With globalization, the demand for highly efficient global supply chains is also on the rise. The more efficient your supply chain is, the higher your productivity will be, resulting in increased revenues and profits in the long run. Automation is also playing a critical role in the rapid growth of the material handling sector.

The robotic material handling equipment sector is not only eliminating the human element from material handling but also ensuring accuracy and higher productivity. It is growing at CAGR of over 8% and will reach over $20 billion by 2024. Advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence are further pushing automation in the material handling sector.

Similarly, the global material handling equipment market is expected to register a considerable high CAGR of 7.5% during the period 2017-2023. As a result, several different industries are investing heavily in material handling equipment. They use different types of material handling equipment ranging from simple warehouse trucks and forklifts to automated conveyors, as well as automated storage and retrieval systems.

Let’s take a look at which lifting equipment and material handling systems different industries use. But before that, let’s understand what material handling is.

A) Material Handling Definition

Material handling involves moving products and goods over a short distance, usually within a factory, warehouse, or a gated area. Typical material handling actions include lifting, picking, storing, pushing, pulling, loading, and unloading. It may or may not involve automation. While a complex system of conveyor belts moving raw materials in a manufacturing plant is an example of automated material handling, workers moving products using side-loaders and forklifts is manual material handling.

B) Industry-Wide Application of Material Handling

Most industries use material handling equipment for storage, shipping, or moving products or goods in a closed facility. Here are industry-wide material handling equipment applications in the top five industries.

  1. Automobile:

    The automobile industry has been one of the oldest end-use industries for material handling equipment. In the beginning, it relied on assembly lines and lifting equipment managed by individual workers. Over the years, however, engineered material handling solutions have mostly replaced the traditional assembly lines. Conveyor systems are the bedrock of the automotive industry as they can efficiently move vehicle components and bodies through the various stages of an assembly line. These systems eliminate the need for manual lifting services, reducing the chances of accidents, and increasing productivity.

    The industry also uses an Automated Guided Vehicle or AGVs for controlling material flow from the nearby storage facility. Strategically placed mezzanines provide hundreds of square feet of additional storage space inside the factories and warehouses.

    They can also double as extra office space and workstations. On-site warehouses in automotive factories have modern shelving systems for storing engine parts, tires, and other pieces to be assembled on the line.

  2. 3PL (Third Party Logistics) Industry:

    ConveyorsThe 3PL industry has been the backbone of the global supply chains, and it is responsible for the rapid growth of the e-commerce sector worldwide. The industry uses a variety of industrial lifting equipment and other tools for moving products and goods.

    The industry relies on engineered solutions such as Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) for receiving, storing, and retrieving products or goods. AGVs are used for moving heavy loads inside the warehouse along with small trucks, automated forklifts, and other manual handling equipment.

    Loading and unloading conveyors, automated modular conveyors, and monorail overhead cranes are used to optimize order fulfillment process. You can also see dynamic sortation systems designed for maintaining a cost-effective and efficient flow of goods. The demand for fully computerized warehouses and distribution centers flexible enough to handle seasonal and promotional peaks is on the rise.

  3. Manufacturing:

    The global manufacturing industry is adopting advanced material handling equipment solutions to fulfill their just-in-time orders. The growing demand for safe working practices is also responsible for increased automation.

    Automated order-filling stations, electrical material carts, computerized order-picking aisles, overhead cranes, robotic pick and drop systems, and AGVs are some of the material handling applications in the industry. While overhead cranes help move large and heavy loads on an assembly line or inside the plant, AGVs can move small but heavy raw material between storage facilities and workstations.

    Computerized order-picking aisles and sortation systems can help distribute different materials quickly and efficiently. This material handling equipment not only makes standard tasks safer but also ensures a high degree of manufacturing flexibility.

  4. Building and Construction:

    The increasing focus on building world-class infrastructure is creating a demand for advanced moving and lifting equipment solutions in the construction sector. The industry uses a wide range of cranes including, portable gantry cranes, single or double bridge overhead cranes, jib cranes, low headroom jib cranes, and mobile floor cranes to lift and move construction material, concrete blocks, and construction equipment.

    The industry uses autonomous dump truck systems for driverless on-site hauling operations. Automated Vertical Transport System (AVTS) is also used to automatically load, unload, and deliver material on the construction site.

    Track and drive tube conveyors, on the other hand, help distribute components to the on-site workstations for prefabrication. AGVs are also used to move heavy equipment and raw material on the same floor via dedicated routes.

  5. Healthcare and Pharma:

    Despite the complex distribution processes and the heavy regulations, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector has been at the forefront of advanced material handling equipment adoption. The industry primarily relies on an intricate system of conveyors.

    The industry uses specially designed conveyor systems for medical and pharmaceutical warehouses, making them easier to clean, dismantle, and maintain when required. In these warehouses and manufacturing plants, conveyors come in many shapes and sizes including, belt conveyors, extendable conveyor, line shaft conveyor, and heavy-duty roller conveyors.

    The industry also uses semi-automated pallet jacks, reach trucks, powered trolleys, electrode tugs, powered mobile platform lifters, and AGVs to move products and goods inside the plant or warehouse.

Parting Words

Various industries use specially designed material handling equipment to streamline their order fulfillment or manufacturing processes, increase efficiency, eliminate fatal injuries and costly downtime, and be flexible as per the changing market demand. Hopefully, understanding the specific applications in automobile, 3PL, manufacturing, construction, and healthcare, the top five industries worldwide, will help you understand the scope of material handling. Drop us a line in the comments section to discuss your doubts or questions. We will be happy to help you find an application-specific material handling solution.