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AS/RS Controls and Interfaces. Matt Munyan November 2, 2007. Introduction. Most AS/RS operate in a fully automated mode with little or now human involvement in the handling of material except at the controlled input and

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As rs controls and interfaces

AS/RS Controls and Interfaces

Matt Munyan

November 2, 2007


Most AS/RS operate in a fully automated mode with little or now human

involvement in the handling of material except at the controlled input and

output stations to the system. The controller usually monitors the system

status and may choose which lot

to store items and when to bring

them out.

Controller input is received

using one of a variety of interfaces,

the most sophisticated being a

Human Machine Interface(HMI). 

Where are controls used
Where are Controls Used?

  • Controls and Interfaces are used wherever there is an AS/RS and in some applications where there is no automation, such as:

    • Warehouses (Storage)

    • Mass food preparation (even fast food)

    • Large machine shops

    • Order fulfillment (Distribution)

    • Postal system (UPS, etc)

Control briefs

  • Who uses them?

    • Anyone from an illiterate illegal alien truck loader to a lift operator to the Plant Manager.

  • What are they used for?

    • Monitoring warehouse status

    • Keeping track of item information, status, and location

    • Identifying “picked” items

  • When are they used?

    • When information or instruction are needed

    • Non-stop to monitor employee performance

    • As orders come in and need to be filled

As rs controls and interfaces

A Human Machine Interface (HMI) is needed in some form for every AS/RS. There are many different displays, but a centrally located HMI will generally have bright blue and green colors that the operator can use to perform various tasks. The operator can enter in data, monitor item location in a plant, monitor plant performance, and generate or review reports of plant performance.

The HMIs are generally programmed

with a specific warehouse or center

in mind, and so they are custom

made. They are non-proprietary so the

buyer can update it as the operation

expands. As computers and software

capability evolves, the functions of an

HMI will likely increase.

Benefits of human machine interfaces
Benefits of Human Machine Interfaces

  • They are usually open, non-

    proprietary systems.

  • Simple to understand with little training

  • Real Time information flow

  • Usually give automatic alerts to phone or email if problems occur

  • Automatic reports made and

    logs kept of statistics and


As rs controls and interfaces

In a Warehouse, the

Warehouse Management

System (WMS) is used to manage inventory, time, and equipment related to picking and processing customer orders. The Warehouse Management System receives orders from the Order Management System or the Transportation Management System, then relies on rules and priorities established by the user to optimize the space and work within the warehouse. It is a slightly more automated version of the HMI.

Pick to display ptd
Pick To Display (PTD)

A PTD is essentially a remote version of the HMI. They can be placed around the warehouse to allow the user to access information on any item, such as where it is, how to assemble it, important dates, and custom

instructions. They can even be used wirelessly when traveling around the site. The system can also network with the WMS in real time and can be programmed in any language. The screen can colorfully display information and even barcodes. The system can also use voice commands for picking and give audio instructions to the operator. One PTD can control multiple locations if need be.

With a PTD, the operator can control the AS/RS in an item by item basis from anywhere near the system.

Handheld scanners
Handheld Scanners

Similar to the PTD, a Handheld Scanner allows the user freedom of mobility and ability to pick various items in the warehouse for information. They are ideal for growing businesses and compatible with many different data collection devices. So even if the business is too small to warrant buying a WMS, they can be used to give real time feedback to a less expensive central control.

However, the Handheld Scanner requires a way to scan the item, so even though they are faster and more efficient than paper picking, they offer less freedom than PTDs.

Primary vendors
Primary Vendors

  • Intellitrack

  • Bastian Solutions

  • Maple Systems

  • ASAP Automation

  • GE Fanuc

  • B & R

  • Unitronics

As rs controls and interfaces

  • ASAP Automation: PTD - $140-$150, slightly cheaper range for Handheld Scanners

  • Intellitrack: WMS - $800 for basic software package.

  • Bastian Solutions: HMI - $15,000+ depending on complexity of system

  • Some HMIs cost upwards of $200,000 for licensing


2:45 to 4:00 of

Early interfaces were simple. As noted, controls are versatile and adaptable as technology evolves.

15:30 to 16:20 of

Today, HMIs are much more convenient and user-friendly, even color-coded, such as the version used in Cabelas.

Crunch time bring it match the control with the picture
Crunch Time – Bring it!Match the Control with the picture!

  • WMS

  • PTD

  • Handheld Scanner

  • Central HMI

As rs controls and interfaces

Crunch Time – Bring it!Match the Control with the picture!

  • WMS

  • PTD

  • Handheld Scanner

  • Central HMI

What does the future hold
What does the Future Hold?

  • Currently the PTD is state of the art. As handheld electronics continues to improve, the functions of the PTD could increase to perform everything a central HMI does now. The screen will likely become more rugged as well.

  • The current state of the art PTD has touch screen with high resolution, more memory, more computing power, and communicates with over 85 families of controllers. It starts at $399 from Maple Systems.

  • For HMIs, the simulation may someday include a virtual walkthrough of the warehouse components, and the menus can become even more user friendly by using context to only display applicable menus.