Flexible material-handling systems for manufacturing have the capability of moving articles or carriers between process stations in different sequences. The traditional method for controlling the routing of carriers is to determine, in advance, all of the useful paths within the system, and store the information in a central computer until needed. This article describes a routing algorithm that determines the correct turns a carrier should make while it is in motion. Making routing decisions does not require a global knowledge of the system's layout, because a method of numbering stations within the system which reflects its natural path of flow is employed. A brief survey of contemporary material-handling mechanisms is provided. The implementation of the algorithm using distributed controllers is discussed.
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