Beyond Conveyor: The Evolution of Material Handling Technology
Material handling is a centuries old process that has been used in nearly every industry—manufacturing, food and beverage, consumer goods, airports—the list goes on and on. Whenever asked about my job, most questions revolve around conveyor and racking, and I can’t help but wonder why the scope of the industry ends there, or at least the perception of it. The reality is, material handling has evolved to include a fascinating set of technologies that improve throughput and complete tasks that otherwise would bottleneck a system.
The best and most important component of the evolution of conveyor is that hardware and software interfacing has provided so much more opportunity for increased storage, speed and overall potential in increasing productivity. This is all due in part to the engineering and scientific advances made over the last half-century, with the introduction and rapid advance of automated robotics, sensors, advanced logic and network communication that have all lead to unique and previously infeasible material handling solutions.
Most importantly, all of these advances in material handling technology
have led to more fierce and widespread competition among integrators, goods-to-person system designers and software developers, all of which inevitably leads to significant variety when designing a final solution.
We all know the saying, “variety is the spice of life”.
This blog isn’t about convincing you to decide on one solution or system over another; it’s about taking in the grand scope of everything available and considering all the options, because in this day and age, conveyor on its own can only get your productivity so far.
It is hard to justify manual picking—pushing a utility cart based on aisle and cell locations—when technologies such as augmented reality exist, lighting a pathway to travel. Another option, are AGVs, or Automated Guided Vehicles, which autonomously direct themselves through a facility while using advanced sensors and software to avoid collisions with their surroundings. Or conversely, you can use goods-to-person systems to bring products directly to an associate.
The next question is: How do you keep up with emerging tech? Well, the Bastian Solutions blog is a great start, but so are trade expos like ProMat, MODEX, ADM, the list goes on and on. Going to a material handling expo can show you fantastic examples of creative solutions using technology you otherwise would not have considered.
The industry is booming with great ideas that step outside the box of traditional material handling technology, so be sure to consider all your options and find a solution that really elevates your system to the next level.
Here are 5 material handling technologies to get you started:
- Omron Adept Lynx AIV
- ZiPline Conveyor Shoe Sorter
- Bastian Robotic Document Inserter
- Robotic Vision Picking
- AutoStore Goods to Person System
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