Material Handling is that part of the logistics and supply chain industry that everyone knows is important, but often gets overlooked due to the notion of it being a mere support function. It can improve customer service by making products easy to find, move and ship out, thereby, cutting costs and time overruns by minimising product damage. It also ensures increased safety from permanent and temporary disabilities. Dive with us into the world of ultra-modern MHEs as Varun Chopra, Executive Chairman, Gear India – with over 22 years of global experience in Strategic and Operational P&L delivery across pharmaceuticals, consumer healthcare, retail and FMCG – talks about the basics and intricacies of the MHE segment.
Q] How would you define material handling as a core function of logistics management?
Material Handling is one of the most critical functions in Logistics & Supply Chain. MHE (Material Handling Equipment)plays a crucial role in driving efficiency in the movement of materials both at the RM (Raw Material) stage as well as FG (Finished Goods) stage across the supply chain i.e. Factories, Distribution Centers and Warehouses. A stoppage/breakdown in MHEs causes disruption in the entire supply chain, adversely impacting revenue & profits.
Q] What role does technology play in material handling?
The technology applies to multiple facets of MHEs i.e. Forklift usage, User convenience, Battery Management Systems (BMS), Improved Productivity and Safety. In fact, one of the major disruptions in the MHE industry is the use of lithium-ion batteries that not only deliver higher productivity (at lower operating costs and thereby higher ROI) but also have an opportunity charging facilities (charge whenever the MHE is not in use), and further emit zero emissions thereby helping customers to deliver on their net zero commitments (overall part of ESG).
But not all lithium-ion batteries are the same, I would recommend using lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries which deliver maximum performance along with the highest safety. GEAR has been privileged to partner with Vedanta in successfully executing the largest lithium-ion forklift fleet (of 27 forklifts) in the history of India at Vedanta Aluminum (Jharsuguda site).
Q] What are the essentials in the entire material handling process?
The most important fundamental is to “understand your customer’s requirements” – this typically entails a customer site visit, understanding the site details (i.e. factory or warehouse), mapping of all the processes of the customer that MHEs impact, technical study, engaging with the user team and logistics team to gauge their expectations, safety requirements and special requirements if any (i.e. cold storage, hazardous chemicals etc.) and last but not the least are the operators who will run the MHEs and whether they have been trained on both the operational aspects of the MHE and more importantly the safety aspects – all of these collectively have a bearing on the type of MHE that we would recommend.
This is an abridged version of the original interview published in the July edition of Logistics Insider magazine. To read the complete article, click here.