Material Handling Automation: 5 Reasons Why It's So Important

Artjom Bil
Learn how Belden digital transformation experts can help you successfully implement automation in your material handling environment.

In material handling, efficiency matters. The industry’s latest technologies—from cobots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to automated storage and retrieval systems—prove just how important efficiency is to production, warehousing and planning processes.


Production facilities are getting ahead by optimizing existing processes through concepts like IoT and IT-OT convergence. IoT solutions facilitate the integration of IT and OT and enable machine and device networking so facilities can collect and analyze valuable data in real- time to eliminate delays, bottlenecks and downtime.


There are many reasons why automation is accelerating in material handling, but they all come down to this: establishing a more streamlined production process. Here are five ways that automation helps material handlers outperform the competition in a fast-paced market.


1. Increases output while reducing processing time

When compared to manual labor, automating workflows and processes helps warehouses handle large volumes at faster rates so they can process, move and store products more quickly, which reduces processing time while increasing output, boosting order fulfillment capabilities and decreasing costs. 

2. Makes work environments safer

Automated material handling systems, such as automated storage and retrieval systems or automated forklifts, can handle tasks that are typically deemed difficult, dull, dirty and/or dangerous. These could range from lifting heavy objects to performing repetitive, uncomfortable tasks.

This relieves employees from having to perform dangerous or physically demanding work, which, in turn, reduces the risk of workplace injuries, strains or accidents—and reduces stress, too, which can positively influence productivity and efficiency. It also lowers the risk of errors or defects. 


3. Ensures better quality control

Automation in material handling helps identify products that fail to meet predetermined quality standards before they’re shipped to customers. This provides another layer of quality assurance and can also reduce potential fallout that results from product recalls.


The right technology can also provide real-time data and analytics on product defects to help material handlers continue to improve quality over time. For example, to address potential problems quickly, data can reveal specific areas or groups of workers that need improvement or training.



4. Reduces labor costs and requirements

It’s no secret that the talent shortage has impacted material handling. A recent survey of 2,000 supply chain leaders reveals that over half identify hiring and retaining qualified workers as their biggest challenge, followed closely by the talent shortage.


Automation is one way to close this gap to keep material handling processes moving—even when it’s a struggle to find workers. By stepping in to perform tasks that typically require workers to complete, such as picking or driving a forklift, automation in material handling can also reduce labor costs and decrease the number of workers required for certain jobs.By automating routine tasks, employees can focus on more complex projects that require their specialized skills and knowledge.


5. Optimizes square footage

When automation is woven into material handling practices, it’s often easier to take advantage of vertical space: materials can be stored higher and stacked on top of each other.


It’s also not necessary to leave as much “empty” space for workers to walk through and maneuver equipment.


By freeing up space, material handlers can expand without investing in more square footage—or they can bring on more value-add services.


Start your digitization journey

As material handling automation moves into the mainstream, it also creates new challenges for leaders in these environments: increased complexity, the need to keep up with maintenance and the importance of protecting against cyber threats, to name just a few.


To take advantage of automation, material handlers need to make sure they have expertise and experience in digital transformation. This insight can come from in-house teams or a trusted third-party expert.


To help you achieve maximum efficiency and value, Belden can serve as your digital transformation expert. We’ve mapped five design elements that are crucial to successfully connecting warehouse assets and workers to create an automated material handling environment:

  • Connect fixed assets
  • Add mobile assets
  • Build the backbone network
  • Enable remote connectivity
  • Visualize and manage dataflow


We can help you design a robust network to support your automated warehouse, allowing you to futureproof infrastructure, gain visibility into your workforce and processes, and track, store and ship more goods to reduce labor and facility costs.





Related resources:

Create Your Own Path to an Automated Warehouse

Material Handling Networks: Solutions for Poor Performance

Futureproof Technologies for Material Handling: It All Starts with the Network