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What Are Automated Guided Vehicles?

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Deanna Ritchie


Steam engines and conveyor belts are arguably two of the most important inventions of the industrial age. Moving water and coal by machine sparked groundbreaking changes in manufacturing. They allowed businesses to scale their production while saving time and resources. Many believe that automated guided vehicles represent the next logical step.

After all, without these innovations, the world as it is today would be impossible. The ability to move materials with ease contributed powerfully to the industrial revolution.

As time has marched on, more technologies have been invented to improve transportation, thus benefiting the manufacturing process. Many experts believe that the automated guided vehicle is the most noteworthy innovation as of late.

These machines are automatic vehicles with a guidance system that can use a variety of technologies to get from point A to point B without the need for a driver or human supervision. This invention has benefited quite a number of operations when it comes to manufacturing. AGVs can routinely and reliably transport materials from one place to another.

How Automated Guided Vehicles Work

Of course, the future of manufacturing is unknown, but it is constantly seeing upgrades from technological advancements. An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a robotic solution to many industrial problems. It is a portable robot that moves along marked lines or wires on factory floors. It achieves this by using radio waves, cameras, magnets, or lasers for navigation.

The technologies used by each AGV differ based on design. Technologies such as LIDAR help AGVs in routing, navigation, and traffic management. Cameras help in monitoring obstacles and optimizing the path. Sensors also help in mapping the space and navigation.

Automated guided vehicles run on optimized technologies such as laser-based navigation systems and camera-based navigation systems. Both of these enhance the operation and help with better routing, traffic management, load balancing, and battery management.

These advances help make the systems safer for humans on the factory floor, as AGVs can stop if they sense someone or something is within their set path.

Laser-based navigation systems are one of the most popular types of routing and mapping systems in the industry today. Engineers pair camera-based technology with laser technology as an add-on feature. Cameras can detect the presence of traffic and easily identify obstacles better than lasers.

Camera-mounted automated guided vehicles are also extremely useful when humans are operating the system. It provides a much better view when users take the vehicle for new routines or a manned operation.

Industries Utilizing Automated Guided Vehicles

AI and self-driving cars are predicted to be the future, even in industries such as construction. However, some industries are experiencing success with automated options, and others are still adapting to AGVs. Most companies use automated guided vehicles in industrial applications. They transport heavy materials around large factories or warehouses.

For example, they help factories move raw materials or pellet goods. These are made ready to be shipped or sent off to a warehouse. Techs automate their routes and schedules in a way that they carry out operations a specific number of times within specified time increments.

While industrial applications are most common, other industries use AGVs on a smaller scale. AGVs can be applied to move materials in food processing, automotive assembly plants, and the healthcare industry.

Within hospitals, AGVs are becoming increasingly popular. Technicians program them to move linens, trash, medical waste, and even patient meals. In recent years, the theme park industry has even begun using AGVs for rides.

Benefits of Using Automated Guided Vehicle

The world of production is moving forward. There are so many benefits of incorporating an automated guided vehicle. Here are some of the most notable perks.

1. Time Management

Most notably, automated guided vehicles help cut down on human resources. Otherwise, companies spend additional resources on transporting materials back and forth. This, in turn, reduces the manual errors that occur when lifting large loads.

AGVs also improve time management by automating the routines. A simple memory chip with a navigation system and an automated routine can help the users to save time throughout pickup and transport schedules.

The incorporation of more automated systems has also been shown to save money and add more leisure time for employees. When companies don’t burden employees with simple, repetitive tasks, they can focus on more important agenda items.

AGVs prove to be extremely useful as they can transport items to a certain location without the guidance of humans. Without the need for human guidance, AGVs cut down on human error.

2. Optimizing Transport

Transporting materials through robot-enabled machines helps in automating the transport of materials, withdrawing the need for other machines, forklifts, and techniques for load management. Delegating transport to an AGV can also protect workers.

Injuries from lifting heavy items or operating forklifts incorrectly are some of the most common injuries within the workplace. Having AGVs take on this responsibility could mean avoiding workplace comp claims and potentially losing good employees.

Somewhat ironically, self-driving vehicles become simpler and safer when humans aren’t around. Separating human tasks and automated guided vehicles can optimize the transport process in multiple ways.

3. Efficiency

Incorporating AGVs benefits the overall manufacturing process, as it involves fewer man hours on simple tasks, such as transport, and it diverts them to more useful operations. An automated guided vehicle cuts down on the number of staff hours or labor required to safely handle payload and take it from one point to another. This is easily done once the load is set up on the automated guided vehicle.

Companies know that these machines are sturdy, stable, and more efficient than humans, who can carry less and usually take longer. AGVs make the transportation process both cost and time efficient.

