January 2024 Mobile Robot Q&A with Markus Schellinger

In a LinkedIn Q&A session, Markus Schellinger, Vice President of Solutions Engineering & Business Development Europe at Geek+, provided deep insights into the evolving world of mobile robotics. Schellinger’s expertise illuminated various aspects of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), shedding light on new standards, safety protocols, and future trends in the industry. Below are the highlights of his responses to various questions posed by professionals in the field.

 

AGV/AMR Safety Standard ISO 3691-4:2023

 

Schellinger discussed the new AGV/AMR safety standard, ISO 3691-4:2023, highlighting that it doesn’t significantly change requirements for safety scanners or fields. He pointed out considerable differences in mobile robotics safety approaches between regions, such as Europe requiring higher safety performance levels compared to the US and APAC.

 

The Relevance of VDA5050

 

When asked about the importance of VDA5050 compliance in AMR solutions, Schellinger recognized its utility for managing diverse vehicle types in production and warehouses. However, he noted that in certain applications like goods-to-person or sorting, VDA5050 might not offer substantial benefits.

Responsibility in VDA5050 Setups

 

Discussing the challenge of responsibility allocation in VDA5050 setups, Schellinger highlighted the ambiguity regarding whether software or hardware vendors, or end-users, should be accountable for throughput and availability.

 

Smart Glasses and Pick-by-Vision Technology

 

Addressing the potential of smart glasses and pick-by-vision technology in material handling, Schellinger expressed optimism but noted current limitations, such as comfort and information overload for users. He suggested that these technologies might not be as beneficial for goods-to-person applications due to already efficient and user-friendly alternatives.

 

Market Verticals Lagging in Automation

 

Schellinger observed that general retail, particularly medium-sized organizations, DIY, and pet supply retailers, are behind in adopting automation. He attributed this to a lack of recognition of the efficiency gains from automation and the complexity of their heterogeneous product portfolios.

 

Clarifying AGVs and AMRs

 

Responding to a question about the confusion between AGVs and AMRs, Schellinger differentiated them based on intelligence, navigation technology, and fleet management capabilities. He suggested that the two technologies might converge, with AMRs potentially operating in an “AGV-mode” for more cost-effective setups.

 

The Pace of Industry Adoption Across Regions

 

On the topic of regional differences in the adoption of mobile robotics, Schellinger pointed out that Asia and the US are more agile and risk-tolerant in adopting new technologies compared to Europe, where decision-making processes are slower and more deliberate.

 

Localization and Navigation Challenges

 

Discussing the challenges in localization and navigation for AMRs, Schellinger emphasized the complexity of mixed traffic environments and the need for high precision in changing layouts.

 

Interoperability and Fleet Management Systems

 

Schellinger predicted increased interoperability among different brands of AGVs and AMRs, with more companies opening up their fleet management systems to control third-party vehicles. He mentioned Geek+’s plans to integrate third-party vehicles into their fleet.

Pricing of AMRs

 

Addressing the high cost of AMRs, Schellinger explained that factors like high-quality batteries, sensors, and safety scanners significantly contribute to the price. However, he noted that when compared to traditional material handling equipment, AMRs can be cost-effective with relatively short payback periods.

 

AMRs as Disruptive Innovations

 

Finally, Schellinger affirmed the disruptive nature of AMR technology, foreseeing its partial replacement of conveyor systems and technologies like miniload cranes in warehouses.

 

Conclusion

Markus Schellinger’s extensive knowledge and insights offer a valuable perspective on the current and future landscape of mobile robotics. His responses reflect a dynamic field where technological advancements, safety standards, and market demands continuously reshape the integration of robotics in various industries.

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