Manufacturing processes and technology look nothing today like they did 40 or 50 years ago. Automation has largely replaced manual processes, creating dramatic leaps in productivity, accuracy, and throughput.
Yet, the intralogistics processes that support manufacturing, in many cases, look exactly like they did 40 years ago. The processes for receiving, storing and transporting materials and parts to and from the various stages of manufacturing continue to use the same legacy systems and processes that have been in place for decades.
This is partly because manufacturing automation has been an all-consuming proposition for many organizations. With all available resources focused on manufacturing, production intralogistics processes were left behind.
In addition, until recently, the intralogistics solutions available for enhancing material control and movement were often expensive and inflexible. They were difficult to adapt to new model launches and product changeovers and therefore posed a business risk. Instead of making investments that might prove inflexible in the near future, production intralogistics systems in manufacturing were designed with an “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” approach, trading off efficiency for flexibility.
But the production intralogistics process, if not technically “broken,” is highly inefficient. Manufacturers lack the visibility to effectively manage and control the inventory that manufacturing processes depend on. As a result, they are forced to compensate by overinvesting in production equipment and personnel and carrying excess inventory.
This waste of resources is becoming increasingly unacceptable in today’s hypercompetitive, dynamic markets. Moreover, fundamental changes have occurred in material handling technology: inflexible automation systems have been displaced by modular, flexible technology that is ideally suited to the challenges of production intralogistics.
Today’s warehouses and distribution centers routinely have full visibility into a product as it moves through the warehouse.