Following a visit to the IMHX, having discussions with exhibitors and visitors alike, I would like to summarise the current state of warehouse automation as follows:
Autonomous MHE are reaching maturity with a full spectrum of truck types available, such as pallet movers, tugs and reach trucks. All major MHE suppliers offer autonomous trucks and are investing in support for the increasing number of UK installations. The current models which are based on their manual counterparts, offer a migratory path to fully autonomous operations.
Automated storage and retrieval systems have seen a broadening of pick-to-man methods with the introduction of carrier robots and a variety of tote based systems. The latter serviced by cranes, shuttles or robots. The supplier base is also widening with multiple suppliers offering the full spectrum of storage methods.
However wide the choice of options, the consensus amongst suppliers was that selecting the most appropriate storage method and technology is driven by understanding the volumetric profile of a warehouse operation.
In the interest of balance, not all elements of the future supply chain are hi-tech, as demonstrated by the carton pallets and storage units on show. A sustainable and lightweight alternative to plastic pallets.
Eddy de Jong