In Person interview: Andreas Boedenauer of Agilox North America

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Andreas Boedenauer is the CEO of Agilox North America. He has more than 25 years of experience in the IT, telecommunications, electrical engineering, and factory automation sectors and has spent most of his career in international business, with an emphasis in helping companies enter overseas markets. Boedenauer joined autonomous mobile robotics company Agilox North America in 2019 and is based in Atlanta. He previously served as president of The Executive Consulting Inc., a firm that advises European companies looking to enter the North American market, and as the co-founder of The Scotty Group, a European-based telecommunications and technology company.

Q: How would you describe the current state of the automation and robotics markets?

A: The automation and robotics markets are experiencing rapid growth, particularly within the smart AGV (automatic guided vehicle), IGV (intelligent guided vehicle), and AMR (autonomous mobile robot) sectors. This is fueled by continuous innovation and the introduction of new applications.

Q: Have higher interest rates affected investments in new technologies, such as AMRs?

A: While higher interest rates have impacted investments, particularly in the mid-sized manufacturing sector, large enterprises with high production outputs and around-the-clock operations are less affected due to their ability to achieve a short-term return on investment (ROI). 

Q: You have spent most of your career in the tech sector. What would you say is the most important technological advance you’ve seen, and why is it significant?

A: Digitization remains a pivotal force in technological innovation, most notably in the automotive industry. Where cars once relied on a handful of analog devices, they now have 50 to 100 sensors and 30 to 50 electronic control units (ECUs), all interconnected via a CAN bus system that oversees every vehicle function.

This transformation is mirrored in autonomous mobile robots. Equipped with industrial PCs, these intelligent machines exemplify the leap from analog to digital—gaining significant computational capabilities that align with Moore’s Law [the observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit will double every two years with minimal rise in cost]. Moreover, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) promises to accelerate technological advancements, surpassing the pace set by Moore’s Law.

Q: What will it take for automated forklifts to dominate the lift truck market?

A: Customers evaluating the switch to automation prioritize factors like ease of integration into existing workflows, the need for only minimal adjustments, and the capacity for rapid modification to system configurations, such as stations and routes. Scalability also plays a crucial role, enabling fleets to adjust seamlessly to fluctuating demands.

In particular, the transition from manual forklifts to fork-based AMRs is streamlined when integration is straightforward, leveraging decentralized fleet management to enhance reliability and simplify expansion. This minimizes commissioning efforts while maintaining compatibility with existing infrastructure like load carriers and conveyors.

Above all, a consistent commitment to innovation, coupled with product stability, flexibility, and adaptability to diverse operational environments, positions IGV/AMR providers at the forefront of the industry, ready to lead the market into the future.

Q: Can you describe how your systems use “swarm” technologies and explain their advantages?

A: Swarm technology in AMRs operates on a foundation of collective intelligence, where information is exchanged across a fleet, enabling individual AMRs to fulfill work orders autonomously. This system allows for dynamic navigation within an operational area rather than fixed routes, offering the agility to adapt to immediate environmental changes or challenges.

This adaptability is crucial, as it enables route alteration in real time to maintain workflow continuity. A critical advantage of swarm-based systems is their resilience; the fleet is designed without a single point of failure. Should any AMR become unavailable, the system redistributes tasks among the remaining units, ensuring uninterrupted operations.

Moreover, the shared intelligence within the swarm network facilitates optimal task allocation, considering variables such as each vehicle’s charge level, proximity to the objective, and potential pathway obstructions. This collaborative approach ensures that the most suitable AMR is selected for each task, maximizing efficiency and resource utilization.

Q: Can you talk about how your systems allow your users to scale operations for growth and peak periods?

A: Swarm technology enhances fleet scalability by allowing the addition of new vehicles without the need for individual commissioning. Once the initial setup is complete, new vehicles can autonomously adapt by learning from the established fleet, embodying a “plug & perform” ethos.

This capability means that increases in workload, whether from growth or seasonal peaks, can be accommodated by simply adding more vehicles. Conversely, when demand wanes, vehicles can be reallocated to different clusters or locations, ensuring operational flexibility and efficiency across various sites.

Q: Your plug & play technologies allow customers to operate your systems the same day they receive them. How can such quick deployments be an advantage for their operations?

A: The essence of efficiency in system integration lies in minimizing downtime, which is especially critical for customers operating in fast-paced and continuous, 24/7 environments. Quick and seamless integration directly translates to cost savings and operational continuity, which is invaluable in such demanding contexts. Time is money!

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