Material handling systems enable efficient order to deliver cycles and help companies cope with buying cultures that are in a continuous state of flux. Whatever the process may be, material handling plays a crucial role in the overall success of project execution. The world market for material handling equipment and systems is projected to increase more than 5 per cent per year and exceed $120 billion (including price increases), Confederation of Indian Industry says.

A recent study reveals that the Indian MHE industry is expected to grow steadily. The improvement in the Indian economy will result in accelerated demand for goods movement and create opportunities for suppliers of goods handling products and services of all types. The need for MHE is directly related to the amount of cargo and freight traffic. India will see a major pull in the demand for these equipment’s, says a report. Additionally, modern MHE plays a vital role in bagging PSU and government tenders.

With a wide production capacity base, India is perhaps the only developing country, which is totally self-reliant in such highly sophisticated equipment. This equipment perform a variety of functions like preparation of ground, excavation, haulage of material, dumping/laying in specified manner, material handling, road construction etc. This equipment is required for both mining and construction activity.

Economic conditions
Generally, healthy economic conditions will support gains in global material handling demand, especially in rapidly developing countries like China and India where rising manufacturing output and fixed investment will fuel growth. Most of the largest and most advanced material handling industries is located in advanced nations, particularly those that have large, well-developed home markets, technical expertise in manufacturing higher-value products and access to factors of production such as capital and labour supplies. However, China has become a major producer, benefiting from a low-cost wage pool and export opportunities to developing Asian economies.

Power, mining and manufacturing industries are driving up demand for material handling systems that enable them to reduce inventory levels and improved order to delivery cycles. Globalisation is propelling competitiveness and driving the development of newer and efficient material handling technologies in the market.

According to CII, the common trend in the material handling industry today is to build material handling equipment that is smaller yet smarter. Apart from this material handling equipment is being incorporated with immense electronic intelligence in the form of touch screen interfaces, distributed control functions that obviate the need for bulky control panels, upgraded software, and many more features.

Third party logistics
Once considered a total in-house operation, material handling is now being done by third party logistics (3PL) providers. Cross-company collaborations have increased with integrated supply chains and concurrent movement of goods and information.

Economic trends and the performance of the construction, power and manufacturing sectors are major factors affecting the dynamics of the material handling systems market. The developing economies of India and China, in particular, hold enormous potential for the market owing to the high economic growth rates and the burgeoning industrial products and consumer goods sectors. Growth in the thermal power sector will spike demand in the market for coal handling equipment.

Other industry segments are working toward actively pursuing lean practices, continuous improvement, and just-in-time production systems. In order to reduce complexity in material handling operations, warehouses are deploying integrated warehousing that is capable of handling thousands of varieties of stock keeping units, while reducing the overall complexity in customer delivery and distribution.

The resultant complexity in market segmentation has also enhanced the need for stringent tracking and tracing of product movement, which is also effectively done through the deployment of handling equipment. Going forward, green initiatives are poised to pick up steam in the material handling industry. To ensure greater uptake of material handling systems, new technologies must be developed to lower costs and improve ROI. Greater investments in research and development, and faster innovation rates are utmost necessities for the industry.

Chennai is emerging as a key market for material handling equipment with a spurt in the number of warehouses and container freight stations in and around the city. There are over 100 large warehouses and a few more are to come up in the next few months, according to sources in the industry. There are around 15 CFS in and around the city and a few more are expected to come up with Chennai Port emerging as a major container handling port. This will, in turn, boost the demand for MHE like forklifts, pallet trucks, stackers, order pickers and reach trucks. The Indian MHE market has been pegged at over Rs.5,000 crore with Larsen & Toubro Ltd and Godrej as major players.

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