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Technology transition in material handling

Technology transition in material handling

November 1, 2023 12:10 pm

In the material handling world, technological innovations are reshaping industries and providing cost-effective solutions. This article explores how automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics are playing a pivotal role in revolutionising the way we move and manage goods, with a focus on sustainability and efficiency.

The material handling industry is undergoing a transformative shift driven by technology, aiming to boost efficiency, safety, and sustainability. Automation is vital for managing complex orders and sustainability concerns, like reducing energy consumption with automated overhead cranes.

Prem Kalliath, CEO of Blue Star Engineering & Electronics, highlights automation’s impact on complexity management, order efficiency, and rapid turnaround times in the food and beverage, automotive, and pharmaceutical sectors.

Sustainable equipment reduces emissions, noise, and fossil fuel reliance. Neville Mevawala, Head of Sales & Marketing at Godrej Material Handling, stresses its importance in achieving sustainability goals amid government and industry efforts. Infrastructure projects demand advanced material-handling solutions, favouring automation, IoT integration, and intelligent handling methods, aligning with industrial and infrastructure trends.

AI and Machine learning in material handling
Automated warehouses lead this transformation by integrating cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, IoT, and artificial intelligence to enhance storage, retrieval, and distribution processes. These advanced systems minimise the necessity for human intervention and streamline operations effectively. A. Ashok, the Director of Amsak Cranes, remarks, “The adoption of cutting-edge technologies, IoT sensors, and automation has established new standards in the crane industry.” This incorporation allows for real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and heightened operational efficiency.

Furthermore, AI and machine learning are bolstering automation in material handling through various avenues. These technologies can optimise inventory management by forecasting demand, reducing waste, and mitigating the risks of overstocking or understocking. Machine learning algorithms refine routing and scheduling for delivery vehicles, reducing transportation costs. Additionally, AI facilitates predictive maintenance by identifying potential equipment issues before they manifest, leading to cost savings in maintenance expenses. Automation is essential for managing complexity, order fulfilment, and rapid turnaround times, especially in sectors like food and beverages, automotive, and pharmaceuticals.

Sensors optimising AGVs performance
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are enhanced with sensors and predictive maintenance, reducing downtime and improving operational efficiency. Advanced technologies play a pivotal role in enhancing various aspects of industrial operations. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), for instance, can autonomously navigate, reducing the necessity for manual intervention. Sensors and predictive maintenance are critical elements in optimising AGVs. To elaborate further, Neville emphasises that AGVs are equipped with embedded sensors, functioning as the system’s sensory apparatus, capturing real-time data on various operational parameters. Predictive maintenance leverages the data gathered by these sensors to anticipate potential issues before they escalate into major failures. Through the analysis of sensor data for patterns and trends, maintenance teams can detect early signs of wear, component deterioration, or potential problems.

Cobots and conveyor systems
Cobots collaborate with humans, boosting productivity, ergonomics, and material handling safety. IoT aids real-time decision-making, streamlining workflows. Automation enhances precision and control.

Advanced conveyors, with sensors and RFID tech, are cost-effective and versatile. According to Volker Nicolai, Chief Revenue Officer at GEBHARDT Intralogistics Group, spare parts systems involve various components for material movement and order fulfilment.

Automation and Robotics 
Robotics plays a vital role in the automation of material handling tasks. Robots efficiently manage activities like item selection, packaging, and the transportation of goods within warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Collaborative robots, often called “cobots,” collaborate with human workers, enhancing productivity and safety. In the ongoing pursuit of improved operational efficiency, web-based platforms and mobile applications have become indispensable tools. These technologies allow for the remote monitoring and control of EOT cranes, bolstering operational safety and providing real-time insights to enhance crane operations. According to Ashok, automated EOT cranes are a prime example of operational precision and come equipped with features tailored for exact and repetitive tasks, including automatic load handling and collision avoidance systems.

Overhead cranes for material handling
Automation transforms traditional overhead cranes, enhancing efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness in material handling across industries. Automated cranes execute precise, high-speed tasks, speeding up production and ensuring accuracy. Equipped with sensors, they detect obstacles and enhance safety. Programmable for energy efficiency, they reduce operational costs and downtime. Existing overhead crane equipment can be upgraded for an extended lifespan. Nirag Chokshi, Managing Partner at Techno Industries, emphasizes that maintenance and modernization can significantly prolong an inefficient crane’s operational life. Manufacturers offer updated components to uphold safety standards, creating secure work environments for employees.

Future trends
The future involves advanced automation and robotics, energy-efficient power systems, IoT sensors, digital twins, and cybersecurity measures. A significant development is incorporating advanced automation and robotics technologies, including autonomous navigation and collaborative robotics. Robotics, in its various forms, will play a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency and adaptability of material handling processes. Sustainability is a driving force, leading to innovations in energy-efficient power systems for Material Handling Equipment. Future components may feature advanced battery technologies and hybrid power solutions, aligning with environmental objectives and reducing operational costs.

IoT sensors for real-time data monitoring, predictive maintenance analytics, and remote monitoring systems enable effective long-distance control of cranes. Digital twin technology allows for comprehensive simulations and optimisations. These cranes have user-friendly human-machine interfaces, energy-efficient components, and robust cybersecurity measures, ensuring optimal performance and security. Investments in R&D, labour costs, and the need for skilled workers drive market growth.

The global warehouse automation system market is expanding rapidly, offering opportunities for enhanced productivity and sustainability. Embracing automation transforms roles and reduces fuel consumption while addressing cybersecurity concerns. Rising investments in extensive R&D activities, lack of skilled workers, high labour costs, and growing awareness of the advantages offered by warehouse automation are some of the factors driving the market growth.

Conclusion
Opportunities arise from the push to expand manufacturing capacity. The global warehouse automation market is growing rapidly, boosting productivity and safety. Automation of overhead cranes is set to play a significant role. Automation transforms roles, requiring employees to operate and maintain equipment, analyze data, and focus on tasks demanding human judgment. Optimized routing and algorithms reduce fuel consumption and carbon footprint. Cybersecurity is vital due to susceptibility to hacking. Companies must invest in robust measures to safeguard information and operational integrity. The future brings innovations like drones and 3D printing. Businesses, regardless of size, can benefit from cost-effective automation solutions. Success lies in embracing these advancements and addressing their challenges.

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Neville Mevawala, Head of Sales & Marketing, Godrej Material Handling.
“Sustainable material handling equipment is pivotal in diminishing carbon emissions, mitigating noise pollution, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.”

Nirag Chokshi, Managing Partner, Techno Industries.
“Any inefficient overhead crane can be significantly extended in its operational life through maintenance and upgrades.”

Volker Nicolai, Chief Revenue Officer, GEBHARDT Intralogistics Group GmbH & Co. KG
“The spare parts encompass a conveying system responsible for moving materials from the goods-in area to storage locations, whether these are automated or manually operated.”

Prem Kalliath, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Star Engineering & Electronics Ltd.
“In the three critical areas: complexity management, order fulfillment efficiency, and rapid turnaround times, automation can make a substantial impact.”

A.Ashok, Director, Amsak Cranes
“The adoption of cutting-edge technologies, IoT sensors, and automation has established new standards in the crane industry.”

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