Automated guided vehicles are a simple solution to solve transportation issues, and their application has broadened during the late 20th century. As more industries look to incorporate technology to optimize their processes and improve efficiency, they may take advantage of AGVs.

Looking at how the manufacturing industries have been utilizing this technology for years can help industries that are choosing to incorporate this technology now learn best practices. Knowing what AGVs are and recognizing their benefits can help businesses decide if they’re right for them.

Image Credit: Ready Made; Pexels; Thanks!

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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A Quick Guide to Understanding Your phpMyAdmin Area

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phpMyAdmin


If you use a WordPress website, it probably uses a MySQL database. Another one that it might use is called MariaDB.

Every website needs one of those to store information like passwords, posts, and user data. When WordPress can’t connect to your MySQL database, your website probably won’t be accessible.

There are a handful of reasons why it’s important to understand how it works. Here are a few that I can think of.

  •   You may need to delete old data or tables
  •   You may need to update the titles of a ton of different posts at once
  •   An individual database table might need to be imported or exported

In order to get to the area we’re going to talk about, click “phpMyAdmin” from your website’s control panel. It may say “Access PhpMyAdmin” or some similar variation like mine does below.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The next screen you should see looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

On the left-hand side, click the database that corresponds to your website. In my case, it’s “backupweathersite” below “New” in the tree. Then, you should be at the screen we’re talking about:

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The menu highlighted in red has some useful tabs on it for doing the types of things I mentioned above. Starting with Structure, here’s what you can do with each one.

Structure

Structure is probably the most important of all the tabs because it lists the tables of your database. Each table has its own set of options, like emptying it if you want to delete all the data. You can also drop the table if you want to get rid of the entire thing completely.

Be very careful with that. Instead of deleting everything, you can clear out things like old posts by running SQL queries.

SQL

Selecting SQL will give you this screen:

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

There, you can run SQL queries. For example, on one of my sites, I need to remove expired jobs pretty often. If I don’t, the database fills up even if the jobs are deleted on the frontend. This causes the site to slow down a lot, and I can’t add new posts or other data.

The solution? Running this query: delete from `wp_posts` where `post_status` = ‘expired’

That takes care of thousands of old jobs in about a second, which is pretty nice!

As a side note, the screenshots in this article are from a local WordPress installation I have for a different project.

Search

Search does what it sounds like it would. When you put something in the main search field, it will automatically go through the entire database, looking for anything that’s a match. 

Here’s a tip that might also help: you can choose to include or exclude searching specific tables if you want so it doesn’t search everything.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Query

The Query tab essentially does the same thing that the SQL tab does, except it offers guidance for creating the query. You can select the table that you want the query executed in from a dropdown and then click “Update query” to see it in the window below.

phpMyAdmin screenshot

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export allows you to download all of the tables from your database. This is useful if you want to do manual backups periodically (although there are some great plugins that can handle that). You can export the tables in a bunch of different formats, too.

These include SQL, PDF, CSV, XML, and a handful of others that you’ve probably never heard of. Mainly, Texy! Text and YAML.

Import

The import function allows you to bring in outside database tables to yours.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

You can only import a table if it doesn’t exist in the current database. If the table exists already, you will get an error, and the import won’t finish, according to DreamHost.

The file can be compressed or uncompressed in a few different formats. Those include bzip2, gzip, or zip files. Something you may not be used to is the compressed file name.

It needs to be structured like “.[format].[compression]”. An example of a common one is “.sql.zip”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 

You can choose from a handful of different formats. These include CSV, ESRI Shape File, MediaWiki Table, OpenDocument Spreadsheet, SQL, and XML.

There are also a number of different SQL compatibility modes. The compatibility mode setting will dictate how MySQL works. We won’t go into each one and talk about the differences, but your options for those are ANSI, DB2, MAXDB, MYSQL323, MYSQL40, MSSQL, ORACLE, and TRADITIONAL.

Operations in phpMyAdmin

This tab gives you the ability to perform a handful of different operations, like creating a table and renaming the database. In order to create a new table, just put in a name, and the number of columns, and click Go.

Siteground has a great tutorial for creating tables since things can get kind of complicated. Below that, you can rename the database. The check box that says “Adjust privileges” is there because MySQL does not adjust the original privileges related to the database on its own.

When you check that box, phpMyAdmin adjusts the privilege table, so users have the same privileges on the new items. If you do that, the privileges for all the database-related elements are also adjusted to the new name. That includes things like tables, columns, or procedures.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

This section also allows you to do things like copy the database to another one and change table collations. A collation is a set of rules that defines how to compare and sort character strings.

You probably won’t ever need to mess with things like collation, but it’s nice to be semi-familiar with that, just in case.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 One other thing is that you can’t really rename a database. When you do that, phpMyAdmin will create a new one (example below) and drop the old.

