The state of automation in materials handling

Despite the recession, our industry is reaching an inflection point for automation.
image
By Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor
December 15, 2010 - MMH Editorial

In August, Modern featured Office Depot’s new distribution center in Newville, Pa., on the cover. At the heart of the DC is an integrated piece-picking solution that combines mobile robots for high-density storage and conveyance; light-directed picking to ensure that the associate picks the right item; and a high-speed conveyor and sortation system to get the product to the packing zone.

While this level of automation has been common on high-speed assembly lines for years, it represents a new level of sophistication in distribution. Although the technology allows Office Depot to get a significant amount of throughput from a relatively small labor force, labor savings within the four walls of the DC wasn’t the primary driver behind choosing a highly automated system.

Rather, the solution represents a broader supply chain play; it is an enabling technology that will allow Office Depot to completely retool the way inventory is replenished at the stores serviced by that DC. “We believe that the future belongs to the brave,” Brent Beabout, Office Depot’s vice president of global network strategy and transportation, told Modern. “We are in a commodity business and the supply chain is a differentiator. We plan to be on the front end of that.”



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.


Subscribe to Logistics Management magazine

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your
entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Recent Entries

Putting the renewed strength in the truckload market into a very positive perspective is a report issued by Avondale Partners analyst Donald Broughton, which was released yesterday. Entitled, “Q2’15 Trucking Capacity; Goldilocks Era Continues,” Broughton explained that in the second quarter only 70 truckload fleets failed, or exited the business. That number may seem high to some, but it is not, especially when you consider that the second quarter of 2014 saw more than five times as many truckload carriers, 375 to be exact, exit the business.

Global demand remains stable as packaging equipment providers of all sizes shift focus

Six straight days without a ship waiting for berth

Freight forwarders were relieved to learn yesterday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be delaying its Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) implementation.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) August edition of the Manufacturing Report on Business saw its PMI, the ISM’s index to measure growth, fall 1.6 percent to 51.1, following a 0.8 percent decline to 52.7 in July. Even with the relatively slow growth over the last two months, the PI has been at 50 or higher for 31 consecutive months.

Comments

Post a comment
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.