Automation - the art of transforming manually performed business activities into processes that are orchestrated and controlled through software solutions, where both simple and complex scenarios are standardized. In order to automate manufacturing processes
and to achieve a lean operational model with limited operator interaction, all redundant activities should be revamped. Therefore, to achieve this, the processes must first be defined and standardized before they are automated.
While an Automated Material Handling System
ensures efficient transport of material from one place to another in the manufacturing area – within the same department, on opposite ends of the manufacturing floor, or even in two separate building, it uses route and process step information provided by the MES (Manufacturing Execution System) to move material using conveyors, vertical elevators, and autonomous vehicles. Hence, the material handling equipment market which is anticipated to reach USD 190 Billion by 2024 is up for a sweeping change.
Automated material handling systems are known by different names and acronyms such as AMHS (Automated Material Handling System), ATS (Automated Transport System), AMTS (Automated Material Transport System), etc. A myriad of technologies such as RFID, barcoding, optical character recognition (OCR), near field communication, or ultra-wideband indoor tracking is used to identify the material and detect the location of material or carrier for transport by the AHMS.
“Material handling equipment are extensively used in almost all manufacturing industries, such as cement, steel, sugar, automotive, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical & almost all the plants where high capacities are involved. But the issue today is that many industries are unorganized and they don’t intend to invest in automation which ultimately leads to their failure,” says Anoop Madan, Director, SPPL.
The Role of Automated Material Handling Systems
In order to detect material placed at a pick-up point by the operator and process the material identifier to find the next destination, an Automated Material Handling System leverages carrier and material tracking systems and then transports the material. Furthermore, AMHSs are most beneficial when the material information is minimum, available, and visible in the systems used by manufacturing staff, regardless of the type of transport.
Challenges in AMHS
Factors which are reshaping the landscape in manufacturing and logistics material handling equipment systems are urbanization, e-commerce, and mass personalization. However, while the supply chain for manufacturers and distributors are facing challenges that include a rise in analytics, multichannel fulfillment, talent shortages, and the implementation of new technologies such as wireless, AR, robotics, and M2M, there is a continued focus on cost reduction and sustainability, simultaneously.
The IIoT is bolstering a huge transformation since it increases the interconnection between connected devices and analytics and the smart manufacturing enterprise could open up opportunities to not only optimize efficiency but also ensure safety through networking and intuitive collaboration with its users.
Innovations in Automated Material Handling System
Intelligent machines - Machine builders and developers who are into creating intelligent equipment help end-users meet the ever-changing needs of consumers and can work with clients to design and deliver automated manufacturing and assembly machines leveraging advanced technologies. Therefore, organizations with advanced machine control can optimize operations, improve connectivity across the enterprise and obtain profitable growth.
Material Handling Equipment in Mining
Material handling equipment is one of the critical parts of the mining supply chain as it is highly essential for the movement, storage, and delivery of materials across the mine and acts as a link between the mine to the market. Mining companies come across multiple challenges when it comes to material handling in mining.
Material handling in mining is not easy, especially when you are working with large machines that carry large quantities of materials from one end to the other and this means that a problem upstream will cascade across the site and down the supply chain. Also, none of the mining companies are immune to the aforementioned challenges but for many taking variably out of the scenario is key.
In addition, material transfer is usually a complex task and without a fully automated system in place, operators are overburdened as they try to perform numerous tasks and manage multiple interfaces. And, with this continuous handoff happening at almost all phase of the chain, many companies are defenseless to unscheduled process delays, lack of standardization owing to operator variability and miscommunication.
The focal point for plant operations is the load controller and this means that during the busiest parts of their day, they would require to resolve multiple challenges simultaneously and the TLO operator can quickly become overburdened by all the sources of information that they need to consult and this is exactly where mistakes and delays start to pile up.
A Case in Point
Let us now look at how a major mining company overcame the challenges that existed for the TLO operation through a solution offered by one of the largest material handling equipment manufacturing company. The solution offered by the largest Industrial automation company was a Decision automation/execution management for material handling that was based on a comprehensive MES, which can facilitate in meeting productivity, quality, compliance, and cost-saving goals and a multi-disciplined control solution built mainly focusing on controllers and I/O and combined with attachment portfolios, that helped in delivering smart, productive and secure integrated architecture system.
The factors responsible for the growth of this include the increase in investment in infrastructure development, a surge in demand for higher automation, and the enablement of safe working practices in the manufacturing area.
Once the solution was implemented, it coordinated the resources in the customer’s mine, while the Execution Management (EM) automated the orchestration of the equipment decision-making process. The Execution Management performed this task by integrating with SAP and the site’s job management system to automatically convert a job into a list of all the tasks and equipment needed to correctly execute the job.
By integrating with existing control systems, EM aligns the pieces of equipment needed to complete the task and after this, the existing control system enables permission for the route and equipment. In the next phase, EM will constantly keep updating both the stockpile inventory management system and the SAP system on the job progress. And, EM will automatically relocate the equipment to the correct position for the next job, once the current job has been completed.
The solution offered by the company comprised two main components which were the production manager and Real-time execution management (REM). While the Production Manager defined the job number, job quantity, and type of material, the REM directed the production manager coordinating the start or completion of a job, measuring material consumption and material productions. Also, the role of REM is to command and orchestrate the automation system from each area, ensuring that all the operations will complete the job.
Optimizing asset ROI
The implementation of this solution was easy since EM integrates with the existing control system, which has helped in keeping all the existing control and safety systems remain in place. After installation, the benefits and merits of the implementations exceeded the company’s expectations and improvements to conformance scheduling were seen immediately based on a standardization of the most efficient operational processes for the site.
Not just that, the customer also observed a reduction in the workload and dependency on the operators and reduced unscheduled process delays and the solution resulted in an annual saving of USD 200 million for the company.
Future of Indian Automated Material Handling Equipment market
The Indian material handling sector has observed significant growth in recent years. The factors responsible for the growth of this include the increase in investment in infrastructure development, a surge in demand for higher automation, and the enablement of safe working practices in the manufacturing area. While industrialization is one of the major reasons for the Indian material handling equipment industry to have a promising future, there are various other reasons for the country to become a vital market for Material Handling Equipment. These include the increase in number of warehouses and container freight stations, which has resulted in the surge in demand for material handling equipment.