Why Aging Material Handling Equipment Puts Your Distribution/Fullfilment Center at Risk

Scottish Government/Flickr
Scottish Government/Flickr

We spend a good deal of time in distribution / fulfillment centers and get a first hand view to how material handling systems are working. Our observations over the last several years are that the equipment components of today’s material handling systems (conveyors, pick to light, sortation etc.) are showing signs of aging.

To get further insights on what we have observed we surveyed a large number of distribution leaders about the state of their material handling systems.  We got the following information from the survey data:

  • The average age of company’s material handling systems was over 15 years.
  • Companies had an average of nearly 3 distribution operations with systems more than 15 years old.
  • 35% of all material handling systems are over 20 years old and having a system over 30 years old was not out of the question.

These results did not totally shock us, but they certainly concerned us. With systems this old the probability for excessive downtime is great and the chance for a complete system failure clearly exists. Depending on the robustness of your distribution network the downtime and failure could cost you significant lost sales, unsatisfied customers and increased operating costs. The failure of your system could put a DC/FC out of commission for an extended period of time.

This is a huge risk to take with potentially a lot at stake. Don’t make the mistake of assuming everything will be fine. Do a detailed assessment of the health of your material handling systems and consider improvements, upgrades and possibly replacements of equipment and controls. Hoping isn’t a good strategy when it comes to critical material handling systems.

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Bruce Tompkins

As the Executive Director of the Supply Chain Consortium, Bruce serves as a subject matter expert on topics spanning the supply chain, and he is the conference chairman and facilitator for the Consortium’s annual event – the Supply Chain Leadership Forum.
He has been quoted in numerous industry publications including Supply Chain Quarterly, IndustryWeek, SupplyChainBrain, and Appliance Magazine.