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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Linde Material Handling: bridging the gap

Accelerated automation is leading the response to intralogistics movements across the FMCG sector

Labour shortages are still among the biggest concerns for the FMCG sector, especially when it comes to ensuring their goods are indeed moving fast enough through their logistics operations.

Many will be accelerating plans for automation in response to recruitment and retention difficulties, whilst also eyeing the cost savings and greater efficiencies they can achieve, not least around carbon emissions.

Companies no longer need persuading of the benefits of equipping warehouses with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous technologies, according to Kenny Watson, Senior Manager – Intralogistics Solutions, at Linde Material Handling UK.

“So huge is the appetite for automation now that my role has largely been transformed into one of supporting rather than convincing,” he said.

“Faced with the tightest of labour markets and rising wage rates not to mention stringent carbon-free targets, organisations are telling me: ‘We have to do something – we have no choice.’

“They might need 100 people to work in the warehouse but it’s dawning on them that they can recruit only 60. Where are the other 40 coming from? Can automated warehouse systems bridge that gap?”

Watson stresses the need to plan – not act in haste. To gain the full benefits and return on investment in automation, especially in transforming a wholly manual operation to one operating with industrial robots, leaders of FMCG companies need to be looking up to two years ahead.

He adds: “That can be very challenging for organisations with pressing priorities but it’s what they need to do if they are to take full advantage of automation.”

Often overlooked is the need to get buy-in from their own people, from top to bottom of the organisation. The task is to make sure everybody understands why the business needs to automate and to embrace individuals who have a keen desire to make automation successful.

Meanwhile, to establish Linde MH as a ‘trusted partner’ in this process, Watson and his colleagues get to work understanding a company’s requirements and their plans up to five years ahead.

Watson explains: “Developing a solution that matches their need is extremely important, so we spend a lot of time looking at what they do and understanding their requirements.

“They will also discover that the busiest, most chaotic area of their warehouse doesn’t look like that in an automated world, even though it is handling 70 pallets, not 50. Worried about energy bills? We point out that fully automated warehouses do not need interior lighting.”

The solution has to work effectively for the customer, with minimum disruption. Linde MH can also help them with financial modelling and a supporting business case.

Other customers already using Linde MH automation technology are all too ready to share their experience, not least the carbon footprint benefit. Often, they find that automation is absorbing growth rather than reducing headcount.


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