Material handling is a major component of any manufacturing or logistics firm. This process has a long history and continues to expand – its European market is estimated to be valued at US$56.483 billion in 2025, a rise of US$12.22 billion compared to 2019. All leading industries use material handling techniques to transport, store, control, and enumerate their products and materials at different stages of the supply chain. As improvements in robotics and machine programming continue to advance, automated material handling is steadily replacing manual processes. If you are planning to embark on or improve a material handling project, we are excited to talk about autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) as an option.
Benefits of automation in material handling
The impact of Industry 4.0 in material handling is evident in the increasing application of AMR technology in the area. Users of this automation solution report a range of benefits that include:
Likely, the main reason why you might introduce a new material handling solution in your facility is the need to reduce costs. Most industries spend a lot on materials in their procurement, storage, and movement monitoring. A timely supply of different materials for the manufacturing or production process is essential. Automated material handling via AMRs comes in handy in enhancing the quality of results, so there is less need for recalls and reworks, saving costs in the long run.
Less material wastage
Adopting automation in material handling processes can be an effective step in realizing a remarkable reduction in material waste. Sometimes, when a facility has outdated or mainly manual logistics, some materials can get lost in storage or during transportation. Automating material handling ensures that wastage of materials is minimized during the material handling process.
Better working conditions
In the past, the majority of material handling was executed manually. Workers had to perform these tasks themselves, which could be strenuous and pose risks to health and safety. Now that automation and material handling are merging, material handling can be supported e.g. by AMRs and thus, people can work more confidently under improved working conditions. AMRs also take care of repetitive work, letting workers tackle other areas that need human intervention more.
Robots for different operations
For a long time, material handling operations such as palletizing and kitting have been performed by different systems (both manual and automated). Current automation solutions provide a lot of flexibility since modern AMRs can be connected to these systems and thus become an essential element in logistics processes. They automate flows with multiple origins and destinations, handle different types of references, and much more. AMR ABB Robotics's material handling solutions are designed to automate line operations, kitting and auxiliary flows. With these solutions, you can:
- Deliver and pick up raw materials, finished products and in-process products on conveyor belts. They can also handle empty pallets and interface with wrappers, labelers, palletizers and automated warehouses
- Prepare kits of related items that are supplied at the same time and let the AMRs take care of their transport, thus streamlining manufacturing or picking processes.
- Supply auxiliary materials, such as cardboard, plastics, or handle containers with non-conforming items or waste products.
AMRs can now achieve a lot in your material handling requirements including:
Line supply and kitting
AMRs for material handling can be part of kitting processes and line supply. Kitting is a popular concept where related items can be collected and supplied together for the assembly of a given product or package. A transport robot can collect containers filled with parts of different sizes and weights needed for accurate assembly, and take them to and from multiple destinations and origins. In logistics trains, they can transport several loads at the same time over long distances. Our Tractor AMRs are able to overcome slopes and carry out the transport of merchandise safely and accurately. Production line supply is a fundamental requirement for the facility. A quality AMR for material handling can also enhance line supply for a smooth production process. It ensures the continuous and timely availability of the different components and materials in the production line.
In years past, manual material handling was the only option for material and component movement across different processes. Forklifts and carts were prominent in inter-process connection. However, thanks to AMRs, operators no longer need to lose production time on manual transports and can remain focused on value-adding tasks. AMRs guarantee a fluid and constant supply so that the production flow is uninterrupted and there are no waiting times. To fully determine the likely benefits of AMRs for your material handling, a first step is to measure areas that need improvement. For inter-process connection, the flexibility and ease with which different workstations connect matter a lot. Applying AMRs in your logistics or production processes can help you realize a smooth operation like never before.
End-of-line material handling is one of the best areas to implement AMRs in in a distribution or manufacturing facility. Alongside processing operations, end-of-line handling has been the most popular application for robotic intervention in recent years, according to a PMMI Business Intelligence report. Typically, this is the point where a lot of transport processes happen, as AMRs can pick up the finished product from the palletizer and transport it to the packaging machines, warehouse or shipping bays. But that's not all: an AMR can also supply auxiliary materials, pick up defective items or transport empty containers. Most end-of-line material handling operations are repetitive in nature. Human operators are not only exposed to strain injury risk but also engaged in monotonous activities when they could be performing more complex jobs. AMRs can take up those tasks, help prevent injury, and increase your bottom line. If your facility already has structures like conveyor cells, robotic cells, or strapping systems, an AMR solution can easily integrate. Many of AMR ABB Robotics’s solutions require little to no infrastructure changes. Applying this solution in all sorts of end-of-line handling offers a marked improvements in your shipping, warehouse, and production operations.
Palletizing involves the storage and transportation of items in a pallet. It is a standardized method of handling items with forklifts and other typical mechanical devices. AMRs for material handling introduce automation in the transportation of pallets of different types, sizes, and shapes within a facility. We have different AMRs to transport pallets. We have our range of Forklift AMRs that are available in stacking and counterbalanced mechanics and can integrate different masts for different heights and weights: our wide range of unmatched AMRs is capable of transporting and storing all types of pallets, double pallets, empty pallets, containers of all sizes and reels. With our Forklift line, you can manage your reception and shipment, line operations and vertical operations.
Like the rest of the applications of AMRs in material handling, pallet handling offers several other benefits to your business. It can solve workforce shortages and allow employees to focus on other, more specialized tasks. Automation via robots is also an effective means of handling the rise in product demand, for instance in the food industry.
Pallets are mostly the last point for a product before it proceeds to the supply chain, so they are essential for product traceability. We are able to automate pallet handling through our EBOT range, which can transport loads of up to 600 kg and integrate a pallet conveyor interface. This range of mobile robots can operate easily even in confined spaces or narrow aisles. For heavier loads, AMR ABB Robotics has developed our Forklift line.
With AMRs in a facility, tracking a transported item’s progress can be automated as well, allowing greater process monitoring to ensure proper logistics and distribution, and eventual arrival of the product to the intended destination.
Understanding Your Material Handling Needs
If you are interested in automating repetitive tasks in your material handling to enhance efficiency, AMR ABB Robotics offers a wide portfolio of options for you. With over 40 years of experience, the company has an expansive range of robots that include load carriers, towing vehicles and forklift AMRs. Our systems experts can help you differentiate the technologies we offer and choose the one that best suits your material handling needs.