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Routines in phpMyAdmin

The Routines section looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

“Filters” won’t do anything unless you actually select a database to search. Putting a word into the “Containing the word:” section will find all of the tables containing that word in your database.

Routines are procedures and functions that do various things, like the job data cleanup function mentioned earlier. You can add one there, and it will be displayed under that tab.

Events

In the event scheduler tab, you can create and run tasks automatically based on a schedule. The schedule can vary a lot, like running a task every couple of seconds to every few weeks. In order to use it, you will need to manually turn it on by clicking where it says “off” in the picture and then clicking “Add event”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Triggers in phpMyAdmin

A trigger is a named database object that is associated with a table and that activates when a particular event occurs for the table. You could use a trigger to perform checks of values to be inserted into a table or to perform calculations on values involved in an update.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Privileges in phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Privileges section allows you to make changes to current user privileges or export them to a new database. There are a handful of options for editing the privileges:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Designer

The Designer tab can be kind of a mess, as you can see (it’s in the “More” dropdown):

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Designer feature is a graphical way of creating, editing, and displaying phpMyAdmin relations. These relations are compatible with those created in phpMyAdmin’s relation view.

To use this feature, you need a properly configured phpMyAdmin configuration storage and must have the $cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘table_coords’] configured. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to do anything in this tab.

Wrapping Things Up

Going into the phpMyAdmin area for a WordPress site can be pretty daunting. If you find yourself in that position, it’s important to be familiar with all the different aspects of the dashboard. Understanding the basics of what each section does will help you navigate and get things done a little quicker with less of a headache.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Bob Buckley

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How to Help Women in Business Get Past Gender Barriers to Management

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Free Your Money: Strategies for Keeping Your Money In The Best Place Possible - ReadWrite


According to a recent Women in the Workplace study from Lean In and McKinsey, the most significant barrier women face in business these days isn’t the glass ceiling. Instead, it’s the floor—the barrier to entry-level management positions.

Although women now own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. and are making great strides at the top of the career ladder, they’re still missing from entry-level and middle management positions. That’s something companies of all sizes need to address.

Women in business means greater success

It’s not just about diversity (although that’s a worthy goal in itself). Statistics suggest that hiring women for positions of leadership helps your company succeed. For example, one study from Peakon revealed that when a company’s management includes 50% or more women, its employees feel more loyal to the company and its products or services.

2017 Morgan Stanley report echoes these findings, suggesting that gender diversity in a company translates to enhanced productivity, more significant innovation in product and service design, improved decision-making, and decreased employee turnover, with an associated higher level of worker satisfaction.

Try implementing these three strategies to fix that broken rung at the bottom of the career ladder and get more women into entry-level management roles.

1. Start from the ground up.

As the Women in the Workplace study suggests, the first task for any business committed to helping increase the number of women in leadership positions is to hire and promote women more often.

Your job is to make your workplace more attractive to diverse candidates. Start with neutralizing your job notices and ads. Go over every ad line by line before you release or publicize an open position. Avoid potentially off-putting terms like “rock star” and “ninja.” Some of the more qualified female candidates might interpret those as code for “male candidates preferred.”

Also, consider following the example set by Buffer. Based on the understanding that women are far less likely than men to apply for a job if they don’t precisely match the image created by the ad, Buffer encourages all candidates to apply, even if they feel they don’t meet every single qualification.

If you want to reach more women candidates, consider going where they are. For example, open up your job search by sharing the job notice on platforms and websites with audiences with a significant female component.

2. Commit to taking action

Set actionable goals for both hiring and promoting women into first-level management. Clear establishment of metrics and a commitment to meeting those metrics can help foster positive change for your company as you seek to diversify its management.

For example, if there are two candidates, one male, and one female, the female candidate has a 50% chance of winning the job. However, if there are three female candidates and one male candidate, the possibility that one of those women will win the job goes up to 67%.

However, if you reverse that scenario, with three men and one woman, her chance of winning the job plummets. One way to combat this kind of unconscious bias is to set a concrete goal of advancing an equal number of men and women to the final round of evaluation. Creating this type of rule helps you see beyond mere lip service to the ideals of “promoting the qualified candidates” to truly evaluate your candidates based on their qualifications without unconscious bias.

Finally, seek to establish clear, neutral evaluation criteria. Ensure your hiring and promotion evaluation criteria are based on the actual duties required in the position, not on some outdated assessment that hasn’t been standardized and edited for gender neutrality.

3. Get to the root of unconscious bias.

Training evaluators and supervisors to spot and combat unconscious bias can help root out the obstacles to promoting women to leadership positions in your company. But how do you identify a bias when it’s not consciously held?

