Material Handling System Enables Foolproof Material Handling
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Material Handling System Enables Foolproof Material Handling
Article Introduction
Modern manufacturing technologies have significantly increased the production capabilities. This however involves large amount of raw and finished goods handling. With manual methods, the process is slow, unreliable, inaccurate, defective and very often prone to pilferages. How does one automate the delivery of raw material and picking up of finished goods?

Article Description
The key to the above problems lies in authorizing, authenticating and tracking material carrying vehicles inside the factory campus. All processes, including registration, weighing, etc. have to be automated. Smart policies that work on collected data need to be defined to check pilferage. And any such system has to work round-the-clock with no failures whatsoever. One word that characterizes todays business climate is pressure. Some of the customers your company serves may be probably among the leading, most successful, and most challenging companies in the world. They may have survived the crusade of mergers and acquisitions and may be among the dominant players in a more concentrated marketplace. As such, they may be in a stronger position than ever to dictate terms and conditions involving service, delivery, inventory management, and quality requirements. What can your company do to remain profitable and competitive under such conditions, especially if the costs of servicing demanding customers cannot always be passed on elsewhere within the supply chain? A good part of the answer lies in the application of smart materials handling concepts and leading-edge use of information technology. Thats where the developments and innovations in the materials handling industry come into the picture.

Material handling system (MHS) is specifically designed to address all of above. It uses RFID technology to track the vehicles inside factory campus, right from entry gate, to weighing platform to unloading station to another weighing platform and finally to the exit gate. Weighing, traffic lights to direct vehicular movement inside the factory campus, gate opening and closing, etc. are all automated. Materials handling is considered as the basic operation that involves the movement of bulk, packaged, and individual goods in a semisolid or solid state by means of a human or machine and within the limits of a facility.

MHS comes with a LAN-based, completely platform-independent, scalable set of components. Designed to deliver effective performance across a medium to large company-campus, MHS consists of a twin set of self-switching servers to ensure that it is up and running 365x7x24. The server collects and processes material-related information from the underlying hardware and weighbridges and accordingly prints out material-receipts, changes traffic signals and enables/disables gate locks. MHS also has advanced hardware diagnostic capabilities. The client software can be installed at key points on the LAN to monitor, diagnose and even control the server activities. MHS is also able to notice and record errors and irregularities in the daily activities. MHS comes with a web-enabled interface that can be accessed from any PC on the LAN with any standard browser. Management members can access and print out all the information that the server records using a web-enabled interface from any PC on the LAN.

Salient Features
· Weather-resistant, reliable RFID technology for vehicle tracking
· Automatic time stamping of vehicle entry, exit and weighing times
· Automatic recording of net and tare weights of vehicles
· Automatic alarms for over/under-weight of vehicles
· Data exchange facilities with backend ERP software
· Easy to install client and server software
· User-friendly, web-enabled, browser-based interface
· Less than 3 seconds response time for any event
· Dual, redundant, fail-safe servers with automatic switching
· Virus-resistant, secure and lightweight Linux-base
- Easy server and database administration

Requirements of the system
· RedHat-Linux/7.2 or above
· PostgreSQL/6.3 or above
· Sun Java™/2 Runtime Environment (J2RE/1.3) or above
· Apache Jakarta Tomcat/4.0 or above
- Apache XML Parser

Industry scenario
Liberalisation has ensured the fast-track clearance of a host of fresh projects. Besides the increasing thrust on exports has necessitated a lot of cargo operations. With a spurt in production activities, an increased focus on cost-cutting measures has become the order of the day, thus driving the demands of the material handling equipment. Since this sector is not a standalone sector, its demand characteristics are derived from core sector as well as non-core sector industries. To cite an example, conveyor systems are of critical importance to the cement industry and any capacity expansion of cement plants would have direct implications on the growth of the material handling equipment industry as well. These equipment help in ensuring better manufacturing economies of scale.

Increasing modernisation of ports due to increased tonnage, material-handling equipment are finding more applications. This calls for state-of-the-art material handling equipment to reduce handling and breakage costs. According to some industry sources, today, the requirements of material handling equipment are 20% in favour of new projects and 80% in favour of existing projects, Besides, there has to be a perceptible shift in mindsets before most of the user industries realise the value that material handling equipment bring to various industry applications. Also, cost tends to be a major factor in the purchase making decisions. A forklift truck costs anywhere between Rs 6 to 8 lakhs, which is still not considered affordable. Many of the small manufacturers abroad are bigger than most of the major Indian players, thus making out a case for exports. Ironically, even today, there is no research oriented manufacturing in this sector. Most of the players import transmission equipment and other systems. Very few industry players have their own full-fledged, state-of-the-art R&D centre.

Industry overview
The advent of material handling revolution in India can be traced back to the mid-seventies when the industrialization process actually took off in a big way. With assembly lines becoming increasingly automated, facilitators to these processes like material handling equipment assume significant importance. The industry structure is highly fragmented and the types of material handling equipment vary according to process applications and need-based requirements. Costs of actual equipment and accessories tend to balk potential buyers. Verily, there are too many bulk buyers of material handling equipment in India. Therefore, it is not cost-effective for most of the major players to generate demand. Three years ago, this industry had seen a surge in volume sales. But industrial recession hit this sector to a great extent. It is only the government and a few major private sector players that are active buyers. Today, the government sector accounts for 50% of the total sales. Because of the high capital intensive nature of the equipment, private sector players tend to buy these equipment over a ten years life period. The end users are not too aware about the potential cost savings generated through the usage of material handling equipment. As a result, there are only a few players that serve the requirements of this market. The high capital costs have also proved to be detrimental to the entry of new players and indeed the exit of a few players as well.

The indigenous material handling sector is restricted to a few major players because of the high capital costs that are required. The sheer variety of material handling equipment makes it difficult for the entry of new players. There are a few medium and small players spread across the length and breadth of the country. While they might not be able to cater to the high end and complex requirements of the larger industrial houses and bigger projects, they do manufacture a fair variety of low-end equipment. These small players tend to meet the second hand requirements of container yards and other port activities. With industrial projects located at various geographical zones, an integrated distribution network to facilitate speedy availability of spares holds the key to meet the disparate requirements of a cross-section of industries. In India, after-sales service in the material handling equipment is hardly given any importance that it deserves. Also, availability of spares plays a crucial role in the smooth running of material handling equipment.

Growth statistics
The materials handling industry was clearly moving in the right direction throughout 1999, but slowly. The 2000 index of orders will likely be little changed from its 1999 average level. As underlying demand for many kinds of materials handling equipment and services seem to be remaining strong and overseas market opportunities should improve, the economy as a whole will almost certainly grow during 2000 than over the past four years. The overall material handling industry business cycle behaves somewhat predictably when looked at on a rate-of-change basis.
Posted : 10/26/2005

Material Handling System Enables Foolproof Material Handling