5 Ways to automate your Material Handling Systems

In the virtual world outside the internet, the cost of handling the physical flow of materials and finished goods is critical to the bottom line of many corporate P&L statements.

There are numbers methods and systems available to assist companies in automating the material handling operations. Five of them are listed below.

Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) – These are the ultimate in high-density vertical storage solutions. Every inch of the warehouse cube is utilized to store and retrieve pallet-loaded inventory.

Many automated warehouse are in operation around the world. In the more advanced systems, the warehouse interior is dark and void of human workers. Computer controlled robotic fork lifts work the aisles stocking and retrieving pallets under computer directions imputed by human programmers in an adjacent office.

The start-up costs to implement an AS/RS systems can go into the millions of dollars. For high volume warehouses, however, the savings in labor costs and maximization of the warehouse cube can often recoup the original investment in a short time.

Stretch wrapping– Keeping stacked products from falling off pallets can be a problem anywhere along the line from receiving to storage to retrieval to transporting. A number of types of automated stretch wrapping machine are available that will quickly enclose pallets loads with a blanket of tightly-wrapped poly film. Once the film is wrapped in place and shrinks to from a tight skin, the loaded pallet load is secure.

This automated wrapping equipment is often located right at the receiving dock or the end of the production line to insure the stocking function is protected. When workers fill orders for shipment and forward the items to the loading dock, stretch wrapping the orders keeps the items secure within the truck and keeps separate orders together if the truck is delivering orders to multiple locations.

Conveyor belts – One of the oldest and most convenient material handling systems used to automate warehouse functions utilizes conveyor belts or rollers. Belt conveyor technology in many configurations is used to transport raw materials, assembly line parts, picked orders, and other manufacturing functions.

People-mover walkways at airports and escalators operate on a conveyor belt principle. Grocery stores have conveyor belts at the check-out stand to items flowing quickly to the cashier.
Because of the relative low cost and highly functional uses, conveyor systems should be the first material handling to consider for automation planning of new or revamping existing warehouse facilities.

Accumulation. This function is becoming increasingly popular in automated solutions. Zero-pressure accumulation conveyors works by using photoelectric intelligence to accumulate products without the stress of outside pressure. Lines of packages have a small buffering space in between them to keep them apart and avoid damage or line hang-ups.

Palletizing Robots– Physically stacking bags, cases, boxes, and other containers by can now be done by industrial robot arms. These machines increase productivity and helps prevent injury to human workers, One popular palletizing robot arm can reach out over 3,000 millimeters horizontally and can lift pallet loads of over 150 kilograms. Operated by a worker with a control box, these robots are revolutionizing the manufacturing assembly line process.

Evan Shaner