A peek into the “smart” future of material handling
Material handling is a very important practice and branch of manufacturing, warehousing, disposal, consumption, and distribution. It can also be very hard and somewhat tedious. Thankfully, the times are advancing, meaning your employees will no longer have to rely on just themselves to get the work done. The “smart” future is impacting every aspect of society, and material handling is no exception. That’s why, as an expert in this domain, you’ll need to stay informed on the trends and advancements of your industry.
1. Make friends with robots
The first tell that the future is here is that robots will soon make an appearance in the workforce. Though this may sound threatening, it should be regarded as an opportunity. Robots are much more efficient and accurate than humans but are practically blind when it comes to real life situations and intuition.
That’s why, by having robots work alongside humans, you’ll have an unbeatable workforce that can reach maximum productivity. The human is there to lead the robot and solve real issues, while the robot can do the heavy lifting.
2. Use the power of the shuttle
If shuttles have automated internal transport systems, they’ll be able to take on any essential task you assign them. They’re small and easily maneuverable, making them the perfect fit for any sort of simple warehousing task. They’re far from running freely along the warehouse halls, though.
Right now, you’ll find shuttles being used primarily for channel racking systems. This means that they’re set down in front of racks organized into channels by a handling unit, where they collect the required goods by moving along the rail. This is a promising start which allows us to make the prediction that shuttles will, indeed, be more independent in the future.
3. Figure out a way to deal with all the data
Mass production may be good for business but can cause real headache when it comes to processing the data and metadata. Automation creates even more data and metadata, meaning the future will have to come up with advanced software to keep up with the production. The software will need to be highly sophisticated to manage this degree of complexity. A real intelligent manner will also require highly developed sensors and actuators with increasing performance to aid the network supply chain.
All in all, predictions state that there will be a need for combining processes and controlling elements. All of this should be for the purpose of creating one harmonious and organized process, which can deal with the challenge. Intralogistics have one big challenge ahead of them. Perhaps AI will be enough to meet the standards.
4. Go into details with a smart workpiece
We keep talking about advanced machinery and equipment, but it’s also important to state that the workpieces are going to be fairly advanced in the future, as well. This means that all the pieces that make something work will be an active part of the production. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what they need and what their material requirements are. This will make ordering new shipments much easier, as you won’t have to gauge and make your own predictions. It also means there will be no more unpredicted shortages as the workpieces will warn you in time.
Of course, this is a fairly complicated system. For it to work, each workpiece will need to be recognized and need its own ID. Though this may seem like it will lead to chaos in the workplace, it can actually be quite beneficial. Thanks to the internet, everything will be sorted out in an orderly fashion. There are some tells that things are going to develop in this way, like the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in practice now.
5. Stick to some old favorites
Though the focus should be on advancement, there is still some equipment that is irreplaceable. Better, smart versions can’t always be reliable, and that’s OK. Until you can be 100 percent sure your equipment can do its job properly, it’s advisable to stick to the things you know. Materials handling products such as conveyors, dangerous goods storage, and material handling equipment, for example, are still old reliables.
In some cases, you may even be able to combine the new, smart devices with the old reliable equipment to create a dream working environment. When you combine both in your warehouse, there’s less chance of things going awry.
6. Tackle custom production with 3D printing
When it comes to production and distribution, it’s not enough to rely on traditional methods any longer. As the need for individuality increases, you’re going to have to meet more and more custom demands. In the past, this was a rare practice because the process would end up costing a lot of money and time, without a lot of gains.
With the advancement of technology and 3D printing, today you’re able to make absolutely everything your customers can conjure up in their minds. All you have to do is insert a sequence into the program and watch the magic happen. This can open up a lot of business opportunities and bring in a lot of new customers. What’s more, design and production are bound to be more accurate and quicker, too. Though you may need to invest in a 3D machine fit for your line of work, it will be worth it in the long run.
Material handling isn’t just a brute force job. It requires sophistication and delicate handling, hence why all the innovations are ever-present and why the industry is growing along with technology. We’ve seen, you can’t forget the old reliable methods and machines, but don’t be afraid to research alternative options and, if appropriate, implement some new and exciting changes.
Written by: Liam Smith, BOSS Contributor
Liam Smith is a young and aspiring Australian blogger with a passion for everything related to home, and offline business He has a B.Sc. in Interior design and is an avid reader.