One way is to test your systems. For example, the next time your company is hiring for a potential leadership or feeder position and a female candidate is weeded out at a pre-interview stage, consider advancing her to the next round regardless. If she proves herself qualified at the interview based on the feedback you get, you might have some bias at work in your processes.

Additionally, implement committed-based evaluation processes. Groups with balanced representation can help root out and neutralize individual biases. At the same time, they can help provide a more robust assessment of each candidate’s strengths and challenges.

Published First on Due. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you!

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business


Artificial intelligence is becoming less of a futuristic technology and a more integral aspect of today’s business landscape.

The usage of AI across the business universe is revolutionizing every industry, and Gartner reports that at least 75% of organizations use deep neural networks today.

In financial departments, AI is automating menial tasks and reducing errors in traditional manual workflows.

AI’s unfounded fears

There’s no doubt that businesses utilizing the right AI for the right reasons are seeing exponential benefits. Unfortunately, not every business unit is as excited about the available AI solutions that finance departments are gifted with. Change management is a significant component of failure when implementing any transformative technology.

Many humans still have unfounded fears about it gaining sentience or replacing them, and workers are wary of becoming obsolete once their daily tasks are automated.

But that’s never been the point of AI, machine learning, and automation because they augment human intelligence.

Humans are still very necessary

Take OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 text- and image-generating models for example. Although they can generate a 1,000-word blog post with images within seconds, there could be a lot of legal liability issues if you were to publish raw content generated by one of these models directly on your website.

The content is never 100% accurate; human interaction is still essential to train, implement, and use AI across the business.

Simplifying AI for the average worker

AI data sets and outputs need to remain accessible, and making them accessible means tapping into everyone throughout the organization to apply their professional judgment to the data sets. This provides the machine’s velocity, variety, and veracity as it learns.

AI in financial departments

AI’s use in financial departments is so successful because payroll, compliance, accounting, taxes, etc., is complicated — especially when you’re a multinational corporation or utilizing the remote global workforce unlocked by the pandemic.

Expansive data sets

But you can import expansive data sets into AI to make it more useful. Streamlining all of this and optimizing processes not only reduces errors, but it frees up human workers to perform more advanced analytics that are closer to the reason they got into the industry in the first place.

How simplifying AI can open up usage possibilities

Simplifying AI for the average worker means they can focus on less menial, more innovative tasks and accomplish much more in less time.

GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 may not have flawless, production-ready outputs, but they utilize neural networks on large datasets of about 175 billion parameters across 45TB of text data. As a result, they’re perfect for ideation and conceptual work to get a firm visual image of the final product to work from.

Pass it around

Although their outputs seem wildly different (text versus images), both of OpenAI’s creations work similarly. While it seems like AI leads to faster advancements, what really happens is we discover one important concept that opens the door to new possibilities.

This is why getting the technology in as many hands as possible is important to see how others find use in the outputs it creates.

How AI brings more value to a business

As the quality of content-generating AI debate rages in the media and online forums, the technology’s uses for internal business functions are even more remarkable.

New ways of looking at things — skilled data scientists

AI across the business continues to open new ways of looking at things and allows skilled data scientists to develop complex models to predict anything you need to know — from machine health to possible market conditions and forecasting.

AI across the business can and will go beyond personal assistants, voice-to-text, and personalized recommendations to bring value to the roles of individual employees.

Better use of time

Leveraging specific AI technologies throughout the business keeps human workers at every level working only on tasks that cannot be automated. This includes processing exceptions to the rules (which there will always be), analyzing AI-generated outputs, and more.

Instead of spending our days manually putting together reports, we will be analyzing pre-generated reports and making advanced intelligent decisions.

Embracing artificial intelligence

When GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 were released, both writers and designers feared for their jobs. However, those fears were relieved as they tested the tools and got more comfortable with them. These tools can generate amazing work to assist writers and designers, but it still requires skill to understand how to prompt it for the desired results.

A professional can edit and polish it throughout the process in a variety of ways that will always require human instinct.

And an experienced photographer or graphic designer will get higher-quality outputs and know how to fix them in posts.

Focusing on higher priorities

Familiarizing yourself with these types of tools helps to better understand what they’re truly capable of and how they can be implemented into existing workflows while seeking better, faster, and more optimized ways to do things. That’s how finance departments leveraged AI to accomplish the most laborious and error-prone aspects of their jobs so they can focus on more important things.

And it won’t be long before AI transforms every aspect of every business.

Featured Image Credit: Sergey Zolkin; Unsplash; Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Melissa Chan

Director of Customer Success at MindBridge

Melissa Chan is Director of Customer Success at MindBridge. She has made it a mission to innovate accounting and auditing.

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