Demand for sophisticated solutions, such as high-speed conveyors and sorters and automated storage retrieval systems, has been rising for the past four to five years as large companies look to work more productively and blue-collar workers become hard to find, says SPS Chauhan, Director, Asia & Middle East, Bastian Solutions. “We clocked 30-50 per cent growth in the previous year as against the industry average of 20 per cent.”
Of the sectors demanding material handling equipment for warehousing, Chauhan observes that the ecommerce, pharmaceutical and food industries are doing well while the automative industry is going through a low.
Asim Behera, Chief Operating Officer, Daifuku India shares that, last year, the demand for fully automated material handling systems, the area Daifuku operates in, was lower than the double-digit growth in previous years, mainly coming from the paint, tyre, food and beverage sectors.
Automated material handling involves a number of systems. A typical warehouse of Amazon India spans 400,000 to 600,000 sq ft. In several such distribution centres, Bastian Solutions has provided about 1.0-1.5 km of conveyors and high-speed lifts with a 10-m reach, which have helped increase throughput from 10-15 warehouse bins per minute to 60-120 bins per minute. “What helps is that 80 per cent of the products that Amazon India deals in fit in the standard warehouse container size (600 mm × 400 mm × 400 mm),” explains Chauhan. “So while the actual picking of the product from the bin and packing is still done manually, the automated retrieval significantly speeds up operations.”
At an ITC warehouse in Trichy, rail-guided vehicles and 19 cranes are helping to store and retrieve about 1,500 finished goods at 20,000 locations. “We have helped the FMCG giant achieve a throughput of 250 trucks a day and remain on call to ensure the system is up and running over the 24-hour day,” says Chauhan.
Behera expects manually operated material handlers to see the highest growth rates in the current year, led by companies consolidating their operations to tap the benefits of GST. He expects demand for fully automated systems to come into its own when companies focus on increasing their ability to store and pick goods and improve their throughputs and operational efficiency.