purchasing process, their cost is deducted from the forklift's price upon purchase. If a purchasing decision is not made, only minimal costs for transporting the forklift and the implementation team's work are incurred. To make the decision to conduct tests even easier and enable more companies to explore this innovative technology, we are reducing their price by a whopping 40% until the end of September!
Scope of pre-deployment testing and analysis
1. Initial Analysis of Readiness for AGV Deployment in a Given Location.
- Analysis of Hall Infrastructure.
- Analysis of Internal Transport Processes.
- Development of Testing Scenarios and Definition of Metrics Defining their Success.
- Development of specific missions to be executed by AGV (individual or sequenced).
2. Preparation of the agv forklift for testing:
- Preparation of a Virtual Map of the Facility where tests will be conducted, for the navigation and localization system's use.
- Configuration and calibration of sensors, cameras, and other devices required for navigation and safe operation.
- Integration with the local Wi-Fi/5G network.
3. Functional testing:
- Navigation tests: verification of the forklift's ability to move precisely along specified paths.
- Lifting and lowering tests: Testing the operation of the fork lifting and lowering mechanism.
- Pallet/roll localization tests: Verifying the correct identification, picking up, and placing of pallets/rolls.
- Safety tests: Detection and response to obstacles, emergency stop procedures.
4. Efficiency Testing:
- Speed and accuracy tests (e.g., number of correctly transported pallets per hour/during a shift).
- Energy consumption and battery performance tests in specific processes.
5. Integration Testing:
- Integrating the autonomous system with existing warehouse or management software (e.g., remote gate control integration).
6. Monitoring and Analysis:
- Continuous data analysis during tests.
7. Training and Support:
- Training for staff operating the forklifts regarding the operation of the autonomous system.
- Providing technical support and addressing questions related to the tests.
8. Final report and recommendations:
- Preparation of a comprehensive report on the conducted tests, including achieved results and potential areas for improvement.
- Providing recommendations for further implementation of autonomous forklifts.
Pre-deployment testing of automated forklifts is a crucial stage in introducing modern technologies into logistical processes. Their benefits encompass issue identification, efficiency optimization, enhanced safety, and customization to needs. However, this process can be time-consuming and demanding, with challenges tied to diverse conditions and algorithm optimization. Defining metrics and objectives for tests enables a precise assessment of their effectiveness, leading to the successful implementation of autonomous forklifts.
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