Let’s remember Mac Barrett, father of the AGV

Arthur Barrett's invention launched the AGV industry

By ·

Arthur “MAC” Barrett, Jr., 89, passed away a week ago, on August 17, in Lake Forest, Illinois. These days, MAC Barrett may not be a household name, but to those who have been around the industry long enough, he’s credited with inventing the world’s first automatic guided vehicle in 1954. His company was Barrett Electronics, and the “Guide-O-Matic” tracked a signal in a wire mounted on the ceiling of a factory or a warehouse. They weren’t called AGVs back then. Barrett called his invention a driverless vehicle. Soon after, wires were installed in a slot in the floor.

I had never heard of Barrett, but his passing was brought to my attention by Ken Ruehrdanz at Dematic. “My first job out of college was working for Barrett Electronics,” says Ruehrdanz. And while Ruehrdanz did not report directly to Barrett, he says he witnessed Barrett’s passion for product development and innovation. “He pioneered the use of radio controlled bridge cranes and radio controlled industrial vehicles called Radox, a system that allowed order selectors who were picking cases onto a pallet to automatically index a pallet truck or tow vehicle pulling trailers to the next pick location,” Ruehrdanz says. That sounds a lot like some of the robotic solutions being developed today.

Ruehrdanz also recalls that Barrett’s company bought back one of the original Guide-O-Matic vehicles from a customer who utilized it for over 20 years. “It was a red tow vehicle with toggle switches that allowed an operator to send the vehicle to a specific stop location,” Ruehrdanz says. “I don’t know where it is today, but if someone can find it, I recommend we send it to the Smithsonian in Washington.”

That sounds like a great idea to me as well. If anyone out there knows where we can find a Guide-O-Matic vehicle, drop me a line at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Just Released: Understanding Hazmat Transportation Management
The rules and regulations governing the transportation of hazardous materials (hazmat) are complex.
Download Today!
From the July 2017 Logistics Management Issue
E-commerce continues to fuel a boom that’s tempered by overcapacity, rate pressures, sluggish demand and political doubt. The result: “cognitive dissonance” that finds a $1.4 trillion market scratching its head.
2017 Truckload Brokerage Roundtable: Technology continues to connect the dots
Cloud Transportation Management Systems (TMS): Weis Markets streamlines “both sides” of the DC door
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Getting the most out of your 3PL relationship
Join Evan Armstrong, president of Armstrong & Associates, as he explains how creating a balanced portfolio of "Top 50" global and domestic partners can maximize efficiency and mitigate risk.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
28th Annual State of Logistics: Into the great unknown
E-commerce continues to fuel a boom that’s tempered by overcapacity, rate pressures, sluggish...
2017 Top 50 3PLs: Investment and Consolidation Maintain Traction
The trend set over the past few years for mergers and acquisitions has hardly subsided, and a fresh...

The Evolution of the Digital Supply Chain
Everyone is talking about terms like digitization, Industry 4.0 and digital supply chain management,...
2017 Salary Survey: Fresh Voices Express Optimism
Our “33rd Annual Salary Survey” reflects more diversity entering the logistics management...