Let’s remember Mac Barrett, father of the AGV

Arthur Barrett's invention launched the AGV industry

By ·

Arthur “MAC” Barrett, Jr., 89, passed away a week ago, on August 17, in Lake Forest, Illinois. These days, MAC Barrett may not be a household name, but to those who have been around the industry long enough, he’s credited with inventing the world’s first automatic guided vehicle in 1954. His company was Barrett Electronics, and the “Guide-O-Matic” tracked a signal in a wire mounted on the ceiling of a factory or a warehouse. They weren’t called AGVs back then. Barrett called his invention a driverless vehicle. Soon after, wires were installed in a slot in the floor.

I had never heard of Barrett, but his passing was brought to my attention by Ken Ruehrdanz at Dematic. “My first job out of college was working for Barrett Electronics,” says Ruehrdanz. And while Ruehrdanz did not report directly to Barrett, he says he witnessed Barrett’s passion for product development and innovation. “He pioneered the use of radio controlled bridge cranes and radio controlled industrial vehicles called Radox, a system that allowed order selectors who were picking cases onto a pallet to automatically index a pallet truck or tow vehicle pulling trailers to the next pick location,” Ruehrdanz says. That sounds a lot like some of the robotic solutions being developed today.

Ruehrdanz also recalls that Barrett’s company bought back one of the original Guide-O-Matic vehicles from a customer who utilized it for over 20 years. “It was a red tow vehicle with toggle switches that allowed an operator to send the vehicle to a specific stop location,” Ruehrdanz says. “I don’t know where it is today, but if someone can find it, I recommend we send it to the Smithsonian in Washington.”

That sounds like a great idea to me as well. If anyone out there knows where we can find a Guide-O-Matic vehicle, drop me a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Capturing Labor, Space, and Accuracy Returns with AS/RS
Find out how the demand of e-commerce and digital age expectations are driving the need to automate material handling with AS/RS solutions to improve labor productivity, save space, and reduce costs associated with inaccurate picks
Download Today!
From the November 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
A new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business for the fourth time in 20 years and shorten order delivery time from 10 days to three.
10th Annual Salary Survey: The Price of Performance
Let’s put Automatic Data Capture (ADC) Technology to Work
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The State of the DC Voice Market
A lot has changed in the last 10 years, especially in voice technology. This webinar will cover the state of the voice market, review two leading voice solutions and help you gain a better understanding of the options and capabilities available today.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
A new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business for...
Rochester Drug Cooperative: Robots ready for work
It’s still early stages, but Rochester Drug Cooperative is proving that mobile robotic piece...

System Report: Pouch sorter powers Stage’s fulfillment needs
How a hometown department store chain transformed its e-fulfillment processes with pouch sortation...
Cubing and Weighing Equipment: Measure Up
The use of cubing and weighing equipment is growing beyond dimensional weight applications.