What was once fiction is now reality. The previously fictitious is affecting the real life industry in the form of automated driving – an innovation expected to change the world. The big question in the transportation, logistics and manufacturing industry is, what does this mean for us?
What we’ve seen so far
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are becoming increasingly flexible in unstructured environments, which is a game changer. These vehicles have evolved from serving manufacturing support into entirely running aspects of warehousing and distribution. AGVs provide a more dynamic and flexible alternative to large and expensive conveyor systems. Further, their ability to adapt and repurpose will make them a common sight throughout the supply chain process.
Due to being more cost-effective and efficient, driverless industry vehicles are seeing rapid development. This means companies like Apple and Google are pouring huge resources into developing a driverless civilian technology.
The Modern AGV
Modern AGVs defy the preconceived idea of unwieldy robotic workers that require large-scale warehouses. These new AGVs are small, agile and adaptive. A collaborative mobile robot can be told to pick something up from the delivery dock and take it to aisle 8, stack 14 in the warehouse and it will go around people, vehicles, down different routes and adapt in a bustling environment without slowing established systems.
AGVs work tirelessly without a break simultaneously collecting valuable data; hence, improving on processes and constantly learning. Modern AGVs also do not require owners to become robotics experts, as a lot of units provide self-diagnosis. The diagnosis process involves identifying a mechanical issue, notifying their service provider of the problem, and taking themselves to the delivery dock to be picked up for maintenance. In the meantime, they are replaced by another AGV, causing little to no interruption to the operator.
What this means for the industry
Does this mean the end of the forklift driver? Maybe not in the next 10 to 20 years, but ultimately, yes.
The reason essentially a monetary one, because 70 to 80 percent of the hourly cost of operating a lift truck is labour costly. AGVs act like a multi-skilled temporary staff member and are able to be reprogrammed on a daily basis. Their flexibility and adaptability are improving at an incredible rate.
The Port of Melbourne has just implemented its first large-scale automated dock. The three Neo-Panamax robotic ship-to-shore (STS) cranes, 23.7 hectares yard and a fully automated off-dock area from the gate to quayside delivers an estimated capacity of 350,000 standard containers.
Victoria International Container Terminal Limited (VICT) will continue with Phase 2 of the project. At completion, the 35.4 hectare Terminal will have a total of 8 Neo-Panamax robotic STS cranes, and its capacity is expected to increase to 1.8 million standard containers annually.
For Truck drivers, a completely paperless transactional process is predicted. The gates use a state-of-the-art interface with a one-stop booking system. Automated license plate and optical recognition will identify truck drivers and inform them where to proceed. Drivers can expect shorter stays at the docks and quicker turnaround times for pick-ups and drop-offs.
The yard is managed by Automated Stacking Cranes (ASCs), which handle the interchange from the trucks to the container stacking blocks. Drivers are required to follow a strict set of protocols during this completely automated process; step-by-step instructions will be delivered on the kiosk screen during the loading and unloading processes.
It’s not all doom and gloom: prospects and solutions
Australia’s industry is anticipating and adapting to these changes in automation, and historically, it has been successful at resisting job losses caused by automation. Similarly to other technological changes throughout history, automated vehicles will create new jobs with new skill requirements. Therefore, one of the central focuses in the next two decades will be training and development in response to these future jobs and skills. By closely monitoring these potential labour impacts, employers, policymakers, and educators can work together to build a new workforce.
Whilst technology will eventually begin to replace the work of the human hand, there is no need to fear, because many new opportunities will eventuate from this change.
If you are looking for a new position, now or in the future, Logical Staffing Solutions is here to help. Get in touch with Logical Staffing Solutions today and sign up to our newsletter, or follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook.