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Mysteries of an acronym-crazed universe

Navigating the AGV/AMR/ASRS Universe

Making sense of an ecosystem of 230-plus vendors, myriad form factors, and confusing terminology can be dauntingly complex

To go where no warehouse has gone before
Even Han Solo at the controls of the Millennium Falcon would find it a challenge navigating through the AVG/AMR/ASRS universe in today’s densely vendor-packed marketplace. One that’s seemingly getting denser by the day.  

It’s been reported that the 230-plus vendors represent only 50 to 75 percent of the actual global ecosystem of AVG/AMR/ASRS vendors. Seriously?

You’d think, in a world filled with millions of warehouses (China alone has two million) all jam-packed with mountains of brown boxes, stacks of white goods, and gazillions of SKUs, not to mention meat, produce and frozen, that there would be room enough for all. Maybe so, from a vendor point of view, each vendor with its own “best in class” slice of technology that’s better than everyone else’s slice.

However, from the buyer’s perspective—the Han Solo view—this acronym-crazed universe (AGV, AMV, AMR, PA-AMR, ASRS, cASRS, and yes, VIV)—can be dauntingly difficult to navigate, let alone understand, review, consider, and then buy. And all of that doesn’t yet take a real close look at goods-to-person solutions a/k/a G2P (yes, another acronym); nor does it consider warehouse software (WMS).

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Here are another 96!

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Pity the poor SME
All of which might be less problem-free for large corporations with engineering staff aplenty, nay, entire departments, to sort through it all, decide upon, buy, and utilize. Maybe even in a purpose-built warehouse just to house all the new acronyms. For example, Nike’s purchase of 200 AMRs from Geek+ got the mobile robots their own brand-new warehouse to romp around in.

With 85 percent of the world’s warehouses as small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs, yet another but more familiar acronym), desperately needing some sort of help to move goods, or to move and pick, or to sort through, in order to increase productivity, remain competitive, or to replace hard-to-find human workers, a mobile robot or two or three would be a godsend.

Such an SME could go to an auto-dealership-type vendor like Geek+ that has a robot model for every warehouse job one could imagine, or, cherry pick online from Alibaba for a SLAM laser-guided 100kg mobile robot for $20k. Want to add a picking arm?  Alibaba is showing a Han 5kg 6-axis cobot that will set the SME back another $22k. Or, for simplicity sake, an SME could head on over to a small vendor like Waypoint Robotics that specializes in SME logistics.

However, the central dilemma for the SME remains: how to begin, how to navigate the journey to a Geek+ or to a Waypoint Robotics? For the tradeshow-averse, SME crowd who have been pelting us with emails for months now—mostly since the start of the COVID pandemic—there is finally a solution for getting to know all about mobile robots for the SME crowd. Asian Robotics Review went hunting for such a resource, but lo and behold, the resource found us, instead.

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The resource is a UK-based publisher called STIQ Ltd. (London) which publishes online since 2018 as Styleintelligence. Tom Andersson, the principal analyst, co-founder, and Swedish expat, is also a group leader at TLA Robotics (Tech London Advocates). Tom is a guy who lives, eats and sleeps logistics robotics, and he authors scads of intelligence that is honest and straightforward. That quality in itself is refreshing. He even offers, get this, a free 30-minute telephone consultation for any interested party. More will cost you. Should he be knighted for it; I tend to think so.

Anyone can go to the Styleintelligence website and download chunky, 40-page pdfs for free. And he doesn’t scrimp on the info; and it’s all top-notch research gleaned from hundreds of resources, including some 700 industry-probing phone calls per report.  He also cruises the likes of Markets and Markets, Interact Analysis, Industry Research, Mordor Intelligence, Fortune Business Insights, Grand View Research, MarketWatch, MarketStudyReport , Transparency Market Research, ResearchAndMarkets , KBV Research, Market Research Future, Arizton Advisory & Intelligence, Valuates Report, and then he fits it all together like a huge logistics jigsaw puzzle, before serving it up to us.
He’s even got an online vendor directory that’s very handy for finding and comparing vendors:

He even reports on tech chatter with quotes from industry’s leading vendors. It’s like the London Tatler for the tech set.  

Tidbits like these:

“We have found that most customers say AGV to almost any automatic vehicle or robot. Our vehicles use SLAM navigation and we have started using the standard acronym AMR. All our marketing collateral says AMR. There is a huge confusion in the market about what an AGV really is.”

“A proliferation of three letter acronyms to denote different vehicles can be partly blamed on the highly fragmented nature of the sector.”

“Furthermore, a multiplicity of business models and hybrid combinations of navigation technologies has brought additional confusion to the sector.”

Amazing stuff from an amazing guy. He sent me over a pile of research to sort through. Fascinating reading. Bunches of future columns were glinting up at me as I read.

In fact, I think most anyone in the ecosystem will learn a lot. And end users, well, they would get a great buyers’ education…well before buying anything.

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