The assignee for this patent application is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates to recovery from abnormalities in a logistics system.
"In a logistics system, objects are transported by transport devices, such as stacker cranes, transport vehicles, loading and unloading conveyors, automated forklifts, and automated guided vehicles, and the like. JP2000-309408A discloses displaying occurrence locations of abnormalities on a monitor, and displaying a method of dealing with the abnormalities on the monitor. According to the method described in JP2000-309408A, a logistics system may be recovered with respect to hardware aspects in accordance with the display on the monitor.
"If an abnormality related to the transport device occurs, it may become impossible to carry out the initially planned transport tasks. For example, when loading an object into a cell on a shelf from a station is planned, it may be impossible to load the object due to the fact that the destination cell is preoccupied by another object. This abnormality is called a preoccupation abnormality. If there is actually a preoccupation object, then the object has to be unloaded into another cell, but this work is carried out outside the framework of the normal control performed with the controller of the logistics system. Therefore, if the unloading destination of the object is changed with the recovery operation, the inventory data is not changed automatically. Therefore, although a recovery in terms of 'hardware' aspects has been possible, a secondary problem may occur in that data, etc., due to the fact that the storage position of the object is not changed in accordance with the recovery operation. Since the operator concentrates on the hardware recovery and tends to forget about changing the inventory data, etc., problems of this kind are liable to occur."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Preferred embodiments of the present invention enable a logistics system to recover readily from an abnormality and enable inventory data to be changed reliably in accordance with an operation to recover from an abnormality.
"A logistics system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention is provided with a transport device and a controller which is configured and programmed to store inventory data of objects. The system includes an inventory data storage unit, a transport data storage unit that stores data about objects being transported by the transport device, a recovery procedure storage unit that stores predetermined procedures for recovery from abnormalities relating to the transport device, an abnormality detection unit that detects abnormalities relating to the transport device, a receiving unit that reads out recovery procedures to detected abnormalities from the recovery procedure storage unit and receives inputs of recovery procedures to be executed, an instruction unit that outputs instructions to the transport device based on the received recovery procedures, and an updating unit that updates storage in the inventory data storage unit based on the received recovery procedures and the data stored in the transport data storage unit about the objects being transported.
"Furthermore, a method of recovery from abnormality according to another preferred embodiment of the present invention in a logistics system which is provided with a transport device and a controller and configured and programmed to store inventory data of objects. The method includes the steps of storing inventory data in a storage unit, storing in a transport data unit data about objects being transported by the transport device, storing in a recovery procedure storage unit predetermined procedures for recovery from abnormalities relating to the transport device, detecting with an abnormality detection unit abnormalities relating to the transport device, reading out recovery procedures for detected abnormalities from the recovery procedure storage unit and receiving with a receiving unit input of recovery procedures to be executed, outputting with an instruction unit an instruction to the transport device based on the received recovery procedure, and updating with the updating unit storage of the inventory data in the storage unit based on the received recovery procedures and the data about the objects being transported stored in the transport data storage unit. There are orders in which these steps occur inevitably during processing, but apart from this, the steps may be executed in any order. The first three steps are preferably executed before detecting an abnormality, and the last two steps are preferably executed after inputting a recovery procedure, for example.
"In this specification, the description relating to the logistics system corresponds directly to the method of recovery from abnormality in a logistics system, and conversely the description relating to a method of recovery from abnormality in a logistics system corresponds directly to a logistics system. Furthermore, apart from abnormality in the transport device itself, an abnormality relating to a transport device also includes abnormalities relating to transport operations being executed by the transport device, such as the fact that there is a preoccupation object in the shelf cell where the transport device is seeking to unload an object. The abnormality relating to the transport device may simply be called 'abnormality', and in principle there are a plurality of recovery procedures relating to an abnormality.
