Edward Tong, operations director for Tong Peal, explains why businesses should invest now in automation as the economy picks up to reap the rewards and avoid growing pains
Being too busy is never a bad problem to have, so the saying goes. With The British Chamber of Commerce’s (BCC) recent prediction that the UK economy is set to overtake its pre-2008 peak this summer, each new story of recovery for UK PLC suggests that, finally, orders are picking up across the board.
The BCC predicts UK GDP will rise by 2.8% this year, as manufacturing shows positive growth and consumer confidence returns. Yet however welcome this recent upturn in business confidence may be after years of uncertainty, warehouse distribution and logistics managers right across the supply chain will no doubt be feeling the pressure.
The industry as a whole needs to equip itself with the most efficient, automated conveying machinery to keep up with a growing economy. Placing increased demand on outdated, inefficient or poorly performing machinery could potentially cause unwanted maintenance requirements as demand increases. Investing in improved automation to deliver larger volumes and throughputs is vital. However, meeting rising demand successfully is not only achieved through increasing capacity – it’s also done through removing limiting factors.
Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive for 2013 show that the warehouse distribution industry still hold the unwelcome top spot for the number of manual handling injuries – 2,000 last year alone. In 90% of cases, at least seven working days were lost.
Upgrading to conveying systems with greater automation is one way that businesses can reduce this risk to staff, limiting direct human involvement in the supply chain as far as possible.
Conveying lines for boxes, bags or crates, vehicle loading conveyors or box and tray handling lines can each remove another potential injury hotspot – bringing double benefits of contributing towards improving the industry’s wider safety record and increasing business profitability.
The cost of investing was once a stumbling block that held many companies back. However, new technologies are now reducing the length of payback periods on large conveying systems significantly.
The larger handling throughputs, improved reliability, reduced downtime and increased energy efficiency offered by the latest equipment can make a substantial difference to businesses’ bottom line.
For example, Tong Peal’s Blue Inverter Technology ensures that the variable-speed motors only pull the necessary amount of power needed at any given time, meaning minimal energy use for changeable load volumes. Since 2008, the long-term economic outlook has not filled the industry as a whole with the confidence it needs to commit to investing in large-scale conveying improvements. Now that the future’s looking considerably brighter, the cost to businesses of not doing so now could be considerable.