The global warehousing market continues to see the pressure of higher demand and quicker turnaround. Staying competitive requires increased efficiency for logistics and operations. One of the most substantial cost savings opportunities in production is efficiently moving materials through a manufacturing site or warehouse. The discipline of material handling combines the equipment needed with the warehouse management system (WMS) to ensure seamless material movement for increased operating efficiency.
The movement of significant components through a facility has its share of challenges. Among these are:
- Space limitations due to warehousing cost
- Real-time tracking and inventory management
- Equipment wear and maintenance needs
- Technology integration, updating, and security
- Worker safety as sites pursue a higher throughput
A truly optimised warehouse ensures the best flow of materials, organised from fast to slow-moving parts, to ensure rapid material flow and order fulfillment. Inaccurate inventory can be costly, but the ability to track and update your inventory in real-time ensures warehouse operatives swiftly convert inventory to goods sold while managing the inventory carrying cost. Significantly, good material handling practices improve worker safety.
Implementing efficient material handling practices addresses the challenges faced in manufacturing and warehouse applications. Fortunately, commercially available solutions today can optimise material handling, capital durability, inventory cost, and worker safety. One such technology is using demountable rugged computing devices fitted to the material handling equipment.
How Technology and Digitalisation are Shaping the Industry
Led by AI and smart manufacturing, industrial manufacturing, operations, and supply chain are transforming like never before. Sensors and data collection from the inventory operations provide a wealth of data that software analyses to influence process changes.
An example of this is Dexory’s digital twin used for warehouse management. The solution collects data from physical warehouse assets and builds a CAD or twin model that engineers can manipulate to optimise inventory and efficiency. The real-world data is digitised, enabling automated analysis.
Another application for technology-driven enhancement to material handling is BotsAndUs’s AI autonomous robot. Like the digital twin, the robot collects and analyses data in real-time, reacting much faster to changes in conditions to continually optimise performance and efficiency while minimising the potential for human error.
Just as digital twins aim to reduce the transition time between physical and digital worlds to speed up reaction time, vehicle mounts aim to shorten the physical distance between the operator and technology. In addition, these tools deliver additional operational improvements through decentralising the digital interface.
The Importance of Material Handling Solutions
Ensuring your workforce has access to the latest demountable computer technology ensures that they have real-time access, increased efficiency, and minimal downtime. Mounting solution options give the flexibility to be installed on multiple material handling equipment.
Two types of mounting solutions to consider are docking stations and cradles. The primary difference is that cradles are specific to the device and do not replicate the ports, while the docking station provides port replication for the computing devices.
Vehicle docks or cradles provide a safe and reliable solution for mounting rugged computing devices while affording the operator hands-free data access. These features are critical in many applications, including high-intensity material handling, where an unsecured tablet or laptop can launch across the site, leading to injury. In material handling, many applications could leverage vehicle docks or cradles, such as:
- Forklifts that travel between storage locations to pick the material using barcodes or RFID scanning
- Specialised function machinery like cranes are hoists that require human operation or oversight to transport material safely from a distance
- Vehicles that move material to and from the warehouse or plant to provide the driver with timing, location, and schedule changes quickly
Considerations for Optimal Material Handling Equipment
While the mounting locations are flexible, interfering with the handling equipment is a legitimate concern. When designing a mount location, engineers should consider the operator’s way of working and likely movement patterns. Is the device mount within the worker’s reach but out of their normal range of motion or line of sight when performing tasks? Also, consider if the device mount creates potential blind spots. During regular daily operation, what areas may become hidden with the addition of mounted technology devices?
Ease of access and how the operator interacts with the device should be considered when considering what mount type to use and where it will be mounted. Workers will use the onboard technology multiple times throughout the workday. Is it mounted in a location where access does not impede the user’s typical daily performance?
Another consideration is mount durability. For example, is the application subject to excessive vibration that could dislodge the device from the holder? In addition, shock or vibration fatigue, extreme temperature cycles, and dusty environments could all damage the device. As a result, mounting design should consider likely application environments to guard against damage to the device or connections.
Benefits of Using Vehicle Docks or Cradles in Worker Safety and Productivity
The most impactful benefit vehicle docks or cradles provide for logistics performance is increased operating efficiency. Moving the technology closer to the user, such as demountable rugged computing solutions, allows operators to scan inventory codes or record vehicle performance information. Quicker scans mean increased material processing and increasing throughput per hour worked. In addition, vehicle docks allow drivers to remain in their handling vehicles, with controlled access to the rugged device only when stationary, which reduces the likelihood of a safety incident.
- Manages reduction of vibrations and shocks to the demountable device
- Extends port replication
- Increased safety and security with the ability to lock the device in place
Getac and Gamber-Johnson Solutions for Material Handling
A rugged device and mounting solution that can withstand the harsh environment of a warehouse or manufacturing plant are essential to incorporating digital solutions to realise the efficiency and safety gains from optimised material handling. Getac offers rugged tablets like the Windows OS F110 and Android OS ZX10 to suit any warehousing application. Paired with the Getac Driving Safety Utility software, worker safety is ensured whilst on the move.
Gamber-Johnson offers material handling mounts for lift vehicles, peripheral applications, and versatile uses that can withstand challenging environments and situations in the warehouse. These solutions reduce installation time while improving safety and ergonomics. Gamber-Johnson’s development on mount placement maintains roll cage and safety guard integrity while providing a superior device location for the more rugged, reliable, and responsive adaptation into the material handling workspace. Mounts are made from high-strength aluminum to withstand indoor or outdoor elements.
Gamber-Johnson material handling mounts offer application flexibility and provide a complete mounting solution for all Getac devices. Gamber-Johnson can support the mount, docking station, accessory mount (keyboard, printer, additional monitor), and a power supply for those long shifts to optimise efficiencies. The optimal location to attach a device may differ for each company and each lift truck within an organisation. Considering how materials and people move throughout the facility will help select the best mounting solution.
Visit Getac’s warehousing & materials page to learn more about rugged technology solutions delivering significant benefits to plant and warehouse operations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is material handling?
Material handling is the movement, transportation, control, and distribution of materials, objects, and goods as they move through the warehouse or plant.
What are the different types of material handling equipment?
Equipment can be industrial trucks, pallet trucks, storage equipment, manual handling equipment truck, or specialized equipment for transporting goods.
What are some of the issues and challenges workers in this industry encounter?
High handling costs through manual loading, inventory tracking, space limitations, worker safety, and equipment wear
How can materials handling equipment increase the effective capacity of warehouses?
Efficient use of assets, improved worker safety, and streamlined transport loads, containers, and bulk materials management.