Discussions at the recent IMHX event in Birmingham reflect the common concerns experienced by materials handling professionals in all markets.
Mike Barton, managing director at exhibitor B&B Attachments, notes that the UK market faces the challenge of very long lead times for the delivery of forklifts.
He says despite the large number of orders, B&B’s main supply partner, Kaup, is still able to meet demand, “and this allows us to meet lead times for the industry”.
Jacques Valckenaere, EMEA vice president of sales for fleet management systems supplier GemOne, sees the labour shortage, rising fuel costs and the need for businesses to engage in digital transformation as the major issues at this time.
“Fleet and safety management solutions go a long way to alleviating these challenges, and provide a huge opportunity for businesses to make their fleets safer and more efficient,” he adds.
Craig Whitehouse, managing director of Invar Group, notes the impact of a technological revolution in the warehouse. “AI and robotics are transforming operational performance, particularly around dense storage, order assembly and packing,” he says.
“High CapEx automation, where conveyors and shuttles are bolted to the floor, is no longer seen as flexible enough for the fast-changing world of e-commerce and logistics. Agile systems such as AMRs combined with intelligent software and pick-to-light technology can boost order picking performance from under 100 units per hour, using traditional methods, to up to 600 picks per hour.”
John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle, sees the shopping changes associated with COVID-19 as a major factor altering the way goods are stored, picked and moved .
“The switch to online shopping has prompted retailers and their logistics partners to radically rethink and quickly adapt well-established working practices.
“Higher throughputs, greater picking accuracy and increased emphasis on break bulk picking at ground and first level are now the key goals at many SME sites. As a result, the type of materials handling equipment used within the modern order-picking environment is changing,” he explains, adding that this has created opportunities for his company and its products globally.
Combilift co-founder Martin McVicar stresses that the UK market is not isolated from the growing concerns over consumer confidence that are widespread right now.
“Energy costs and rising inflation will be sure to impact the economy, and the knock-on effect for the materials handling industry will be felt. However, as our customers focus on cost saving, the space-saving benefits that Combilift’s materials handling solutions provide will be seen as more than just benefits, but vital necessities for reducing costs wherever possible.”
Besides the changes in the retail sector, McVicar also cites changes within the construction sector, where the continued demand for affordable housing has seen a surge in new offsite construction and modular manufacturing companies – all of whom will need solutions for handling long loads.
“It is inevitable there will be challenges on the horizon for the materials handling market in general, but with our order book at the largest it has ever been, we are very optimistic that demand for Combilift trucks will continue to grow,” he adds.
To read last week's report on IMHX, click here.