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Flexible automation – a glossary

Article by Megan Gee

A selection of terms explained to help you navigate the world of automation more clearly

To make the most of the warehouse automation revolution, you need to speak the language. When a rapid and major change comes to any industry, unusual and unfamiliar terms are a natural by-product. Three decades ago, terms like URL and HTTP would have been incomprehensible to everyone but technical specialists. Now, these phrases are common knowledge. If you want to stay at the forefront of flexible robotics and Industry 4.0, you will need to know and understand the following phrases and terms:

AGVAutomated Guided Vehicle. An example of flexible automation equipment, capable of navigating by use of non-intrusive equipment – mainly DM code panels. It receives orders from an RCS through a wireless connection. Able to safely stop when presented with an obstacle.

AMRAutonomous Mobile Robot. An example of flexible automation equipment, capable of self-directed navigation using SLAM systems. Receives orders from an RCS through a wireless connection. Able to self navigate around an obstacle.

ASRSAutomatic Storage and Retrieval System. An example of a fixed automation system, that can use a number of different technologies (conveyor belts, robotic gantries, robotic arms, transit tracks etc) to move items and equipment from place to place. Requires a built-in-place system.

DMData Matrix. A visual way of representing data that is readable to digital cameras and computers using machine vision. QR codes are a common example.

E-StopEmergency Stop. The button to cease all of a robot’s movement in the event of an emergency.

Fixed Automation – Automation systems that require all their equipment to be built in place, using intrusive infrastructure to move and navigate.

Flexible Automation – Automation that uses self-contained robots to operate, without intrusive infrastructure.

Machine Vision – General term for the science and technology of a computer system being able to see something, recognise it, and factor that recognition into broader programming systems.

LIDARLight Detection And Ranging. A system of using laser light reflections as a means of mapping out the shape and size of an object. Often used in robotics for obstacle scanning and navigation.

RCSRobotic Control System. The term for the collection of software and hardware external to a robot that assists it with tasks such as navigation and the managing of incoming and upcoming orders.

Robot – A term for autonomous self-directing technology unit.

SLAMSimultaneous Localising And Mapping. The means by which a robot can determine where it is, and where it is going in relation to other robots and obstacles.

Vehicle – A term for an automatic unit that requires external guidance or direction beyond orders.

WMSWarehouse Management Software. A system that digitally organises and processes all pertinent information relating to the operation of a warehouse.

To learn more about what flexible automation can offer your business, come and see it for yourself. Visit our state-of-the-art warehouse automation demonstration centre, and take a tour. Discover how flexible automation will change the landscape of the UK SME business world forever.

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