Loughborough University
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Enhancing the performance of automated guided vehicles through reliability, operation and maintenance assessment

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posted on 2020-03-05, 17:20 authored by Rundong (Derek) Yan
Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), a type of unmanned moving robots that move along fixed routes or are directed by laser navigation systems, are increasingly used in modern society to improve efficiency and lower the cost of production. A fleet of AGVs operate together to form a fully automatic transport system, which is known as an AGV system. To date, their added value in efficiency improvement and cost reduction has been sufficiently explored via conducting in-depth research on route optimisation, system layout configuration, and traffic control. However, their safe application has not received sufficient attention although the failure of AGVs may significantly impact the operation and efficiency of the entire system. This issue becomes more markable today particularly in the light of the fact that the size of AGV systems is becoming much larger and their operating environment is becoming more complex than ever before. This motivates the research into AGV reliability, availability and maintenance issues in this thesis, which aims to answer the following four fundamental questions: (1) How could AGVs fail? (2) How is the reliability of individual AGVs in the system assessed? (3) How does a failed AGV affect the operation of the other AGVs and the performance of the whole system? (4) How can an optimal maintenance strategy for AGV systems be achieved?
In order to answer these questions, the method for identifying the critical subsystems and actions of AGVs is studied first in this thesis. Then based on the research results, mathematical models are developed in Python to simulate AGV systems and assess their performance in different scenarios. In the research of this thesis, Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) was adopted first to analyse the failure modes and effects of individual AGV subsystems. The interactions of these subsystems were studied via performing Fault Tree Analysis (FTA). Then, a mathematical model was developed to simulate the operation of a single AGV with the aid of Petri Nets (PNs). Since most existing AGV systems in modern industries and warehouses consist of multiple AGVs that operate synchronously to perform specific tasks, it is necessary to investigate the interactions between different AGVs in the same system. To facilitate the research of multi-AGV systems, the model of a three-AGV system with unidirectional paths was considered. In the model, an advanced concept PN, namely Coloured Petri Net (CPN), was creatively used to describe the movements of the AGVs. Attributing to the application of CPN, not only the movements of the AGVs but also the various operation and maintenance activities of the AGV systems (for example, item delivery, corrective maintenance, periodic maintenance, etc.) can be readily simulated. Such a unique technique provides us with an effective tool to investigate larger-scale AGV systems. To investigate the reliability, efficiency and maintenance of dynamic AGV systems which consist of multiple single-load and multi-load AGVs traveling along different bidirectional routes in different missions, an AGV system consisting of 9 stations was simulated using the CPN methods. Moreover, the automatic recycling of failed AGVs is studied as well in order to further reduce human participation in the operation of AGV systems. Finally, the simulation results were used to optimise the design, operation and maintenance of multi-AGV systems with the consideration of the throughputs and corresponding costs of them.
The research reported in this thesis contributes to the design, reliability, operation, and maintenance of large-scale AGV systems in the modern and rapidly changing world.


EPSRC grant no. EP/K014137/1



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering


Loughborough University

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© Rundong Yan

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Sarah Dunnett ; Lisa Jackson

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • I have submitted a signed certificate