Every automated guided vehicle system consists of at least one vehicle. There is no upper limit as regards the number of vehicles that can be included in a system. We know of AGVSs with several hundred vehicles, which were not uncommon in the automotive industry in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, such assembly lines are typically being operated with AGVSs of 30 to 70 vehicles. There is a clear trend towards systems with non-contact energy transmission where the vehicles are powered from an underfloor installation, doing away with traction batteries.
AGVSs with a similar number of vehicles per system can also be found in the healthcare sector, namely in large hospitals. For the last couple of years, automated guided vehicle systems have become increasingly popular in this sector. Every year, new AGVSs are installed in about 15 large hospitals worldwide. Five years ago, the University Hospital of Cologne, Germany, introduced a system that currently includes 53 automated guided vehicles.
Most systems in use today run with three to 13 vehicles. In many cases, vehicles of different type are combined with one plant, as this example of an industrial bakery shows : Four ingredient collectors, two decoration transporters and seven kneader bowl transporters are used to make production more efficient.
The picture to the left shows a vehicle in operation at an engine factory of Deutz. In mid-2005, the company introduced an AGVS with inductive power transmission including 30 automated guided vehicles for the final assembly of commercial vehicle engines. The criteria for the choice of technology and system were of course determined by the specific requirements of the engine assembly process.By using automated guided vehicles, Deutz is able to produce engines for construction machines, stationary plants, agricultural machinery and ships at a rate of one every 90 seconds.
Jungheinrich, the leading supplier of industrial trucks, warehousing technology and materials flow technology, operates various AGVSs, including 22 automated guided vehicles with inductive energy transmission. Due to its high availability, this type of system offers not only great advantages for three-shift operation, but also provides unrivalled flexibility as regards material flows and productivity.