Canadian Manufacturing

Increase flexibility in material handling systems at your manufacturing plant

by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized   

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Single-use conveyor systems aren't the best way to ensure workplace efficiency and competitiveness.

Photo: iStock

A comprehensive material handling system is an essential component in many industries, but it becomes integral in sectors like manufacturing and logistics. It isn’t a facet of production that’s generally associated with flexibility. Single-use conveyor systems aren’t the best way to ensure workplace efficiency and competitiveness.

How can companies create a more flexible material handling system? Here are some of the main benefits of adoption.

Incorporating modular and multi-carrier systems

Instead of creating a singular material handling system for each facet of a manufacturing process, modular versions allow for flexibility to change, accelerate, slow or even move freely, depending on the company’s needs. They can also be placed anywhere or deployed independently.

Another benefit is that the advanced technology makes it easier to incorporate Industry 4.0, including IoT sensors that can monitor and control the flexible material handling system, making minor changes as necessary.


Shrinking the manufacturing footprint

Conveyors and other contemporary systems take up a lot of space. A flexible material handling system can be set up in nearly any configuration, reducing the amount of square footage needed to accomplish the same goal. This benefit will come in handy as the need for these items increases in urban areas where space is already at a premium.

Ditching the forklift

Forklifts are synonymous with material handling but aren’t always the best option. They can only carry one load of material at a time, and overloading the equipment increases the risk that it might tip. Forklifts caused 78 work-related deaths and 7,290 injuries leading to time off from work in 2020, so this is a very real concern.

A new technology uses mother and daughter carts. Daughter carts enable users to create trains of eight to 10 at a time, moving exponentially more material while rivaling forklifts in efficiency and maneuverability.

Reducing upgrade or change downtime

Modifying or changing a traditional system requires substantial downtime, which can get costly if things go wrong. Flexible methods allow most changes to be completed on the software level, so there’s no need to go offline for more than a few minutes. Implementation makes it easy to adjust a flexible material handling system for optimal efficiency and productivity in real-time.

Improving productivity

Material handling lives and breathes productivity. So many moving parts and components need to work together flawlessly that one hiccup can derail the entire process. Flexible systems ensure each element is at its assigned workstation precisely when it’s supposed to be. It helps eliminate micro stops between stations if something arrives too soon or departs too late.

If there are significant time differences between processing stations, these systems can keep things moving smoothly without allowing those problems to throw a wrench in the works.

Shaping the future of a flexible material handling system

Material handling is integral to manufacturing, logistics and many other industries. Keeping up with market demand means adopting a flexible system that can adjust to the ever-changing shape of consumer demands. Manufacturers that adopt this technology will reap the benefits of increased productivity, worker safety and greater profits.


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