Emerging Trends of Autonomous MHE for Modern Warehousing

Written by Kelvin Ong Chee Kok, GDLM

by Kelvin Ong Chee Kok, GDLM

Materials handling in the past would have been very simple, starting off people carrying items unassisted, eventually graduating to basic modes of transport such as horse and cart to carry larger items. In the early years, Hyster was a major contributor to the design and manufacturing of the first forklift trucks. The company was a pioneer in developing specialist machinery for materials handling in the logging and metal works industries respectively.

Material Handling and Logistics as defined by the Material Handling Industry of America is the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout the process of their manufacture and distribution, consumption and disposal. The most stunning technology of material handling must be the invention of universal forklifts. Till today, people never stop using innovative material handling technology to handle normal or anomaly materials, such as container, stone, timber, prefabricated concrete units, steel and glass.

Revolution of Material Handling Equipment (MHE)

Material handling equipment are not only used on smooth and solid roads, but also operated on the muddy ground, climbing up the stairs or entering mining area which needs to be explosion-proofed.

Autonomous machines must be able to work in environments alongside people, and assist them in their work, without the risk of accidents. They ought to be able to communicate with other facilities in the infrastructure in real time, in order to ensure a smooth workflow. In addition, in many industries the production and logistics processes change just as dynamically as the products and goods themselves.

All of this tells us that the innovation of material handling equipment around the world is various while applicable. People will comply with one rule when inventing and innovating as using high-efficient handling to reduce logistics cost while taking the concept of human-oriented. Moreover, high-efficient handling shall rely on high technology, which again refers to invention and innovation.

Designed according to Spark Proof for Chemical and Gas Industry

During the design of spark proof warehouse handling trucks, engineers use technologies designed for defined explosion groups and temperature classes. Depending on how sensitive an explosive substance is, it is classified into a particular explosion group. Substances in higher explosion groups, such as hydrogen or acetylene gas, require more extensive protective measures on the trucks.

Explosion Protection Measures on Electro Trucks

In order to prevent sparking from electric material handling equipment, all electrical components, such as drive, lift, pump, steering motor and electronic control units such as relays, operating hour counters or battery capacity display are encapsulated in pressure-resistant housings.

Autonomous Guided MHE (AGM)

AGMs are programmed by CAD-based software that routes available paths and also indicates locations that vehicles are to pick or deposit a load. AGMs are often guided by humans on their initial tour through a facility before their paths can be guided and updated by the CAD system.

Autonomous Guided MHE

The picture above shows some types of Autonomous Guided MHE.

Traffic controllers are responsible for load movement requests and task assignments to each of the vehicles. Finally, AGMs are left to determine best possible routes for efficient movement of loads.

1. Installing an AGM:
Easy and fast installation – Aside from making sure the path is defined in the CAD programs used to manage the process, with this technology, permanently installed infrastructures – for example with reflectors or rails – are no longer required: The safety laser scans and registers all obstacles. The robot vehicles react immediately and, for example, stop when a worker or vehicle blocks or crosses their path and only start again when the way ahead is clear.

2. Powering an AGM:
When using a high-efficiency, permanent batteries – no routine battery changing is required. While there are some recommended charging maintenance procedures to insure a ten-year operating life on batteries is achieved, most are automatically performed by the system during non-work periods. This ultimately means no battery changing, no special operators for changing or charging batteries, no degassing facility and no need to handle hazardous fuel for disposal.

AGMs often employ automatic opportunity battery charging stations throughout the path so vehicles need not be removed from service. Each time the vehicle interfaces a drop off position, opportunity charge connectors can be used to “give the vehicle a drink” before it moves to the next task. In some cases, a special area is setup for the vehicles to use when parking that can also serve as charging positions. In most cases, a 2-minute charge will provide 20-30 minutes of capacity.

3. AGM Maintenance:
The support and service thru of onboard smart controller. This controller continuously updates and records the vehicle’s operational status thus displaying the probable cause of any issue that might occur. The Maintenance Operating Systems offered by Bastian Solutions also assist with the automated tracking of usage, and the scheduling of PM Service routines per the manufacturer’s recommendations – relieving the shop staff of the need to monitor and schedule these procedures.

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4. AGM Safety:
Safety is the overriding priority for the entire range of products, and above all, in mixed deployment scenarios with automated and manually operated vehicles. For instance, in addition to safety scanners, a computer module with a 7-inch LCD monitor and a 3D camera, the comprehensive route monitoring system also features vehicle-mounted warning flashers, horns and BlueSpot safety lights.

Enhanced safety features of AGM

Enhanced safety features of AGM 2

Enhanced safety features of AGM 3

The pictures above show the enhanced safety features of AGM.

Through the use of ultrasonic sensors in addition to acoustic and visual indicators, emergency stop buttons, contact bumpers surrounding the perimeter of the vehicle thus providing optimum safety in your environment of those respondents that plan to evaluate or purchase automated materials handling equipment, technology or software over the next two years.

The biggest driving factor is the need to fill orders faster to meet customer service level agreements and expectations. Other key reasons include the increase in piece picking and packing, which are driven by the growth in e-commerce orders, the need for new go-to-market strategies and to keep up with the competition.


Using automated guided MHE saves companies money in a slew of ways both direct and indirect. Whether it’s lowered labor costs, a cheaper utilities bill, lower insurance premiums, or some other combination of everything above. This ultimately means that using AGMs increases the bottom line and allows you to keep more of your revenue as profit.

Autonomous MHE can be used in logistic systems provide substantial benefits to warehouses. Since autonomous MHE don’t sleep or suffer from fatigue, they can work around the clock and stop only for regular maintenance. Along with the ability to increase the time of production, autonomous MHE can also communicate with each other in real-time. This constant exchange of information between vehicles means there are fewer collisions, thus improving the overall performance of the system.

As transponder technology improves, the building is also able to communicate with autonomous collection MHE. This type of data communication can help optimize paths and direct vehicles to the proper locations to fulfil orders as quickly as possible.


Aalhysterforklifts, (2017). “Logistics & Materials Handling Blog”. Retrieved from http://www.aalhysterforklifts.com.au, accessed 09/09/2017.

Bastian Solutions, (2017). “Automated Guided Vehicles”. Retrieved from https://www.bastiansolutions.com, accessed 09/09/ 2017.

Forklift Net, (2017). “Introduction of Innovation in Global Material”. Retrieved from http://www.forkliftnet.com, accessed 09/09/ 2017.

Linde Material Handling, (2017). “Flexible automation for intralogistics”. Retrieved from http://www.linde-mh.com/en/Solutions/Automation, accessed 09/09/2017.

Linde Material Handling, (2017) ‘Safe logistics service thanks to explosion protection Explosion-proof forklifts’ Retrieved from http://www.linde-mh.com/en/Products/Explosion-Proof-Trucks, accessed 09/09/2017.

MHEDA, (2004). “The History of the Material Handling Industry”. Retrieved from https://www.mheda.org/, accessed 09/09/2017.

About the Author: Kelvin Ong has substantive years of experiences in logistics and operations management. He is a qualified member of Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management (SIPMM). Kelvin Ong holds a Diploma in Logistics Management (DLM) and he is currently completing the course on Graduate Diploma in Logistics Management (GDLM) at SIPMM Academy.