Material handling equipment: Moving forward India’s growth story

The online retail market has witnessed a CAGR of 53 per cent for the period 2013-2017. To support the e-commerce deliveries there are multiple warehouses present. Anil Lingayat says even though these warehouses are handles by trained staff, the operations are made seamless with the help of material handling equipment.
Material handling equipment: Moving forward India’s growth story
The online retail market has witnessed a CAGR of 53 per cent for the period 2013-2017. To support the e-commerce deliveries there are multiple warehouses present. Anil Lingayat says even though these warehouses are handles by trained staff, the operations are made seamless with the help of material handling equipment.
 
India remains on the cusp of a new exponential developmental phase and has already been crowned as the fastest growing large economy worldwide. Some sectors such as the online retail market have witnessed a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53 per cent for the period 2013 to 2017. To support the millions of e-commerce deliveries each day, huge warehouses have sprung up nationwide. These gigantic warehouses are managed by trained staff but the seamless operations wouldn’t have been possible without the usage of material handling equipment. 
 
The average turnaround time at India’s major ports has dropped from 82 hours to 64 hours in 2017-18, and the average output per ship berth day has increased from 14,583 tonne in 2016-17 and to 14,912 tonne in 2017-18. This achievement is commendable since it will provide 
an impetus to India’s trade as goods will now spend lesser time at ports. However, the reduction in turnaround time at India’s major ports would not have been possible without the efficiency of the material handling equipment.
 
In fact, material handling equipment touches upon almost every facet of our lives. From vegetables, fruits, clothes, furniture to construction materials or even shoes, material handling equipment is the silent player carrying them right from their manufacturing and transportation to warehousing and reaching the customer on time. Municipalities too, across India, use such machines to segregate waste and dispatch it to the selected landfill sites or recycling depots. 
 
The Government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative that focuses on spurring domestic manufacturing activity for the global marketplace is also connected to the usage of material handling equipment. It would be difficult for operations to run smoothly on the factory shop-floor without the usage of material handling equipment that helps in bringing in raw materials and transferring finished products within the premises. 
It is pertinent to point out that the usage of material handling equipment is expected to grow in line with India’s economic development. The exponential growth of sectors such as warehousing, logistics and transportation will provide further impetus to its growth in near future.  
As India’s economic activities progress, it will become necessary to employ more machines of this nature to enhance efficiency and productivity. However, the government and relevant industry bodies also need to step in and provide guidance in terms of product quality benchmarking, training manuals and safety aspects. This should fall under the ambit of overall off-road vehicle regulations and thereby bring in some semblance of guidelines for structured overall growth. There could also be regulatory intervention to ensure that machines become eco-friendlier and have a lower carbon footprint.
 
Regulatory intervention in terms of quality benchmarking is essential since the material handling industry has a large number of small and unorganised players providing dubious quality products at low prices. Such sub-standard products not only have higher lifecycle costs due to frequent machine break-downs but also pose a safety risk to lives and material. In addition, the after sales service need is a key for this product to ensure uptime and safety of equipment during its life cycle. Hence, it is only reasonable to seek a level playing field by qualitatively benchmarking material handling equipment so that customers can make informed purchase decisions.
 
Material handling equipment are critical to support India’s economic growth and therefore the nation cannot remain dependent on imports but needs to nurture the domestic industry. For this, the government needs to intervene through policy initiatives to dissuade the import of such material handling equipment, especially from nations that are infamous for low-cost dumping. 
 
A section of people might also point out the need for pushing widespread utilisation of such vehicles keeping in mind India’s vast pool of human resource and favourable demographics. However, it would be pertinent to point out that machines are operated by humans and not vice versa. Hence, a vast talent pool will still be required to manufacture, operate and maintain such material handling equipment. 
Additionally, the current manpower deployed for loading and unloading activities could be trained and utilised for higher skilled and productive tasks. The increased usage of such material handling equipment by trained staff will lead to enhanced productivity, thereby ensuring cost saving. This will provide India-made products a price edge in the highly competitive global arena.   
 
In conclusion, it would be pertinent to point out that India’s material handling equipment industry will definitely grow in sync with the increased pace of mechanisation and automation across sectors. However, this growth needs to be nurtured in the right direction through proper guidance and regulation so that it doesn’t go haphazard and hurt stakeholders over the course of time.
 
Anil Lingayat is Executive Vice President and Business Head at Goderej Material Handling. He joined Godrej in 1985 to handle sales and service of industrial products at an upcountry location and grew to handle marketing for machine tools for the western region. The later years saw Lingayat adding diverse experiences in production planning, manufacturing, product supply, sales etc., some of which were national level roles. He went on to head the Product Supply for Godrej Interio. Under his leadership, branch sales reached new highs, some of the biggest projects were executed, and factories were established, upgraded and modernised with robotic integration even. 
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