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Interviews




Material Handling

Material Handling



With the worst of the economic downturn left behind, India is set firmly on the path of growth. Growth is characterized by expansion. Expansion means more factories and warehouses. From real estate, retail and hotel industries to shipping, aviation and steel, capacity expansions are ongoing phenomena and thus there is a boom in the market for material handling equipment. The Material Handling Equipment (MHE) industry has a wide array of products on offer to the industry depending on the needs of the particular industry. As the name suggests this sector deals with equipments that relate to the movement, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Material handling sector is a critical intermediary in the economy of a country today. MHE may not directly contribute towards production of goods but it brings about efficiency in handling, transport and storage of goods. In fact, the MHE industry practically complements the manufacturing industry by ensuring smooth and efficient distribution of goods. Thus it is a vital aspect and hence the role of MHE in any set-up cannot be overlooked. The size of the Indian MHE industry was estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore in 2009 and projected to grow at 20% year-on-year over the next five years, in keeping with overall economic growth. The reason of this growth being drivers—domestic production and foreign trade. Since MHE is closely associated to the country’s imports and exports, its importance to the logistics industry cannot be denied. The global demand for material handling products was estimated grow 5 percent annually by 2012. It was also predicted that growth in the nondurable goods sectors will outpace the large durable goods manufacturing market, and that advanced/ automated products will grow the fastest.

Industry Trends

The general trend in the MHE industry is towards increasing automation, enhancing productivity and maximizing safety. A lot of innovations are also taking place to develop equipment specifically to one sub-sector of a particular industry and in turn provide a highly customized solution for a very niche requirement. Technologies have progressed rapidly in the past decade. We see superior control methodologies in terms of accuracy, repeatability and efficiency in the market today. Advanced mechanisms and use of electrical sensors, invertors help ensure safety while using these equipments.

With the advent of superior technology and introduction of high-level softwares such as warehouse management system (WMS), manufacturing execution system (MES) the isolated connectivity of MHE is being replaced by comprehensive interfaces. The more-advanced material handling control systems that provide a single point interface with upper-level software are often called warehouse control systems (WCS). Another trend in material handling equipment is the growing popularity of voice-recognition systems. The voice-recognition system aides direct communication with a computer via a headset. While receiving instructions from the computer, operators are able to keep both hands on the equipment which results in a safer working environment. The most newest development is the M2M communications space which allows communications to happen between Machines.

Apart from advances in automation and controls, a lot of development is also being made in ensuring that the products are environmentally-friendly without sacrificing the cost competitiveness. An example is the distinct shift taking place in several industries in eliminating hydraulics and moving towards purely electrical drives. The basic advantage of electrical drives is the higher efficiency in converting energy into useful work by directly driving the motors or actuators and the elimination of hydraulic fluids. The environment thus benefits due to better usage of valuable energy as well as due to elimination of problems caused by ruptured hydraulic hoses and the subsequent oil spillages.


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