Material handling is one of the neglected building blocks in our economy
Published by : Industrial Automation
Dharmesh Salian, Managing Director, KAUP India Material Handling Pvt Ltd.
From manufacturing plants to retail stores, how important is material handling to the economy of a country?
Good question. Material handling is one of the neglected building blocks in our economy being very thinly represented at appropriate government forums. Be it manufacturing plants, distribution centres or even the smallest retail stores, material handling poses a major challenge if not planned well. Well-designed plants or stores if not matched with good material handling practices may cause severe bottlenecks in operations thus affecting not only operational efficiencies but also safety in working conditions in addition to the safety of the product itself. This eventually leads to higher operational costs and many a times even an opportunity loss. When you extrapolate this industry level situation to the entire country, it causes tremendous drag on the economy.
The manufacturing industry is still heavily reliant on conventional MHE even as automated options are available. What are the impediments in modernisation?
The material handling equipment options best suited for any organisation is defined by the complexities involved in the operations as well as the throughput desired. But there is a general inertia in Indian industries towards implementing best practices employed by industries worldwide. My feeling is that it is sometimes the fear of failure while bringing into play latest technologies which holds back decision makers and many a times it is also the acquisition cost, which becomes a strong barrier. If organisations study the TCO (Total Cost of Operations) over the entire life of such Automation projects being implemented and the benefits derived therein like reduced dependency on labour, preventing material damage, ensuring safe working conditions and enhanced throughputs, then capex in such systems is better justified. It is for the industry leaders to drive such initiatives in the larger interest of the economy in general and their organisation in particular.
What are the changes witnessed in conveyors and bulk material handling systems in process industries?
The conveyor systems have transformed manifolds from being just a set of rollers transporting goods to being an intelligent system entrenched in the overall automation architecture of an organisation. Conveyors fitted with sensors not just transports but also sorts, organises, rejects and redirects goods thereby literally helping warehouses to become less labour dependant and efficient.
Are adequate safety features embedded in material handling equipment?
There is a definite trend towards appending safety features into a material handling equipment but there is need to have a comprehensive view towards safety. For example, we, at KAUP, design attachments, which not only spruce up operational efficiencies, but also provide safe working conditions. Though the benefits of availing such equipment are well known, not enough importance is given to attachment requirements while planning for material handling equipment. Attachments is still seen as an option and the larger picture is usually neglected.
How are the emerging technologies like IoT, Lights, Voice, etc., are changing the warehousing landscape?
IoT, light and voice enabled devices and wearable devices are vastly popular especially in large warehouses of few multinational organisations, which are already exposed to such technologies at their headquarters. After the advent of GST and the warehouses getting consolidated, some organisations have benefited greatly in espousing these emerging technologies due to economies of scale. Such organisations which have adopted these technologies are few are far between and India is still way behind in adopting the aforesaid technologies on a large scale.
eCommerce is driving today the driving force behind digitalisation of warehouses. What are the dominant trends here?
The pandemic has come as a boon to the eCommerce industry. Consumers are increasingly preferring eCommerce mode now to purchase anything from food essentials to gadgets or clothes. This increased demand has created tremendous pressures on fulfilment centres to make available the ordered goods in the fastest possible time which in turn has spawned the need for digitisation. Globally, digitisation has made rapid strides and a fulfilment centre abroad is nothing short of a sci-fi movie with very few personnel manning huge rack supported warehouses with systems like ASRS, AGVs, Robots and Drones working in tandem dispensing efficiencies like never before.
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Dharmesh Salian has been associated with the material handling space for the past 25 years handling varied products like storage systems, returnable transit packaging and material handling equipment. He has had exposure to India as well as Middle East markets working for leading Indian and multinational companies in this field. Currently he is leading the KAUP INDIA team as its Managing Director. KAUP INDIA is a fully owned subsidiary of Kaup GmbH & Co. KG, Germany. Independent material handling experts estimate KAUP as one of the leading European manufacturer of Attachments for Forklift Trucks and Construction equipment including container spreaders.