"In various preferred embodiments of the present invention, if an abnormality relating to a transport device occurs, a recovery procedure stored in the recovery procedure storage unit is read out, an operator inputs which recovery procedure is to be executed, and this input is received by the receiving unit. According to the recovery procedure received in this way, instructions are issued to the transport device by the instruction unit to cause the transport device to carryout actions in accordance with the recovery procedure. As a result, it is possible to recover a logistics system from abnormality in terms of 'hardware' aspects. Since the transport device is recovered with an operation different from normal procedures, the logistics system is recovered with respect to hardware aspects, the data on the object being transported preferably remains unchanged and is not changed to the correct data. Since the storage in the inventory data storage unit is updated, on the basis of the received recovery procedure and the data about the object being transported stored in the transport data storage unit, the inventory data is also recovered accurately and reliably, in various preferred embodiments of the present invention. If the recovery procedure has been selected and there is data on the object being transported, then it is possible to decide how to process the object, for example, what position to change the transport destination to, and consequently, it is possible to recover the inventory data.
"Preferably, the controller is provided with a monitor and a drive unit for the monitor, and the drive unit displays configurations of the logistics system on the monitor so as to show transport devices and the presence or absence of an abnormality therein, and when a transport device having an abnormality is designated by an operator on the monitor, recovery procedures for the abnormality in the designated transport device are displayed on the monitor. Thus, by designating a transport device having an abnormality with a mouse, or the like, on a monitor, it is possible to display a recovery procedure on a monitor. Furthermore, even if abnormalities occur in transport devices simultaneously, it is possible readily to display, on the monitor, recovery procedures for the transport devices that are to be recovered.
"Preferably, the transport device is provided with a sensor that detects objects, and the updating unit is configured to confirm positions of transport destinations of objects being transported by signals from the sensor, when updating the storage of the inventory data in the storage unit. The sensor is, for example, a preoccupation sensor that detects objects in cells, or a sensor that detects objects on the transport device, or the like. It is possible to estimate the position to which the object has been transported, from the recovery procedure and data on the object being transported. With these sensors, it is possible to confirm whether the objects have been transported to the positions instructed by the instruction unit. Consequently, the destinations of the objects may be confirmed, when the objects are unloaded from the transport device to cells, or the like, with the abnormality recovery procedure.
"Preferably, the transport devices are provided with, as the sensor, a transport object sensor that detects objects on the transport device, and a preoccupation sensor that detects objects at the positions of the transport destinations from the transport devices; and the logistics system is configured and programmed to confirm that the objects have been transported to the positions of the transport destinations, based on a condition that the transported object sensor does not detect the objects and the preoccupation sensor detects the objects. By this configuration, it is possible to confirm that an object has actually been transported to a provisional transport destination, if the object is to be transported to a provisional transport destination in order to recover from an abnormality.
"Further preferably, the transport devices preferably are further provided with a camera to capture images of the positions of the transport destinations, and the logistics system is configured to display the images from the camera on the monitor. By this configuration, it is possible to readily confirm the status of the transport destination, if an abnormality has occurred such that, for instance, an object cannot be transported to the transport destination. Consequently, when selecting the recovery procedure, for example, it is possible to make an appropriate choice.
"Preferably, a shelf including a plurality of cells into which the transport devices deliver objects is further provided, the preoccupation sensor detects objects in the cells, and the camera captures images of the shelf. For example, if the preoccupation sensor detects that there is already another object in the cell, then by looking at the image from the camera on the monitor, an operator may readily ascertain the actual status of the cell.
"Most preferably, a plurality of recovery procedures are stored in the recovery procedure storage unit, and the plurality of recovery procedures are displayed on the monitor together with the images of the shelf from the camera, and the receiving unit is configured to receive a selection of a recovery procedure to be executed, from the plurality of recovery procedures. With this configuration, it is possible to select an appropriate recovery procedure while checking the status of the shelf on the monitor.
"The above and other elements, features, steps, characteristics and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments with reference to the attached drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a logistics system according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
"FIG. 2 is a diagram showing relationship between control units of a stacker crane in a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
"FIG. 3 is a flowchart showing an algorithm for recovery from abnormalities in a preferred embodiment of present invention.
"FIG. 4 is a diagram showing an abnormality display screen, depicting a stacker crane in which an abnormality has occurred, separately from other devices.
"FIG. 5 is a diagram showing an abnormality display screen, which depicts recovery procedures of three types.
"FIG. 6 is a diagram showing a procedure for recovery from an abnormality when there is a preoccupation object.
"FIG. 7 is a diagram showing a procedure for recovery from an abnormality when there is no preoccupation object."
For more information, see this patent application: Tsujita, Akihiro. Logistics System, and Method for Recovery from Abnormality in Logistics System. Filed
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