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Material Handling Equipment: Rising e-commerce platforms aiding growth

Material Handling Equipment: Rising e-commerce platforms aiding growth

The exponential growth of e-commerce during the Pandemic-induced lockdown has given exponential rise to warehouses. With every nooks and corners of a warehouse with 'products to delivery' the material handling equipment (MHE) is playing a vital role in moving and handling inventory from warehouse to customers' doorstep. Read to know how MHE are rising to the occasion

For investors, real estate had been for years the perfect platform for investment opportunities. But, of late it has been sluggish. The investors were looking for a perfect alternative and the found answer in warehousing. Thus, started the growth of warehousing sector in India, which increased exponentially in this Pandemic time. Even few real estate players ventured into warehousing business. Hiranandani Group formed a joint venture with global private equity firm Blackstone Group to develop warehousing and logistics parks across the country. According to media reports, the realty arm of Shapoorji Pallonji group is planning to set up a $600-million investment platform in partnership with a global sovereign fund to enter India’s growing warehousing space. Recently, Avigna Industrial & Logistics Park has handed over 2.54 lac sq.ft to one of the largest consumer supply chain companies Stellar Value Chain and 3.44 lacs sq ft space to India’s top rated online mattress brand Wakefit along with a grade A built-to-suit facility of 2.69 lacs  sq. ft for them. As per Colliers International, between 2017 and H1 2020, the sector garnered a considerable 17% share of total private equity real estate investment. This segment’s share of total private equity real estate investment in the India has been increasing year-on-year since 2017, signifying the increasing attractiveness. During 2019 through H1 2020, the industrial and warehousing segment garnered the third highest share of private equity investments after office and retail. As per the 'India Real Estate Outlook - A new growth cycle' by JLL, despite unfavourable socio-economic environment, warehousing stock in top eight cities, including NCR-Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad has added 27 million square feet to reach a total of 238 million square feet in 2020. "In Q4, the market started gaining momentum with highest supply and absorption in 2020 post the lockdown. Industrial spaces witnessed a 13 per cent Y-o-Y growth in total stock in Grade A & B warehousing space in top 8 cities," said Yogesh Shevade, Head Industrial Services, JLL India.

Though we are noticing the exponentially growth of warehousing sector now in this Covid-19 induced lockdown period, the foundation for the growth started a couple of years back when the government introduced GST and declared infrastructure status for the logistics sector. “Even before Covid-19 and the unique imperatives the pandemic has called forth, structural reforms such as GST implementation and infrastructure status for the logistics sector, coupled with the rapid growth of e-commerce, ushered in a new growth chapter for the Indian warehousing and logistics industry. Besides e-commerce, other sectors driving demand for warehousing include FMCG, engineering and manufacturing, and third-party logistics,” says Santhosh Kumar, Vice-Chairman, Anarock Property Consultants.

“Despite the economic slowdown and the pandemic, warehousing market has remained largely resilient, recording growth of 44% CAGR in the last three years. Demand has especially been strong from industries such as 3PL, E-commerce, FMCG and Pharmaceutical, which is expected to continue in FY21. The warehousing segment has been gaining traction with investors in the last few years due to the potential of India’s domestic consumption and overall GDP growth,” says Shishir Baijal, CMD, Knight Frank India.

From the above statement of leading analysts, it can be interfered warehousing sector is emerging as the Sunshine sector in India. Now, with the Covid-19 induced lockdown the importance of warehouse has increased manifold. In the initial period lockdown brought India to a complete standstill to avoid community spread of Covid-19. This led to closure of shops and malls. People long habituated to ‘check and buy’ any products had no options but to opt now for ‘click and buy’ products from leading e-commerce sites. This resulted in insufficient storage space in warehouses and want for new and automated systems in warehouses to optimize warehouse management. “We have seen an increase in customers adopting robotics over the last few years. This is because robotics provides them with increased productivity and helps to streamline operations. In the current times, with a shrunken shop floor staff and the need to ensure business continuity, that’s where robotics comes in. With the help of cutting-edge robotics applications and solutions, companies will be able to recognise and handle a greater variety of products in a more agile and flexible way, thereby increasing productivity and output, which is key in the business recovery phase of the current global crisis. Robotics will also take menial tasks off the list for employees and help them focus on more complex decision making tasks,” says Subrata Karmakar, President – Robotics & Discrete Automation, ABB India.

ABB offers a comprehensive range of solutions to meet the logistical challenges faced by e-commerce companies such as accurate order picking, singling individual packages out of large volumes and effectively handling complex pallet loads. The company also provide its customers with strong application knowledge, modular solutions, and a wide service support network. “ABB is the only major robotic manufacturer able to offer a complete portfolio of automation, controls and safety products that are used in logistics systems. The range of our offerings includes Robotic sequencing, order consolidation and labeling systems for retail and e-fulfilment, Depalletizing and palletizing modules for single and mixed SKU pallets, Autonomous singulation and sorter induct for order fulfilment parcel sorting hubs and Collaborative robotic solutions with ultra-high-resolution 3D vision,” says Subrata Karmakar.

To keep up with demand in this Covid-19 era, KION India has come up with no-contact MHE which are flexible, have longer operational working hour capability, minimum maintenance and which can be installed easily on sites. KION India is fully owned by KION Group, a global leader in stand-alone Industrial Trucks (forklifts), services & automation worldwide.“With social distancing an absolute necessity and more consumers understanding the value of e-commerce in daily lives, the growth has been phenomenal for e-commerce organization, with small local companies popping up with delivery systems. With the focus on contact-free material handling and last mile delivery, customer is now looking to more Safety Features. Future smart warehouses are likely to be non-pollutant & energy efficient MHE thus increasing the demand of sustainable MHE. We have seen increase in demand of entry level MHE, electric pallet truck, electric stacker and electric forklift,” says Sunil K Gupta, President, KION India.

