Technology

Material Handling Made Easy

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Highlighting new developments in the field of material handling for industrial manufacturing.

Material handling equipment (MHE) industry is all set to grow. The manufacturing industry has seen numerous developments in recent years which have spurred a continuous stream of innovations at every level of the value chain. Everybody wants to ride the wave of these developments by leveraging technology to accelerate productivity and profit. “The ongoing industrial revolution is reshaping businesses and because of these advancements, there is a steady rise in the degree by which these businesses are automating. Industrial robots which were once perceived as dumb machines merely used for reducing drudgery that human operator goes through while performing monotonous activities are now turning smarter every day,” says Kunal Pruthi, Consultant – Solutions & Business Development, The Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz Ltd.

MHE which are very critical for any supply chain have also been influenced remarkably by this continuous progress in the field of robotics and rapid digitalisation of factories. Earlier diesel operated MHE made way for battery operated equipment and then came Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) which were able to substitute conventional MHE partially. Because of the dependency of AGVs over some additional infrastructure like magnetic tapes, colour tapes, QR codes, RFID tags etc for the purpose of navigation and localisation, the utility of these vehicles was very limited. Because of these constraints, there are many applications which are still carried out in an old-school way. But with the onset of Industry 4.0, we have started witnessing a shift towards adoption of systems which are more “Autonomous” in nature rather than being just “Automated” and this shift is quite evident in MHE segment also.

Growing MHE demands
Material handling industry is ever growing industry, as the demand of MHE is increasing day by day. It is evident from the fact that Pioneer’s cranes are working in 26 states of India and 13 countries across the globe. The MHE help the industry to increase the production with same manpower keeping the vital aspect safety enhanced for operator or user working with MHE.
Keeping in view the safety of the operator and quality of the product Pioneer is always looking towards the constant improvement. “We are adding a state-of-the-art machine shop with latest machinery to provide the best of products to the esteemed customer,” claims Arshdeep Singh, Director, Pioneer Cranes & Elevators Pvt Ltd.

Automotive sector plays a crucial role in MHE
“A big shift is unfolding in terms, where customers invest in MHE to improve productivity and quality in their manufacturing processes. Automotive sector has always been investing in material handling equipment,” says Nilesh Karandikar, Managing Director, Fine Handling & Automation.

New developments in material handling for industrial manufacturing
MHE demand increased manifold
Material handling for industrial manufacturing is changing at an unprecedented pace in the Indian market. Long gone are the days when they were considered in isolation by each location. With supply chains getting more and more integrated, customers are looking at these systems end-to-end. GST scenario is a classic case. Requirement of MHE has increased manifold all of sudden. “We expect to see factory, plant and warehouse consolidation along with the development of larger warehouses with modern materials handling facilities. As a result goods will also need to travel longer distances between fewer locations. This combined with the revised plant networks, will necessitate the adoption of modern materials handling practices in order support the increased volume throughput. All this is to enable cost reductions and improve efficiencies,” says Matt Quinn, Country General Manager, CHEP India.

He adds, “To make the shift to the modern materials handling practices the adoption of a number of supply chain standards (systems, racking, MHE, pallets, packaging materials and trucks) is required and is likely to accelerate. Standardisation, mechanisation, automation and innovation will be a theme in the post GST supply chain to address the growing complexities. Faster inventory turns mean less working capital; faster pick rates result in more efficient use of labour; and faster truck turnaround reduces dead time.”

Racking crane enables multi-layered storage
For increasing the storage capacity, Pioneer Cranes & Elevators has developed a racking crane enabling its customers to store material in multi-layered racks. These cranes are useful for warehouses and stores to store material vertically in racks, increasing the storage capacity of the warehouse within same floor area. “The size of storage space drastically reduces with this application of crane. If needed, full automation of crane can be done to provide uninterrupted operation without use of manpower,” the company’s Director Arshdeep Singh claims.

Considering the growing demands of MHE, Pioneer Cranes & Elevators is enhancing the production capacity by adding a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility with 35,000 sq.m. of area in Ludhiana. The new unit will have an advanced manufacturing facility to keep the company’s initiative of keeping innovations in the products alive, informs Singh.

Automation
As manufacturers invest in expensive machines, the needs for highly reliable systems that deliver consistent quality, through-put while guaranteeing maximum up-time are critical to return on investment. “Today, manufacturers recognise the role and importance of reliable MHE to earn the best return on their investments,” says Karandikar.

Karandikar further claims, “With respect to recent developments, there is a clear shift to integrated, large-scale systems with greater level of automation.” The need for flexible systems that can handle all the variants without change in configuration or gripping mechanism is also evident across sectors, from automotive to aerospace. There is a huge opportunity to make productivity gains in material handling with men and automation systems working together, in sync with each other.

