Material handling systems have evolved a great deal thanks to newer and better technologies over time. At the dawn of the industrialization age, industries and businesses relied on manual material handling, which relies on physical force to move, lift, retrieve, and store goods and products. It mostly uses manual human or animal labor for manual handling of materials. Then, with the advent of automation, most organizations moved to automated material handling systems. At each stage of technological innovation in material handling, newer systems got adopted by more & more organizations across the world. The general trend in this industry is towards increasing automation, enhancing productivity, and maximizing safety; things that have brought superior control methodologies in terms of accuracy, repeatability and efficiency in today’s material handling equipment. The safety measures have gotten better with the use of advanced mechanisms and electrical sensors and invertors. In this article, we will discuss some of the groundbreaking material handling technologies that have impacted the industry and others that are expected to do so in the near future.
Industrial manipulators are pneumatically-balanced manual lift assists with a rigid steel manipulator arm that enable the operators to position, lift and perform complex pneumatic tilts and rotations; even when the product being moved is handled outside its center of mass. Industrial manipulators come into play when the product is either too heavy for a person to move manually or it is to be moved to a location not easily accessible for a person to reach. Before manipulators came along, reports of workplace accidents and injuries were more common due to workers lifting heavy weights.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV’s)
Automated guided vehicles (AGV) are load carriers that travel along the floor of a facility without an onboard operator or driver. Their movement is directed by a combination of software and sensor-based guidance systems. AGV’s are widely used to transport raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods in production lines. They are also used for storage/retrieval or other movements in warehousing and distribution applications. AGV’s are a great kind of transportation material handling technology as it has brought in a lot of benefits like safety, cost control, and flexibility. Before AGV’s, human error in such operations was fairly common. Moreover, there was no accountability of lost goods due to nearly impossible tracking of human workers.
Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems (ARSR)
Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems are a kind of warehouse technology wherein goods are automatically placed into, and brought back out of, storage as needed. This is integrated with warehouse execution software (WES) that manages the process and helps warehouse personnel process orders. ARSR has changed the face of warehousing in the past few years. It has helped organizations have faster processing of goods, increase efficiency and reduce error rates.
A host of other technologies have been introduced that have dramatically changed the material handling industry. Newer ones like the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and advanced robotics are expected to impact the material handling industry in the future.
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