Respondents to a recent survey believe that technology will become increasingly important in material handling, yet most are taking their time to adopt automation.
The survey, conducted by lift truck maker Crown Equipment Corp., polled 556 executives involved in the purchase of material handling equipment about their perception of emerging technologies. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents said the material handling industry would become more reliant on technology over the next five years. The survey indicated that the industry increasingly is looking to new technologies to drive down costs, which was cited by 71 percent of the respondents as the biggest material handling challenge facing their organizations.
But respondents were not equally accepting of all technologies. Forklift fleet management solutions were ranked the highest (40.4 percent), with automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) a distant second (32.5 percent).
Despite its top ranking, many respondents have been slow to adopt forklift fleet management technology. Only 7 percent of respondents said they are actively evaluating solutions. Meanwhile, 22 percent said they are interested in fleet management technology but do not have immediate plans for implementation.
The responses also revealed that adoption of technologies that automate forklift-related material handling tasks, such as "driverless" forklifts, is limited to a small portion of the industry. Twenty-six percent of respondents indicated interest in the topic but did not have immediate plans to implement a solution. Fifty-four percent of respondents either had no interest in the technology or were not familiar with it.
"There is a lot we can learn about the pace of adoption of automation-related products from how the industry is incorporating forklift fleet and operator management technologies," said Crown Equipment Senior Vice President Tim Quellhorst in a statement. If automation is to realize its full potential, material handling companies will have to work closely with early adopters to understand the technology's benefits as well as its shortcomings, he said.
To ensure more successful adoption of material handling technologies, Quellhorst said, providers will have to "present customers with an implementation roadmap that does not constrain them from adjusting to unforeseen business changes."