The recent boom of developing economies has done great things for many manufacturing industries, and created work for millions (if not billions…we don’t have the figures) of people. An increased demand for labour in these countries, as well as in developed nations who have helped to support growing economies with much needed products, has seen an increase in labour costs for many businesses. As a result, automation is receiving greater attention than ever as manufacturers try to cut costs and increase margins.
Automated truck loading systems (ATLS) are one area of great interest for businesses who are hoping to reduce their costs (read: human workforce) and increase their efficiency. It represents a key area of interest for transport and logistics firms, who are hoping to meet the needs of their clients with increased efficiency.
So, what is automated truck loading, you may ask? Well, as the name suggests, these systems mechanise the loading and unloading of trucks in order to streamline the materials handling process. Many industries benefit from these kinds of systems, including automotive, food and beverage, and appliance manufacturers.
The benefits of an ATLS include:
- Reduced man hours in the materials handling process
- Better ergonomics for workers (no heavy lifting, less repetitive movement)
- Reduced loading and unloading times
- Increased trailer/truck loading capacity (no wheeled containers necessary)
- Safer working environment due to less human input and fewer forklifts required
- Reduced turnaround times for delivery of goods
- Increased capacity
With quicker loading times, fewer people on hand and less chance of accident or injury, the efficiency benefits for business is clear. As is always the case though, the acquisition and implementation of these kinds of technologies can be prohibitive in cost. Despite this, the industry has seen some encouraging growth over the last year.
A report released by Stratistics MRC, the ATLS market is expected to grow by a CAGR (compound annual growth rate, for the non-accountants out there) of 9.5%. The industry was worth around $1.52 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow to $2.88 by 2022.
ICA (Industrial Conveying Australia) have long considered transport vehicles to be an overlooked area of the supply chain, in terms of innovation and its potential to increase efficiency. Their recent developments in ATLS focus on simplifying the loading and unloading process to help businesses innovate and improve their bottom line. It’s not a piece-by-piece kind of solution though, as managing director Don Erskine explains via Industry Update Manufacturing Magazine and Directory:
“Complete integration is the key to a successful outcome. Many companies are relying on a piecemeal approach, adding bits and pieces of solutions over time, yet the entire handling system can be fully integrated in one go to provide a smooth, lasting and very profitable logistics system.”
As the Stratistics MRC report suggests, cost is holding back the growth of the ATLs industry. Not only the costs associated with purchasing the new systems, but also in the costs and margins within the manufacturing business on the whole. Europe is, so far, the largest adopter of this technology due to the large scale of their manufacturing operations. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that as the technology improves and becomes more affordable, more manufacturers and material movement firms will begin to adopt the systems which streamline their operations like ATLS does. For those who can afford to be early-adopters, there’s a competitive advantage to be had.