As material handling systems enable reduced inventory levels and improved order to delivery cycles, they are witnessing increasing uptake. Material handling systems help companies cope with buying cultures that are in a continuous state of flux. Whatever the process may be, material handling plays a crucial role in its overall success. Internationalization and globalization are propelling competitiveness and driving the development of newer and efficient material handling technologies in the market.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Advances in Material Handling Systems, finds that the most common trend in the material handling industry today is to build material handling equipment that is smaller yet smarter. Apart from this, material-handling equipment is being incorporated with immense electronic intelligence in the form of touch screen interfaces, distributed control functions that obviate the need for bulky control panels, upgraded software, and many more features.
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"Once considered a total in-house operation, material handling is now being done by third party logistic (3PL) providers," notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Menaka S. "Cross-company collaborations have increased with integrated supply chains and concurrent movement of goods and information."
Economic trends and the performance of the construction, power, and manufacturing sectors are major factors affecting the dynamics of the material handling systems market. The developing economies of India and China, in particular, hold enormous potential for the market owing to the high economic growth rates and the burgeoning industrial products and consumer goods sectors. Growth in the thermal power sector will spike demand in the market for coal handling equipment.
"It is anticipated that coal demand, primarily for its use in utility power stations would keep demand levels buoyant," elaborates Menaka. "Huge proportions of the mining industry's operations, such as coal mining, heavily depend on the use of specialized bulk material handling equipment. This equipment is primarily meant for moving raw material to various locations and thereby maintaining operational efficiency levels."
In Africa's Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT), a variety of bulk material handling equipment is used. Apart from the demand in existing coal plants, a number of new coalfields in Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola are also propelling the use of material handling equipment.
The task of implementing a successful warehouse is posing a big challenge as it involves a proper balance between a variety of conflicting objectives including increased picking speed combined with flexibility, organizational flexibility combined with effective space utilization, and increased throughput at decreased labor cost. With the current economic conditions, many companies are deferring investments and following a wait-and-watch approach. Others are working toward actively pursuing lean practices, continuous improvement, and just-in-time production systems.
"In order to reduce complexity in material handling operations, warehouses are deploying integrated warehousing that is capable of handling thousands of varieties of stock keeping units (SKUs), while reducing the overall complexity in customer delivery and distribution," says Menaka. "The resultant complexity in market segmentation has also enhanced the need for stringent tracking and tracing of product movement, which is also effectively done through the deployment of handling equipment."
Going forward, green initiatives are poised to pick up steam in the material handling industry. Industrial practitioners are displaying a preference for environmentally responsible material handling systems that reduce emission levels and produce less noise. To ensure greater uptake of material handling systems, new technologies must be developed to ratchet down costs and improve ROI. Greater investments in research and development, and faster innovation rates are utmost necessities for the industry.
Advances in Material Handling Systems, a part of the Technical Insights subscription, provides an insight into material handling technology, its purpose, features and benefits. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.