Eliminate manual intervention in materials handling

Companies investing in materials handling have as a chief aim the desire to eliminate manual intervention in as many parts of the process as possible while maintaining a cost effective functional solution.

According to materials handling technology specialist, Industrial Conveying, the key to maximising technological integration and production flow is to get this factor right at the design stage.

The company has been partnering businesses in most sectors — food, parcel and mail handling, warehousing and third-party logistics, transport and palletising — to maximise flow process at the design stage

Don Erskine, Industrial Conveying managing director, said providers will spend too little time on system design prior to commencement of manufacture.

“What we have found in this sector of materials handling is that although customers have a good idea of what they want they do not have the depth of materials handling experience,” said Erskine.

“Providers such as us should never offer a system without firstly evaluating the material flow to optimise the overall system design.”

According to Erskine, the first step in the equation is when we receive a detailed specification from the client; we spend time evaluating it from a technical and material flow point of view.

“Regardless of how good and suitable the first effort can appear, experience tells us that further improvements can always be made in the functionality and design of a materials handling system,” he said.

“For our clients, it is imperative they receive a detailed engineering presentation of exactly what we have to offer for their needs. It’s all about the materials handling flow and how it has been refined to work better in practice.

“For instance, it might take three or four refinements by our design engineers to find the optimum solution including areas such as control system, or how to gain equal or better performance and functionality from a more cost effective solution, operator locations, fork lift activity and isles, maintenance access, location of production equipment within building or perhaps types of operator HMI screens that are easier for users to understand.”

Erskine said that every time the client presents specifications of their requirements, the company spends a couple of weeks refining the system for better operation and cost efficiency.

“It gives them latitude to analyse and optimise all the technologies better integrated into the processes to provide the most timely and cost-friendly solution. And, by using a local facilitator of this knowledge, there is no delay, communications gap or cost factor which often arises when personnel have to fly in on an irregular basis from overseas.”

Human Machine Interface (HMI) is an example of a rapidly emerging technology that Industrial Conveying’s engineers have been able to integrate for clients who may have considered themselves not up to affording or managing such a system.

In a recent solution, the company supplied its client with a portable RF HMI PC Tablet. This tablet can be used by operators or maintenance personal from anywhere within the plant.

A HMI portable tablet enables the client to run individual conveys or sections of conveyors and receive performance feedback on that specific section. It provides a data about the section (such as alarm conditions or any fault, motor overload, or any other area of concern and it can be investigated in isolation without a shutdown).

Also, it provides a much safer working environment as the HMI tablet can be brought to the section in question and manually operate elements of the system to identify the problems.

“The ability to isolate problems instantly is just one example of the benefits of extra refinement in design,” said Erskine. “Overall, it is all about taking the client’s initial concept and refining the design to make it simpler and smarter, utilising the most intelligent arrangement of conveys powered by optimised software, motors, control, electrical systems and electronics. Companies in Australia making capital investments in materials handling technologies deserve that level of technical excellence. It is all a case of having the expertise to put in the right base processes and adding high-level technology as the design develops and matures.”

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