Operational Performance & Investment Plans In Warehousing, Distribution & Manufacturing

The Automation Alliance of Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) has released the fifth in a series of Automation Reports titled Operational Performance and Investment Plans In Warehousing, Distribution and Manufacturing. This study provides a snapshot of the current state of automation in manufacturing and distribution today and plans for investments in the immediate future.

Looking over the survey as a whole, several key takeaways important to the material handling, supply chain and logistics industry emerge:

  • Cost savings, improved efficiencies and accuracy/speed are the most important operational factors driving automation investments
  • Technologies that manufacturing and warehousing professionals believe will make a difference in their facilities include RFID, voice picking, automated storage, robotics and software.
  • Warehousing/distribution respondants indicate that order accuracy is the most important performance indicator in evaluating their facility’s performance, followed by on-time delivery and order fill rates.
  • Manufacturing respondents indicate that on-time delivers, order accuracy and throughput are the top three performance indicators.
  • Seventy-four percent (74%) of respondents indicate they are planning or considering an automation project
  • The most important factors impacting their operations over the next 12 months are customer demand levels (79%), customer requirements and mandates (70%), operational excellence goals (66%), internal cost constraints (63%) and new product requirements (46%). Those are followed closely by sustainability (44%) and government regulations (39%).

When it comes to planned capital equipment investments, traditional material handling products such as rack, shelving and lift trucks top the list of planned expenditures during the next 12 months. Still, both manufacturers and warehouse/distribution professionals are planning to invest in automatic identification technologies, such as bar codes and RFID, dock equipment, conveyors and totes/containers.

Highly automated technologies are also in the mix. Some 22% of respondents plan to invest in automated storage technologies, 17% in AGVs, 16% in robots and approximately 12% in vertical lift modules and carousels. Similarly, more than 40% of respondents plan investments in supply chain software, including warehouse management systems (42%), labor/workforce management (33%), transportation management (31%), ERP (27%) and supply chain visibility solutions (25%).

The survey was completed in recently over lists compiled by DC Velocity, Modern Materials Handling, Material Handling & Logistics and MHIA. Affinity Research Solutions conducted the survey on behalf of the Automation Alliance.

A total of 383 qualified responses were received, including 254 (66%) respondents from warehousing/distribution and 129 (34%) from manufacturing.

The Automation Alliance includes several Industry Groups of MHIA. These groups include the Integrated Systems and Controls Council (ISC), the Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), Automatic Guided Vehicle Systems (AGVS), Conveyor & Sortation Systems (CSS), and Order Fulfillment Solutions (OFS) Industry Groups of MHIA. They supply systems worldwide and in virtually every major manufacturing and distribution sector.

A summary report of the survey results are available at: www.mhia.org/downloads/industrygroups/isc/technicalpapers/automation_summary10_12.pdf

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