Automation reshaping cold chain logistics 


According to Neville Mevawala, Head of Sales & Marketing, Godrej Material Handling, Godrej & Boyce, the Indian cold chain logistics sector is growing as the demand for temperature-sensitive products surges. Innovative solutions, from robotics to green logistics, are reshaping operations to meet stringent standards and consumer expectations.

How are businesses adapting their cold chain logistics to meet the increasing demands for product integrity, safety, and transparency?

The country’s cold chain logistics sector is poised for remarkable growth, as evidenced by projections from a study conducted by Mordor Intelligence. According to their findings, the market is anticipated to burgeon from $11.64 billion in 2024 to $18.19 billion by 2029. This robust expansion is being propelled by a confluence of factors reshaping the industry landscape.

Firstly, there is an undeniable surge in demand for temperature-sensitive commodities such as pharmaceuticals, perishable foods, and beverages. Ensuring the precise maintenance of optimal temperatures throughout the supply chain has become imperative for preserving product integrity and extending shelf life. 

Moreover, heightened consumer consciousness regarding food safety and quality is undergoing a fundamental shift in purchasing behaviours. Modern consumers are more discerning about consumed products and expect fresher, healthier, and safer offerings. This growing demand for transparency and assurance has spurred producers, distributors, and retailers to embrace cold chain logistics as an indispensable component of their operations.

In tandem, regulatory bodies are tightening their scrutiny, emphasising the importance of adherence to quality standards and safety protocols. Businesses are thus compelled to fortify their cold chain infrastructure to comply with evolving regulatory frameworks, further fuelling investment in advanced technologies and best practices.

Please discuss new technologies to handle increasing logistics requirements in the country.

Robotics and automation technologies are transforming warehouse operations, making them more efficient and scalable. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotic arms, and automated sorting systems streamline order picking, packing, and inventory management processes. Warehouse automation reduces labour costs, increases throughput, and enhances order accuracy in logistics fulfilment centres.

With increasing environmental concerns, green logistics solutions are gaining traction in India. Electric and hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, and energy-efficient logistics practices are adopted to minimise carbon emissions and environmental impact. The electric forklift is gaining far more acceptance than earlier in the Good & Green lineup, and it is committed to giving customers a more effective and advanced technology experience. Electric forklifts offer lower operating expenses than diesel forklift trucks by as much as 20% and are more manoeuvrable and adaptable. Our product lineup comprises a diverse selection of sustainable material-handling equipment that caters to operational requirements. Our offerings include electric forklifts, reach trucks, double deep reach trucks with refrigeration capability, and battery-operated pallet trucks.

The multi-locational warehouses across the country and various equipment in a single warehouse make it difficult for the customer at the central level to access the effectiveness and efficiency of the equipment. IOT-ready electric equipment facilitates customers’ checking on the usage, performance, and safety of equipment remotely.

Please suggest automation solutions to meet the rising demands of e-commerce within warehousing and logistics operations.

Leveraging cutting-edge automation innovations is paramount to meet the surging demands of e-commerce in warehousing and logistics. Technologies such as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and robotic fulfilment systems offer transformative opportunities to enhance operational efficiency, scalability, and responsiveness to customer needs. AGVs autonomously navigate warehouse premises, optimising goods movement and reducing reliance on manual labour. In tandem, robotic fulfilment systems, including collaborative robots (cobots), excel in critical tasks like picking, sorting, and packing. It is bolstering throughput and adaptability in high-volume e-commerce environments. Integrating automated sorting and pick-to-light/put-to-light systems further refine order fulfilment processes, ensuring heightened speed, accuracy, and error minimisation.

In line with this, we are doubling our investments in technology across various stages of operations at Godrej Material Handling, encompassing manufacturing, sales, and sustainability throughout its value chain. The implementation of Salesforce CRM has yielded a 10% increase in user experience efficiency, underscoring commitment to technological advancement. With plans to expand the capacity by fourfold, we stand poised to meet the escalating demand growth from the e-commerce industry.

What initiatives are needed to strengthen logistics business in India?

A multifaceted approach is imperative to fortify India’s logistics sector. Firstly, substantial investment in infrastructure development is paramount. It enhances and expands multimodal transportation infrastructure, spanning ports, airports, railways, and highways. By bolstering connectivity and efficiency in cargo movement, these endeavours hold the potential to substantially diminish transit times and logistics costs, thereby strengthening the competitive edge of Indian businesses on the global stage.

Simultaneously, prioritising skill development and training programs is crucial to alleviate the shortage of skilled workforce within the logistics industry. Offering comprehensive training for truck drivers, warehouse operators, freight forwarders, and supply chain managers is essential. Such initiatives enhance productivity and safety standards and elevate professionalism across logistics operations, thereby augmenting logistics services’ overall efficiency and reliability nationwide.

Furthermore, embracing technological advancements is pivotal in modernising the logistics sector. Encouraging the widespread adoption of digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing holds transformative potential for logistics processes, enhancing transparency, efficiency, and responsiveness to customer demands.

Lastly, initiatives aimed at enhancing last-mile connectivity, particularly in urban and rural areas, are indispensable for ensuring the timely and cost-effective delivery of goods to end customers. Addressing this aspect of logistics infrastructure is essential for overcoming logistical challenges associated with congested urban environments and remote rural locales, ultimately fostering accessibility and efficiency within the logistics ecosystem.

The importance of palletisation and standard pallets are also important factors in increasing efficiency and reducing current double-digit logistics costs to a single day of 7-8% in line with global standards. This will also drive the standardisation of lorries that transfer goods across the country.

What is your opinion about future material handling systems?

The future of material handling systems will undoubtedly pivot towards innovative solutions tailored to meet these evolving needs. Automation and robotics are poised to take centre stage, offering streamlined warehouse operations and reducing reliance on manual labour. 

Advanced sorting and conveyor systems will enhance throughput and order accuracy within distribution centres. These systems will incorporate intelligent sorting algorithms and dynamic routing capabilities to efficiently manage high-order volumes.

Counterbalance forklifts are traditional equipment used across warehouses. With the increase of e-commerce, 3-PL, where throughput and safety become an important factor, there is an increase in demand for specific equipment required for staging, picking, stacking, and moving. In line with this, we also introduced Reach trucks with a height of up to 12m double deep reach trucks with industry-best duration capacities at second deep with heights up to 11.5m and are also working on bringing our existing products on new platforms which will be more efficient and in line with current changes in the customer’s requirements.

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