Recently we discussed the use of Autonomous Mobile Robots and how in the long-term they would prove to be the future technology used across a number of warehouses and distribution centres. At the same time we are aware that the uncertainty of Brexit means many businesses are hesitant to invest in more expensive technology. It may also be the case that for some companies, regardless of the current economic climate, a solid business case cannot be made for introducing the technology into their supply chain.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) have been around in one form or another for almost 70 years and there is a case to be made for and against their continued use. Read on below to find out more about some of the systems benefits and drawbacks.
Reduction of labour costs
Increasing productivity and efficiency is the golden ticket that every business wants to win. AGVs tick these boxes due to their reliability and long term cost effectiveness. They do not tire or need to take breaks during the day. They provide higher task accuracy and can be set to work on repetitive tasks that could lead to injury, or put humans at risk over a period of time.
The use of an AGV can start with as few as one but as demands grow, so too can the fleet. Their operation expands (or decreases) as and when you need it to, and the time taken to implement these changes will enhance the speed of your operational flow. If needed, AGVs can also be adapted to include robotic attachments as a cost effective gateway into more advanced technology.
Predictability and Safety
Their easy control handling means AGVs remain a reliable and safe way to transport goods through distribution and warehouse centres. They are designed and installed to work away from the workforce which lessens any safety concerns that may arise. What makes them particularly useful is their ability to be used in environments where extreme temperatures are standard, while also taking on heavier loads and reducing the risk of injury to staff.
High initial cost
As is the case for any company looking to invest in new technology, the initial financial outlay can prove to be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Long term returns have to be balanced against a feasible purchasing period and offset against the reduction of labour costs. During that time it would be safe to assume that there may be some additional maintenance costs. No machine is perfect and any costing should also factor in potential downtime and disruption caused to operations as a result.
An AGVs predictability can also prove to be its own worst enemy. Getting the most out of the system is very much dependent on ensuring you can maximise its focused strengths. AGVs thrive when undertaking repetitive tasks but if this not an area you need to improve, you may not benefit too greatly from investment.
Lack of Flexibility
If the path or route needs to be altered quickly due to a new layout, or unforeseen issues, then it can take some time to halt operations and reprogram the AGV to adapt to a new workflow. At its best a distribution centre will work like a well-oiled machine, but the fast-changing demands of a warehouse means there can be a need to react quickly. If the repetitive task cycle of an AGV is suited to your operations without the need for regular fast changes, then they will be an ideal system to purchase.
Where office cubicles was once the preferred option for many offices, floor-to-ceiling partitions are now becoming a more popular choice for a number of reasons. The flexibility offered by this type of partition allows for greater control of the workplace environment, creating a bespoke shape to suit the requirements of the employees. They are ideal for warehouse and production facilities that require space for administration and management offices, and as the company expands, new partitions can be installed to suit. There are a whole range of additional benefits that come with the installation of office partitions which we will discuss in more detail below.
Low wall partitions, or cubicles, are intended to remove visual distractions for workers, allowing them to concentrate on the work at hand. The noise levels within an office are not blocked out by this type of partition and interruptions occur more easily. The floor-to-ceiling alternative helps to lower noise pollution within the office space far more effectively. Phone calls, typing, conversations etc., are less noticeable and allow employees to focus on their work. This is also extremely helpful for any important incoming or outgoing phone calls, as less background noise creates the right impression for clients on the other end of the phone.
Purchasing an open plan office presents a blank canvas for a company to build upon. Office partitions arrive in a similar fashion and the neutral colours allow them to be decorated to match the specific branding and style associated with the business. This is particularly helpful for satellite or sales offices that act as a representative for the company abroad. Maintaining brand consistency offers a familiarity and comfort for visiting clients and retains a sense of professionalism.
Floor-to-ceiling partitions do contain windows, of course, but the enclosed nature of the space provides more privacy for employees. Not everyone feels comfortable displaying pictures of loved ones and other personal items on their desk in the middle of a busy workspace. Office partitions provide the opportunity for workers to feel relaxed in their own environment, which it turn should lead to a better quality of work. This option also provides more security for any items of worth brought into the office, which can be safely locked away from sight at the end of the day.
For businesses that are looking for either long, or short-term leases, office partitions are a great way to manage costs and the overall layout. They are cheaper than the building of permanent walls and also mean that offices can be removed or expanded upon without spending too much extra time and money. For offices that are needed for a short space of time, be it for a particular event or transitional period, operations can be up and running relatively quickly. If needed, the partitions can then be taken down and used again elsewhere. Energy costs will also benefit as less of the office space will need to receive heating on a consistent basis.
Natural light and visual aesthetics
Glass partitions are both pleasing to the eye and create transparency between various workers. For management, rather than being blocked off from outside activity, it keeps them in sync with the mood of employees in the main workspace. The reverse is also true, as there is less of a divide between employees who may feel the management is inaccessible if they are not visible within their office. For those working inside a glass partitioned office, the natural light coming into the space aids concentration rather than the intensity sometimes created by artificial lighting.