Earlier this year, Barcoding, a system integrator focused on supply-chain automation technology, acquired Fred Automation, an automated guided vehicle (AGV) manufacturer. For Barcoding, the acquisition represents the company’s continued expansion beyond traditional industrial automation.
“Barcoding’s acquisition of Fred Automation represents our continued investment in automation solutions for our clients beyond our traditional data-capture and enterprise-mobility solutions,” says Shane Snyder, president of Barcoding. The company added other autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to its product mix in 2022, but the Fred AGVs, Snyder says, serve different customer needs.
“In the case of Fred, we can make point-to-point material movement much more efficient and productive for a relatively simple upfront investment,” Snyder says. The new AGVs will target manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers that have repeatable material handing processes or those looking to reduce fork truck hours.
“By adding Fred AGVs to our portfolio, we can offer customers technology that is durable, simple to deploy and returning a 12-month payback for most applications,” Snyder says.
Fred Automation was spun out of ASI Technologies in April 2021. ASI is an electric wheel drive designer and manufacturer and developed its first prototype Fred AGV in 2017. Fred Automation manufactures two AGVs, Fred and Freddie, at its Philadelphia facility. It offers several options for both point A-to-B material moves and complex maneuvers involving multiple pick-up and drop-off points.
“AGVs work best inside for repeatable material movement processes—the goal being to automate the travel time,” Snyder says. “Manufacturers or distributors who are using fork trucks to move product back and forth—whether from a dock to a station or from a rack to a line, an AGV can move that material more safely and efficiently in most cases.”
AGVs and AMRs reduce travel time and wasted steps, Snyder says, with the goal for workers to do more valuable jobs by automating manual, repetitive tasks. A key example is dunnage removal. “Why have a person spend all day moving cardboard and trash when a robot can do the job? Robots don’t require breaks or vacations,” Snyder says. “Barcoding’s deep experience in data capture and enterprise mobility allows us to think about Fred AGVs from a holistic point of view. These technologies do not work in silos. They will always be deployed together in a customer environment so Barcoding’s experience in both realms is a benefit to clients.”
Barcoding will expand its service offerings to cover Fred AGV support, and Fred AGV users will also have access to Barcoding’s IntelliTrack enterprise platform to track AGV maintenance schedules. “IntelliTrack consolidates all asset data so Barcoding customers have a full suite of data capture, printing and automation solutions and can manage all components in one place,” Snyder says. “This streamlines reporting for IT, operations and procurement and allows those pieces of our customers’ organizations to work better together.”
He says Barcoding’s focus on the automatic identification and data collection (AIDC) space is also aided by the acquisition. “AIDC and automation work hand-in-hand, and each one advances the other. The ultimate goal for Barcoding is to improve efficiency, accuracy and connectivity in our customers’ businesses—and the way we do this is through effective technology implementations whether that is traditional mobility and data capture or a robot,” Snyder says.
Barcoding’s delivery framework recognizes that people and processes are just as important as technology. “When the right technology is selected, deployed, supported and continuously improved over time, you have a recipe for success,” Snyder says.