fork style agv

5 AGV’s That Save Money & Boost Productivity

  • February 16, 2021

Manual material transport processes are prime candidates for automation because they are predictable, repetitive, and time-consuming by nature. Automated material handling increases productivity and frees up workers to fill value-adding roles. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are driverless vehicles that can handle a wide variety of retrieve and transport tasks without the need for manual intervention, supporting 24/7 productivity and reducing operational costs. 

Because of their modular and flexible integration options, AGVs can be a strong investment for manufacturing, distribution, and logistics companies looking for scalable, cost-effective ways to transport materials across facilities and between processes to preserve margins. In fact the AGV market is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% through 2026, driven by factors like increased demand for automation across industries, reliance on e-commerce, safety concerns, and modernized supply chain processes.  

To understand the potential for AGVs in your facility, the first step is to understand the main AGV types and their use cases. Here are several of the most popular options, categorized by load handling options and function. 

Unit Load AGV

Unit load AGVs, sometimes known as top carriers or unit load decks, are designed to transport discrete load types such as individual items, totes, or pallets. The top deck of a unit load AGV is fitted with a conveyor, lift, or other shuttle mechanism to easily auto transfer loads on and off the deck, to and from fixed conveyors, stands, or for interfacing with automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) and other equipment at different heights to create a flow of materials without the need for human intervention.

Forklifts AGV (Fork-Style vehicles)

Forklift-style AGVs are also known as driverless forklifts, unmanned forklifts, robotic forklifts, or counterbalance AGVs. These machines move pallets just as a manned forklift does, but without the need for a driver. Therefore, an investment in a fork-style AGV replaces both the equipment and labor costs associated with a conventional forklift and a licensed operator. It also frees up workers to perform more value-added tasks. 

Safety is another advantage. Driverless forklifts have multiple layers of safety features and eliminate opportunities for human error. This is significant because conventional forklifts are one of the leading causes of severe workplace injuries and deaths, and many of these can be attributed to operator mistakes or insufficient skills training. According to the National Safety Council, conventional forklifts were the source of 79 work-related deaths and 8,140 injuries resulting in days away from work in 2019, which were more severe than other workplace incidents. The average workplace injury causes 8 days away from work, while forklift-involved injuries average 16 days. Fork-style AGVs are therefore a valuable way to protect workers and preserve productivity, preventing lost time and unexpected operations costs due to injury or absence. 

  • Learn more: A Series AGVs, Premex SLX Fork-Style AGV [two links coming soon]

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) AGVs

VNA AGVs are autonomous versions of manually operated turret trucks designed to maneuver, lift, and lower materials within narrow aisles. VNA vehicles are increasingly popular in areas where space and energy are at a premium, because their small footprint and lifting power help facilities maximize every inch of floor space without subjecting human workers to tight conditions.

VNA AGVs may be configured with or without forks, depending on the use case and facility. They can also be customized to accommodate various aisle widths, maximum weights, and lift heights. 

  • Learn more: A Series AGVs [link coming soon]

Towing/Tugger AGVs

Towing AGVs safely and efficiently transport single or multiple loads via detachable carts or trailers, ideally suited for saving time and increasing throughput during long, heavy, and/or high-capacity bulk goods delivery. They can be loaded automatically or manually via an actuated hitch. 

Towing AKA tugger AGVs were one of the earliest types of AGVs introduced and they remain the most popular, predicted to be the leading type of AGV sold over the next five years. Towing AGVs have been in use for over 20 years, and remain a proven, cost-effective choice for point A-to-point B transports. Unlike other lower-cost transportation automation options, there’s no rail or track installation needed.

  • Learn more: A Series AGVs [link coming soon]

Special Application/Custom AGVs

If a standard AGV type does not adequately address a unique handling need, a customized system may be an option. Special application AGVs can be engineered to support a range of different load types, sizes, processes, environments, and facility types. 

Clean room AGVs are one example. Clean room environments are essential in industrial settings where materials or products must not be exposed to dust and debris, such as semiconductor and pharmaceutical manufacturing. Clean room AGVs are specialized to maintain clean room standards and minimize risk of contamination.


Special application AGVs can also be found performing logistics and transport tasks outside of industrial settings. For instance, hospital vehicles transport carts throughout healthcare facilities, sparing workers from manual labor and handling biohazardous materials, while still being safe and reliable enough to interface well with people. 

  • Learn more: Special Application AGVs [product page coming soon]

Explore AGV Options and Features

Even within each of the aforementioned categories, AGVs vary a great deal across a wide spectrum of use cases with multiple technology options for navigation, charging, safety, size, and more. Our AGV buyer’s guide can help you take a deep dive into the options and learn how to get the most return from AGV investments.


[Insert CTA when available: AGV Buyer’s Guide] 

Find the Best-Fit Automation Solution

Keep in mind that if an AGV system doesn’t meet your needs, there are other automated transport solutions available. Murata Machinery USA’s customizable transport options also include rail-guided options including carts, overhead hoist transportation, and high-speed case transport systems. To ask questions or request a quote, get in touch today.

Forklifts Data

DMOZ Directory Web Directory