RIT and Raymond Corp. partner to automate warehouse vehicles and robots to communicate with each other to prioritize workloads
Technology development for “smart” forklifts and trucks that communicate with each other is underway at Rochester Institute of Technology where a team of engineers is building a next-generation intelligent materials handling system. The research project focuses on the design and prototyping of intelligent systems for a fleet of autonomous materials handling equipment to advance warehouse productivity and safety.
“We are determining how to have internet connectivity and control of devices. Can we develop a system where we’d have autonomous vehicles, forklifts in a warehouse, where they would be able to communicate with each other and make decisions regarding task allocation and navigation,” said Mike Kuhl, professor and interim department chair of industrial and systems engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering who is leading the project. “Some of the challenges are defining the routes and determining the decisions made. More autonomy would be a big step forward.”
In most instances, robots are not typically making decisions. Individuals at a central facility program robot movement and items to distribute over fixed paths, he explained. The system he envisions through the project work would be of a fleet of self-driving forklifts that communicate with each other, determining which tasks to do based on machine learning and autonomous technologies.
Receiving a grant from Toyota Materials Handling North America USA for $499,785, researchers will work with the company’s New York affiliate, The Raymond Corp., over the length of the project. The grant, part of Toyota’s University Research Program, was created to develop new technologies for the entire supply chain, logistics and materials handling industry.