3 Material Handling Trends for 2015

Tom Reddon, National Forklift Exchange

For those in the material handling industry, staying ahead of the game means not only having efficient operators (and forklifts), but also upgrading to new material handling tools and resources to outpace competitors in innovation and workplace productivity. Because 2015 is another competitive year for people in the material handling industry, warehouses and employers alike should educate themselves about trending material handling tools and leverage them to their favor.

More Robots on the Job

From manpower to machine power, the forklifts you see driving around the warehouse may no longer have an operator on the seat. Automatic forklifts are designed to perform jobs without human operation. While robots in 2014 were made to unload packages from a machine and deposit them on a conveyor, the 2015 models are ready to pick out packages autonomously. As Modern Material Handling reports, "The next evolution is robots that can replace people in mundane, labor-intensive and error-prone activities like picking pieces from a bin and into a tote in a pick zone and then moving that tote to a conveyor."

Improved Safety and Productivity

Along with developing robots that can perform human jobs with equal (or perhaps greater) efficiency and accuracy, innovations in the material handling industry will also place a heavy emphasis on workplace safety and productivity. For example, the invention of automatic height-adjusting carts have enabled operators to work at optimal heights without aids from electrical, hydraulic or pneumatic hook-ups. When it comes to new forklift attachments, pneumatic scissor lift and rotate systems can effectively eliminate the strains and hazards associated with handling a pallet and placing products into the pallet simultaneously. This invention optimizes workplace safety and worker ergonomics, allowing all forklift operators to safely manage multiple material handling processes with greater efficiency and precision.  

More Efficient Data Assessment and Management Tools

As companies seek to gain a competitive edge in the global economy, delivering accurate and efficient material handling services will become more important than ever. A number of automatic data-capture products have entered the market to help those in the material handling industry track work progress, record data and use it for future projections. Mobile voice computers enable operators to record data in frozen and refrigerated environments. Certain mobile dimensioning devices can seamlessly transfer measurement data using a complete parcel data profile. With these tools, warehouse employees can send information wirelessly from the forklift or floor to virtually anywhere.

As technology continues to make material handling safer and more efficient, employers in the industry are encouraged to find better ways to increase their talent-retention rate, upgrade their forklifts and accessories, and gain better control over their supply chain software and data systems. It’s all about doing more with less. The company that hits the jackpot first likely will find many golden opportunities.

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About the Author

Tom Reddon is a forklift specialist and blog manager for the National Forklift Exchange. He also sits on the executive dialogue team of the Mate...