Over the last few weeks, Guidance Automation has been running trials of its automated vehicle solutions with scientists from Birmingham University at a large UK distribution centre in Wiltshire. The trials – utilising new technologies which can automate certain aspects of a typical warehouse operation – took place at Gompels Healthcare, a family run specialist wholesaler supplying everyday healthcare products across the UK.
Leicester based Guidance Automation has developed a suite of modular technologies under the ‘Nucleus’ brand that enable customers to automate their operating environment in terms of the location, control, safe movement and supply of robotic vehicles.
Using Guidance Automation’s ‘Surface’ solution, vehicles were able to navigate around Gompels distribution centre using a floor code reading system and via camera technology mounted on the small scale robotic vehicles. These vehicles, sometimes referred to as Automated Guided Carts (AGCs), were used to complement the existing workforce by performing ‘fetch and carry’ tasks between locations in the warehouse. The ‘Surface’ solution enabled each vehicle to take on board instructions from operatives and independently carry out these tasks.
The trials identified a number of significant benefits in terms of improved operational speed, increased efficiency within the product picking process and more effective utilisation of operative staff – helping free them up to perform other duties.
Safety aspects are paramount with an operation that combines people and automated vehicles. With this in mind and given that this type of vehicle often runs almost silently, Guidance Automation included a smart audio feature within each vehicle where a pre-recorded motor noise was audible from the vehicle to ensure awareness of their position at all times.
The technology now available under the ‘Nucleus’ brand from Guidance Automation is demonstrating that the use of robotics and automated navigation is becoming more affordable and accessible to a broader number of businesses both in the UK and abroad.