Big Picture: The state of automation

More companies are looking to materials handling automation to improve processes and lower operating costs. Modern asked 10 leading systems integrators what the future of automation might look like.

Conveyor and sortation systems are using software and controls to manage the flow of goods while distributing work in a way that eliminates bottlenecks.

By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
May 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial

Intelligrated: A question of balance
When it comes to distribution, multi-channel retailing is creating challenges and opportunities for automated materials handling. “I think of it as store front and front door fulfillment,” says Jerry Koch, director of corporate marketing and product management for Intelligrated. “You want the right mix of equipment and software to make decisions at the speed of the automation to have a positive effect on the day.”

The approach being pursued by Intelligrated, says Koch, is to use warehouse management and warehouse control software to manage the release and flow of orders in a way that balances the work in the building. The system not only gets materials to the shipping dock efficiently, it distributes the work in a manner that keeps everyone busy without creating bottlenecks. If one area of the facility becomes too busy, the system can redirect the flow of material to another area that has capacity and it can make those decisions dynamically in real time.

Looking forward, Koch and Intelligrated expect to see breakthroughs in robotics, especially as vision technologies mature. “This is an area where there are a lot of conversations going on with customers,” says Koch. “The driver is the cost and availability of labor. We expect to see this continue to pick up steam.”

About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Executive Editor

Bob Trebilcock, executive editor, has covered materials handling, technology and supply chain topics for Modern Materials Handling since 1984. More recently, Trebilcock became editorial director of Supply Chain Management Review. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

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