Subscribe to our free, weekly email newsletter!


The robots are coming

Robotic materials handling technology is changing the way we move products in the plant and the distribution center.
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
August 19, 2010

Back at ProMat 2007, small crowds gathered around the booths of Kiva Systems, Seegrid and RMT Robotics even though all three had relatively inconspicuous booths. The crowds gathered because each supplier was demonstrating something new: small mobile units that ran around the limited floor space.

Although Kiva displayed an integrated picking solution that included portable storage units, most people didn’t quite know what to do with these gizmos.

They didn’t look like traditional robots since they didn’t have arms. But they were also smaller than a traditional automated guided vehicles (AGV) and used different guidance systems.

What they did have was pizzazz. The technology they previewed has since become known as mobile robotics: autonomous vehicles that can shuttle materials around a factory or distribution center. Of course, the materials handling industry is replete with cool technologies that never made it from the exhibition hall to the distribution center floor. Since then, however, the Kiva (781-221-4640) goods-to-person picking solution has found a home in a number of high-profile warehouses, including the Office Depot facility on this month’s cover (see page 20). In addition, Seegrid’s (877-733-4743) riderless vehicles are being used by a leading grocer to deliver pallets to the shipping dock so that pickers can remain in the aisle doing more valuable tasks. And, RMT’s (905-643-9700) technology is being used to deliver small quantities of parts to the line in lean, just-in-time manufacturing environments.

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. 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!

Recent Entries

2015 programs established for five committees: Education, Marketing and Communications, Membership, Industry Affairs and Standards, and End User Advisory Committee.

With lower energy prices sparking domestic economic gains, coupled with solid manufacturing and industrial production activity, improving jobs numbers, and a GDP number that shows progress, there is much to be enthused about when it comes to the economy . But that enthusiasm needs to be tempered, because big headline themes seldom tell the full story.

Almost all companies today are aware of their labor or material costs... but what about energy consumption? It all comes down to having the energy data needed to determine what actions you must take to improve. The payoff is worth it, as insight into energy data allows you to make more valuable, relevant operating decisions.

Global uncertainty threatens resurgent business confidence, growth prospects.

Winners join association leadership amid record membership.