Covid 19 has thrown in new challenges such as not only keeping ourself safe and secure from this deadly virus, but also to identify the virus-carrier person so that it does not spread. Godrej Material Handling forklifts come with unique accessories – like PIN and biometric access systems – that keep a record of the operators using them. In the event of any operators being affected by the virus, the forklift access system’s data log can help a customer identify who were the forklift operators in what sequence and thereby take proactive steps to help those employees. “The e-commerce industry largely relies on electric battery powered forklifts of various types. Godrej Material Handling leads the market in indigenous electric forklifts serving this sector. While our range caters to almost all the needs of e-Commerce companies, the latest trends for new offerings are more in the area of digitally enabled services like equipment monitoring, fleet optimization, advance warning of equipment failure, integration with warehouse management systems, etc,” says Anil Lingayat, Executive Vice President & Business Head, Godrej Material Handling. To cater to the growing demands Godrej Material Handling has launched a unique warehouse mobility product – SKUtro. It is a manually powered trolley cart that enables order pickers to quickly zip around the warehouse, compiling delivery orders. “Designed specifically for young people usually employed for this task, SKUtro brings an element of fun to the otherwise tedious order picking activity and helps in getting greater throughput,” says Anil Lingayat.Jungheinrich Lift Truck India offers a wide range of innovative material handling products, which are suitable for warehousing solutions. The company has further strengthened its portfolio in the warehousing segment by introducing cost economical electric pedestrian and ride-on stacker & electric ride-on pallet truck. “We are one of the leading suppliers of material handling equipment for warehousing applications in India which includes Battery Operated Pallet Trucks, Stackers, Reach Trucks & VNA, Racking, etc,” says Manojit Acharya, Managing Director, Jungheinrich Lift Truck India..

Manoeuvring Diligently

Running and operating a warehouse is a messy affair. With products spread across every length and breadth and every nook of the warehouse, it is very difficult to maneuver. But now, with modern warehousing material handling equipment which are integrated with features such as IoT, telematics, artificial intelligence, automation, the daunting and repeated task has become easier. “ABB has applied cutting-edge technology to combine robotics and AI, providing robots the intelligence they were lacking. Now, our AI-enabled robotics solutions are used across a broad range of applications such as logistics, warehousing, including parcel and mail sorting. Typically, robots were suited for repetitive tasks and lacked intelligence. However, now with our combination of AI, they can keep up with constantly changing products in a typical dynamic warehouse operation. We are developing a robust AI solution that will support autonomous material handling and enable robots to handle items of infinite variety” says Subrata Karmakar.

“Worldwide market is moving towards automation of material handling requiring more smart forklifts, AGVs & mobile automation. While logistics tasks will always be directed by people, this new generation of smart forklifts, AGVs & autonomous robotic trucks can perform repetitive material handling tasks reliably and independently. This is a collaboration between people and robots & allows both to work and interact together safely.Robotic & Automated solutions help to increase productivity and lower costs,” says Sunil K Gupta.KION India offers most of these technological solutions through its brands Linde & Dematic. The Linde technology offers a complete logistics solution interfaced with customers’ own logistics management software ensuring real-time supervision. This real time solution comprises with telematics, wireless communication & artificial intelligence. The new robotic solution, the most advanced available solution, provides incredible competitiveness gains and a unique flexibility for the customers.

Godrej Material Handling is also actively investing in digitization to enhance customer experience through telematics. “Our IoT driven system ‘SafeLog’ will empower customers to manage their fleet at multiple locations with real time information about the health and utilization of their Godrej fleet. Based on data captured by this system, advance warnings of potential equipment failure are generated that enables the Godrej Service team to respond before the eventuality. This ensures that the equipment stays in operation with minimal downtime. Data about forklift utilization helps the customer optimize their fleet size to suit each location’s demand levels. Reminders about scheduled services to Godrej and the user ensure that periodic serving of the forklifts is done in time,” says Anil Lingayat.

“With the help of the Fleet management System, customers can track the performance of each fleet within the Warehouse and in multiple locations. Customized report can be managed via Fleet Management system in terms of idle time of machine, real-time data, current location of trucks, maintenance schedule, and accident report. Jungheinrich logistic interface can help a customer in connecting their WMS with the Material Handling equipment for paperless operation and inventory management within the racking system. With this connectivity, there will error-free operation and higher throughput will be achieved in less time. Automated Guided Vehicle from Jungheinrich can help a customer in handling their standard operation 24x7 without human intervention.

Jungheinrich Lift Truck India’s Fleet management Systemcan track the performance of each fleet within the Warehouse and in multiple locations. “Customized report can be managed via Fleet Management system in terms of idle time of machine, real-time data, current location of trucks, maintenance schedule, and accident report. Jungheinrich logistic interface can help a customer in connecting their WMS with the Material Handling equipment for paperless operation and inventory management within the racking system. With this connectivity, there will error-free operation and higher throughput will be achieved in less time. Automated Guided Vehicle from Jungheinrich can help a customer in handling their standard operation 24x7 without human intervention,” says Manojit Acharya.

The Pandemic is here to stay at least for a couple of year or still the last man on earth is vaccinated with preventive Covid-19 vaccine. Till then for the majority of the consumer, buying preference will be the e-commerce sites. This in turn will add to warehouses in India and to manage the warehouses operations, management and timely processing of deliveries Material Handling Equipment is a must. Technology is always evolving and with timely feedbacks from all stakeholders of e-commerce, the future Material Handling Equipment will dwarf the present in technology, speed and intelligence.


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