A Control Classification of Automated Guided Vehicle Systems

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Automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS) are widely used for transporting material in manufacturing and warehousing applications. These systems offer many advantages over other forms of material transport. However, the design of these systems is complex due to the interrelated decisions that must be made and the large number of system design alternatives that are available. In particular, the design of the AGVS control system can be quite challenging, and it can dramatically affect the system cost and performance. This paper presents a classification of automated guided vehicle systems developed from a control perspective. The classification is useful for understanding the implications of the AGVS design decisions on the control system. It also provides the first step towards the development of a useful AGVS design aid that helps a system designer determine the most appropriate AGVS design for a particular application.

This paper deals with a classification scheme that provides a structured mechanism for organizing the relevant information about the design of the AGVS from a control perspective. It allows the system designer to determine how design decisions will impact the control complexity and provides the foundation for a design aid that helps in determining the most appropriate AGVS design for a specific application.

Automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS) are commonly used for transporting material within a manufacturing, warehousing, or distribution system. These systems provide for asynchronous movement of material through the system and are used in a wide variety of applications. They offer many advantages relative to other types of material handling systems, including reliable, automatic operation, flexibility to changes in the material handling requirements, improved positioning accuracy, reduced handling damage, easily expandable layout and system capacity, and automated interfaces with other systems.

The design of AGVS, however, can be very complicated because of the number of interrelated decisions must be made including determining the guide path layout and characteristics, the number and type of vehicles, the location, type, and buffer capacities of pickup/deposit stations, the operating procedures (e.g., vehicle dispatching and routing), the type of communications, and the type and characteristics of the control system (e.g., centralized, decentralized, zone or distributed). Most of these decisions also   have an impact the design of the AGVS control system. The control system design is important since it greatly affects the system performance and overall installation and maintenance cost. 

A classification scheme is needed to identify the relevant AGVS design alternatives from a control perspective. This classification shows the impact each of these decisions has on the controller design and also identifies the controller functionalities required for a particular system design. The classification is useful to system designers in understanding the impacts the design decisions have on the control system so that the tradeoffs among the different design alternatives can be better evaluated.

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