Ranajoy Punja, Sr Vice President – Warehouse Automation Division at Hinditron, responds to queries on various aspects of warehouse automation. Hinditron provides, through its partnership with KNAPP AG, industry leading all-in-one intralogistics solutions and automated warehouse systems.

Warehouse automation can be adopted in varying levels.
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Automated Warehousing is a nascent industry in India. How sophisticated it is today? What is the potential?

Warehouse automation can be adopted in varying levels. In India it is still in the early stages and at a basic level driven mainly by cheap labour and the ability of companies to meet their requirements with minimal investments in automation. Most of the investments today have been in mechanisation with material handling equipment being deployed and not automation. The next level of investment has been to deploy warehouse management system (WMS) software and RFID technology to help streamline the picking process and order processing. However, you do have certain sectors, such as retail and e-commerce, being the first movers and starting to deploy more advanced automation solutions to meet changing market demands. The potential is very large as the logistics market is just starting to get take off in India with organised retail growing, favourable tax structures in place and new supply chain models being adopted.

Is the boom in retailing – both in stores and online shopping – the prime driver for warehouse automation in India?

Yes, this is one of the prime drivers, especially rapid growth in e-commerce. The number of articles and volume of orders is growing exponentially. Conventional ABC structures are disappearing. Service and overall customer experience, including availability and fast delivery, are becoming key competitive differentiators. Labour costs are going up and storage space is getting more expensive. These factors that are putting pressure on the warehouse operations that can only be addressed by increasing levels of warehouse automation.

How receptive are traditional Indian businesses to the idea of automation in warehousing? Is the industry still looking for piecemeal solutions?

With competition getting more intense, customers more demanding and omni-channel distribution growing in importance, Indian businesses are realising that an investment in improving the efficiency and throughput of their warehouses is essential and has a direct business impact. The larger players are starting to look at a complete system to help automate the process from goods-in to dispatch. The good news is that the industry leading solutions offered today from suppliers like KNAPP AG are scalable, flexible and future proofed to address the changing business requirements of the customer. These solutions also significantly simplify the complexity of warehouse operations.

Are there enough local vendors for equipment requirements of a modern warehouse? Or is it import dependent?

There are local vendors, but most of them are focused on only material handling equipment. There are a few local vendors that have some automation components, but not complete systems. When it comes to goods-to-person technology and fully automated picking we have to look at an import option. More importantly the local vendors do not have the experience of an international supplier with decades of industry specific experience and technical knowhow. Even within each industry each customer’s requirements are unique and there is no one solution that fits all requirements. The experience to design what would work best for each individual customer is very important.

For a country of its size, does India have enough warehouses? What are the obstacles on the ground?

There are enough warehouses to meet today’s demands, but not enough to meet future requirements. With GST being rolled out companies are looking to consolidate warehouses and leverage the benefits of scale. The warehousing industry in India is expected to grow at a CAGR in the range of 12%-15% per cent over the next few years according to most research analysts. Some of the obstacles being faced today include quality infrastructure, availability of land in the right locations, and limited financing options.

GST is said to lead to a boon for logistics and warehousing. Is this translating into actual orders?

Yes, the entire logistics sector is in the limelight with GST being rolled out. This will translate to actual orders as larger consolidated warehouses will require more through put and efficiency which can only be addressed by investing in warehouse automation systems and technology. Hinditron is one of the leading all-in-one intralogistics service provider.

What is the scope of its services? How does the KNAPP partnership help?

Hinditron provides, through its partnership with KNAPP AG, industry leading all-in-one intralogistics solutions and automated warehouse systems. KNAPP AG operates internationally in the field of warehouse automation and warehouse logistics software and is a world market leader among suppliers of all-in-one intralogistics solutions and automated warehouse systems. The company designs, installs, maintains and upgrades systems that feature state-of-the-art picking, conveying and storage technologies and has core competencies in development, planning, installation, after-sales support and on-going consulting. Hinditron’s rich understanding of the business environment in India coupled with KNAPP’s global expertise in building tailor-made intralogistics solutions will effectively address the growing warehouse automation needs of the Indian customer.

A number of new players are emerging. Is the sector ripe for consolidation?

No, the logistics market in India is in the early stages of leveraging technology and warehouse automation systems. Consolidation may occur when the market matures.

What is the outlook for the next few years in this sector? Any plans for expansion?

Outlook for the next few years is positive. The India economy continues to grow and companies are relooking at their entire supply chain post GST to drive efficiencies and reduce costs. Investment in warehouse automation solutions will be a key enabler to the new and improved supply chain.


Photo1: Ranajoy Punja, Sr Vice President – Warehouse Automation Division, Hinditron.

Photo2: The logistics market is just starting to get take off in India.

Photo3: Hinditron in partnership with KNAPP AG provides industry leading all-in-one intralogistics solutions and automated warehouse systems.