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How to choose the right materials handling equipment

By: Grant King, IndustrySearch Writer
21 January, 2016

Are you a new warehouse or factory with a blank canvass? Or are you an established operation looking to upgrade?

Either way you face a similar challenge when deciding on the right materials handling technology. What you want to avoid is over-automating or, equally disastrous, under-automating. In this article we'll give you a few tips to help you find materials handling technology that fits your needs.

Over-automation is a waste

Shoehorning a whizz-bang piece of equipment with all the bells and whistles into your existing structure might seem like a positive step into the realms of automation, but it may end up being about as appealing as an ill-fitting suit. First consider your operation’s size, order volume, planned inventory levels and business growth projections. The equipment you choose needs to match current output with room for growth and development. If your output is trying to grow to match your equipment, you're in big trouble. And while the allure of the latest shuttle technology may be strong, it’ll be waste of money if your volume can't justify it.

Under-automate limits potential

Whether you're setting up your materials handling capacity from scratch or upgrading, it's all money and the less you spend the better, right? Wrong. The danger with an overly fiscal mindset is that you become hesitant towards the technology available, especially in the age of eCommerce. Like many companies you may be in transition from a more traditional supply chain to the rapid fire, small order production eCommerce demands. Multiple systems - carousels, pick modules and conveyors – may be required to cope with these very different flows. The key is to focus on your business model and base your primary materials handling decisions on that. If you’re phasing out one flow in favour of another, any upgrade should be a compromise at best.

Equip for par performance, not peaks

It's an easy mistake to make: you want your operation to run at its most efficient during peak times, so you install materials handling equipment to suit those times. All well and good until most of that equipment sits idle during average times eating up profits in downtime and wasted space. The most cost effective solution is to base your materials handling needs on average performance and alter labour numbers to cater for highs and lows.

Make sure your operation is operational

That's the other important consideration. There’s little value in installing the latest, greatest materials handling equipment if everything around it is operating like a square wheel, including your workforce. All the pieces have to work together so make sure your materials handling equipment has the support it needs so it can do what it says on the tin.

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