Traditional material handling systems included trolleys, conveyors, forklifts and overhead travelling cranes. They were primarily mechanized devices and a large amount of manual intervention was required. These traditional systems had limitations such as low speed and handling problems including scratching, chipping, breaking and difficulty in monitoring material flow. However, these material handling systems were adequate for mass production of a limited variety products or low volume production.
At present, market forces demand that manufacturing systems be lean, agile and highlyautomated. Modern manufacturing systems need to handle a variety of components for increasing product customization, reduced lot sizes and variable product mixes. This has led to the requirement for automated equipment and systems that move faster, accommodate greater throughput, and require less maintenance than the earlier material handling systems.
To cope with these requirements, a new breed of material handling systems has been recently developed. These include automated storage and retrieval systems, carousels, rail guided and automated guided vehicles, intelligent flexible modular conveyors, pick and place units, vertical lifts and high density storage systems. Gripper or holding devices are also available for fragile, delicate and super finished components.