Neutron stress measurements require specimens of complex geometry to be speedily and accurately positioned and oriented with respect to the neutron beam. Recognition that a majority of the specimen positioning systems in use at strain scanning facilities are effectively serial robot manipulators suggests that the methods of serial robot kinematic modelling may be applied to advantage. The adoption of robotics methods provides a simple and reliable framework for controlling positioning systems of arbitrary geometry and complexity. In addition the numerical solution of the inverse kinematic problem is facilitated, allowing specimens to be automatically positioned and orientated so that pre-determined strain components are measured. It is also shown that, given sufficient degrees of freedom, a secondary characteristic of the measurement position such as the measurement count time may be simultaneously optimised.