“The other emerging area is the Internet of Things or Industry 4.0 where manufacturers will deploy advanced data analytics techniques to get previously unavailable insights,” observes Karandikar.
Emerging IoT protocols and real-time equipment monitoring
MHE manufacturers are continuing to innovate and introduce features that enable higher throughputs; storage-and-retrieval of a larger variety of SKUs, improved labour productivity, and improved safety-and-ergonomics. “Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV), sensors which communicate directly with the internet using emerging IOT protocols and real-time equipment monitoring and diagnostics are 3 notable innovations. These innovations are spawning an era where MHE will communicate with and react to their surroundings without the use of operators,” says Mihir Contractor, Senior Vice President (Material Handling), Nilkamal Ltd.

Intra-logistics applications
Pruthi informs, “Most of the intra-logistics applications which were carried out by regular MHE are now possible using “Autonomous Mobile Industrial Robots” (AMIRs). Material in all shapes and sizes can be easily handled with these AMIRs. Whether it’s a tow truck for transporting WIP trolleys, a BOPT for moving pallets between in or outbound dock or even a high reach truck for put away applications in a distribution centre, there is an autonomous system for every application. This all is now possible due to the evolution of controllers with better computing capabilities, high-fidelity sensor models and intelligent autonomous navigation algorithms for running mobile robots in complex environments.”

Innovative material handling solutions for industrial manufacturing
CHEP India provides cost-effective engineering solutions
With experience of more than 60 years, CHEP India has helped more companies move more goods, to more places, more efficiently and more sustainably than anyone else in the world.

Company has always been known to be just a ‘Blue pallet’ company. CHEP India understands this comes from its product that is a highly integral part of their business and its customers. However, in line with the market requirements the company has grown their offering for the supply chain solutions. In India, CHEP India offers 6 categories of solutions i.e. platform, system wide, manufacturing and warehousing, transport, international and connected supply chain.

These solutions are designed to make supply chains more agile and efficient. “Our solutions help optimise customers supply chain within their manufacturing and warehousing processes. We ensure that all distribution platforms integrate with their automated and non-automated equipment, regardless of the platform design or specification.” Further, Quinn informs, “We work with the equipment suppliers, systems integrators and contractors to build in tolerances ahead of time. Our application-engineering experts quickly identify areas of opportunity for cost savings.”

Nilkamal’s storage and handling solutions
Nilkamal’s material handling business offers warehouse and factory operations quick and direct access to a Pan-India team of sales professionals who can walk through the customer’s operations and propose solutions to protect the customer’s products, improve their storage, and increase their labour productivity, all while improving safety and hygiene. Contractor claims, “We offer India’s broadest range of storage and handling solutions including plastic crates-bins-pallets to unitise SKUs; manual-and-electric equipment like pallet trucks, stackers and lift-trucks to move the unitised load; and manual-and-automated storage solutions like shelving, mezzanines, selective pallet racks, shuttle racks, ASRS racks and mini-load systems.”

Hi-Tech Robotics – Improving operational efficiency
“At Hi-Tech Robotics, we are developing solutions for alleviating the challenges faced by our customers and improving their overall operational and supply chain efficiencies,” claims Pruthi. Hi-Tech Robotics is one of an industry leader in the field of self-driving technology with expertise in robotics, artificial intelligence and control technologies. The company has developed a suite of products called NOVUS SYSTEMS which can fulfil all MHE related requirements. From material handling or storage inside the plant to material delivery at customer doorsteps they are trying to increase the productivity at every stage of the supply chain. The core of all these products is Artificial Intelligence (AI) which gives self-driving as well as self-learning capabilities to robots so that they can have human-like thought process but are much more efficient in deriving the Small Data i.e. timely and meaningful insights from the Big Data generated in the surroundings. These insights are like a gold mine of solutions and give more visibility across the supply chain to the users.

According to an industry report, the worldwide MHE market size was over US$ 110 billion in 2015 and with the increasing penetration of advanced technologies, this market is further expected to grow at over 8 per cent CAGR in coming years. With Omni-channel driving the need for more visibility across the supply chain, whether it’s an MHE, OEM or its end user, whosoever is willing to embrace these fast and frequent technology changes will have a winning edge over their competitors. Progressive leaders, who are able to foresee the utility of these new technologies and are quick in adopting, will definitely see transformative results.

Innovative and customised solutions from Fine Handling
In line with this need, Fine Handling provides innovative, customised solutions to step-change the productivity and quality of cutting processes through efficient handling. During the last decade, the company has provided more than 1,000 solutions to over 100 customers across 13 industrial segments.

Fine Handling has been pivotal in bringing world-class handling solutions to the Indian market and gradually to its overseas clients. Each of their product, system and project is focused on realisation of a singular goal – to enhance safety and productivity by multi-fold.

Company’s innovative automation solutions for pick and place tasks are well recognised in the industry. Some of their breakthrough solutions include high speed gantry systems for component transfer between machines or stations with world-class automation. They have also provided manipulators to handle components with weights up to 350 kgs and over 16 variants using a single customised gripper.

Fine Handling’s range of products includes:
• Industrial manipulators
• Customised gripper
• Gantry systems
• Aluminium rail systems
• Machine to machine conveyors
• Specialised solutions like ElbowLIFT, AccelLOADER, VacuumLIFTER Lift n Move.

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