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Automated Storage, Retrieval Systems Picked As Industry’s Rising Stars

This article orginally appeared in the Winter 1985 issue of Material Handling Distribution

In the material handling industry, sales of automated storage and retrieval systems, with applications ranging from warehouses to automated factory environments, will top $1 billion by 1994, projects a new study from Business Trend Analysts.

Rapid advances in computer-control technology are altering the face of the material handling equipment industry, dictating a flurry of corporate acquisitions and divestitures, and prompting reorganization of the industrial work place.

The automated storage and retrieval (AS/RS) systems category consists of two main segments: unit-load systems, which can lift large, heavy pallet loads to heights exceeding 95 feet; and mini-load systems specifically designed for the storage of small loads in high-technology, small parts environments.

Expanded development of automatic guided vehicle systems, running on guide-wire paths embedded in the floor of the automated environment, and operated by the same computer systems that direct the functions of other AS/RS equipment, will be the wave of the future, according to BTA.

The Market for Material Handling Equipment examines U.S. markets for conveyors and conveying equipment; industrial trucks and tractors; and hoists, overhead traveling cranes and monorails, as well as AS/RS equipment. The industry as a whole is typically vulnerable to the cyclic swings of a free-market economy. Material handling equipment currently is experiencing growth that exceeds its peak performance levels during the 1970s.

Business Trend Analysts, the Long Island-based market research firm, projects that U.S. manufacturers’ sales of nonautomated material handling equipment will grow 8.1 percent per year in dollar terms to total $12.1 billion in 1994.

Overseas manufacturers have gained the balance of trade advantage in capital equipment markets since 1980. For material handling equipment per se, the U.S. balance of trade has swung from a $373.3 million surplus position to a deficit of $453.3 million. Material handling imports grew 84.5 percent in 1984 alone, while that year saw exports plunge to 6.3 percent.

Despite the gradual weakening of the dollar against other currencies, foreign manufacturers retain advantages in labor and material costs and high productivity that U.S. producers find themselves hard-pressed to match.

U.S. imports of industrial material handling equipment stood at $853.1 million in 1984, representing 15.4 percent of apparent consumption. Imported industrial trucks and tractors have made the greatest impact on the domestic market, led by such manufacturers as Komatsu, Toyota, Volvo, Renault, Nissan and Mannesman-Demag-Barrett.

The corporate activities of Allis-Chalmers, Caterpillar Tractor, Clark Equipment, Eaton Corporation and other major U.S. material handling equipment suppliers are discussed by Business Trend Analysts in the report. An examination of the Canadian market is included.

The Market for Material Handling Equipment may be ordered from Business Trend Analysts, Inc., 2171 Jericho Turnpike, Commack, NY 11725, for $650.00.

Business Trend Analysts, Inc. produces comprehensive market reports containing pertinent statistical data, enhanced by on-target analysis and reliable forecasts. BTA provides off-the-shelf studies on almost every major U.S. industry, including material handling, and maintains a Special Projects department to provide customer research services as well.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

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