Gumby-flexible conveying technology

Check out a nicely done video of the Flexconveyor—a modular conveyor element that contains its own sensors, controllers, and means of communication. Flexconveyors can be plugged into one another, and the system “just works,” like Legos. The key is decentralized control—each module contains identical operating logic, which it executes faithfully, depending on local conditions. Global behavior emerges. Near the end of the video, you’ll get a sense for where the technology is going.

Flexconveyor was developed by Stephan Mayer and Kai Furmans at the Institute for Conveying Technology and Logistics, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany.



  1. Kevin:

    Love your fish bones and flying Vs.

    Would like your views on the effects of velocity-based (none-uniform) stocking strategies and accounting for height (going up in a warehouse as it seems to be slower than horizontal movement).

    Also have you done anything in efficient put-away strategies?


    Terry Harris, Chicago Consulting

    1. We have a paper on velocity-based stocking—see paper #7 on my publications page. Our main finding is that fishbone and flying-V still provide significant benefit, but not quite as much as under the uniform assumption.

      Russ Meller has written a paper on the impact of vertical travel on aisle designs. I’ll send him a quick note and see if he’ll respond here.

      Not sure what you mean by pub-away strategies, exactly. I think the put-away strategy should not affect the design of aisles. If you mean, “are there different strategies for where to put-away pallets?” the answer is yes. Closest open location and “duration of stay” are two policies. There has also been some recent work done on this problem, but describing it would be impossible in a blog! Feel free to email me if you’d like more details.

      Cheers, and thanks for reading.

  2. I’d be happy to share the results for flying-V and fishbone when vertical travel is considered.

    Like with velocity-based stocking, fishbone maintains more of the improvement seen when vertical travel is ignored than does flying-V. We considered warehouses that were 1-5 levels high with a vertical travel speed that was 1/6 of the horizontal speed for various warehouses.

    For flying-V the “about 10%” improvement seen when vertical travel is ignored is reduced to 4-7% for a 5-level warehouse with 15-25 aisles.

    For the fishbone, the “about 20%” improvement is only reduced to 15-17% for the same warehouses noted above.

    An honor’s undergraduate student and I hope to have a paper on this through the referee process soon and then can share the paper. I’ll keep Kevin in the loop on that.

    Hope this helped.

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