What are the main external factors affecting materials handling operations in the chemical supply chain? What are the industry trends that chemical handling applications should consider? Mark Nailer, Industry Manager for Hyster Europe, explains.
Firstly, where are businesses in the chemical industry using Hyster® materials handling equipment?
Businesses are utilising materials handling equipment at many different stages of the chemical supply chain, from raw materials transport, to dosing during manufacturing and the storage and distribution of finished goods, such as agrichemicals, paints and food additives. These applications rely on Hyster® lift trucks for efficiency, accuracy and a low cost of ownership.
They are also looking for support in overcoming other key challenges that affect the chemical industry.
How will reduced plastic usage affect the chemical supply chain?
Society, industry and government are increasingly looking for new ways to reduce plastic usage and production. For example, in the EU, a Directive (which comes into force in 2021) will ban certain single use plastics. The UK government also plans to introduce taxes on plastic packaging, while investing £40 million to support plastic reduction and increase recycling. Chemical applications will therefore need to optimise their operations going forward as plastic production accounts for more than one-third of the industry’s activity.
Will “Big Data” affect the chemical industry?
As a competitive industry, where organisations are always keen to be innovators, chemical manufacturers are now commonly integrating their operating systems with blockchain technology for increased efficiency and security. In the Logistics 4.0 landscape, businesses are also increasingly focused on capturing and analysing ‘big data’ to inform operations.
When it comes to materials handling in the chemical supply chain, this means that there is a greater need for data to feed into these systems. Many customers in the pharmaceutical, petrochemical and agrichemical businesses utilise Hyster Tracker telematics to provide essential data on operator performance, specific truck usage, fuel emissions, fleet location and idle time.
How will the chemical sector achieve cleaner and greener operations?
Many of our customers in the chemical sector are very committed to reducing their environmental impact and this is driving demand for zero-emissions electric lift trucks, particularly those powered by lithium-ion batteries.
Hydrogen and other gases can be produced by lead acid, which are unwelcome for operations looking to be ‘cleaner and greener’. Lithium-ion, on the other hand, has no acid which could spill and no fumes. It also offers other benefits in the right application, including reduced maintenance, lower total battery costs and simpler operations thanks to opportunity charging.
While fossil fuels and batteries are still the choice of most, in certain applications with the right infrastructure, fuel cells may be a more suitable power option. Hyster Europe, alongside fuel cell manufacturer Nuvera, is currently developing solutions for customers in the chemical industry.
Can applications combat ever-changing oil prices?
Certainty in materials handling is highly important for our customers in the chemical sector. But unfortunately, raw materials logistics can be unpredictable, especially with ever-changing oil prices.
One thing industrial chemical applications can continue to rely on is their Hyster® lift trucks, which offer consistent cost and operational efficiencies. What’s more, as variables and operational needs change, the global network of local Hyster® dealers can provide short term rental agreements that can enable fleets to adapt as quickly as needed. Where budgets are always high on the agenda, this can also help organisations to more effectively manage their capital expenditure.
Will the “rise of the robots” impact the way we handle chemicals?
The chemical supply chain is frequently handling high value raw materials and finished goods, making damage limitation a high priority. As a result, the adoption of automated solutions to remove the ‘human factors’ is increasing. In fact, research has shown that European manufacturing operations have the highest density of industrial robots worldwide.****
Applications can automate chemical supply chain handling tasks with affordable Hyster® robotic solutions. ‘Driven by Balyo’ technology combines reliable Hyster® lift trucks, such as tow tractors, pedestrian counterbalance trucks and low-level order pickers, with robotic control systems to help improve accuracy, boost efficiency and reduce damage, keeping busy production lines running smoothly, while driving down cost.
How can Hyster help chemical operations overcome these challenges?
Whilst external factors will continue to provide challenges and uncertainty for operations handling chemicals, Hyster® delivers reliable solutions with safety at their centre to optimally meet the specific application needs at every stage of the supply chain.