Material handling equipment can move either unit loads or bulk loads. This chapter will focus on the unit load. Two very common forms of automated material handling systems are automated guided vehicle systems and automated storage and retrieval systems. They are capable of moving material required for push or pull manufacturing and providing data needed for manufacturing management. Automated guided vehicle (AGV) systems are divided into four different configurations: train, forklift, unit load, and assembly. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) have evolved from their initial application of warehousing raw materials to storing work-in-process or assemble-to-order inventory, finished product inventory, and tool and fixture inventory. AS/RS are classed by the size of the unit load: micro load, mini load, or unit load. Automatic identification improves both the accuracy (quality) and speed (production efficiency) of data entry for inventory, work-in-process, and final products. Bar code, radio-frequency data transmission, radiofrequency identification, magnetic stripe, voice recognition, and machine vision are the common forms of automatic identification used on the manufacturing floor. Voice recognition systems operate by either dictation or command and control. Typical industrial applications of machine vision include inspection, identification, and machine guidance.
By Gary Conner
By George N Bullen FSME