Business Trend Analysts (BTA), Inc., segments the market for automated material handling equipment into automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and material-handling robots. BTA expects the automated segment of material handling storage to be the fastest-growing market in the material handling equipment industry over the next five years. Some of the benefits of using these systems include increased productivity, improved capabilities, and a decrease in downtime.

AS/RS in particular offers a combination of equipment and controls that can handle, store and retrieve materials with accuracy and speed under an established degree of automation. Systems range from simple order-picking machines to complex, computer-controlled systems that are completely integrated into the manufacturing and distribution process. In 2001, sales in this category increased by 0.6% to reach $942.5 million. A 1.4% gain in 2002 inched the market value up to $955.4 million. Sales are expected to increase by an average of 2.1% per year from 2001 to 2011, to reach $1.2 billion. (See chart.)

Many facilities are turning to AS/RS to replace outdated systems and improve capabilities. Just recently, IBM implemented AS/RS in its Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania distribution center. Changes to the system were made through a combination of logic, positioning and speed controls accompanied by new retractors.

The new system includes 29,400 storage positions that hold bins of computer parts, with some bins weighing as much as 500 pounds. The bins are moved in and out of the storage location by storage/retrieval machines. IBM engineers explain that the new system is much faster and is eliminating downtime because it is so dependable. Maintenance of the system has also become less of a concern. Repairs to the new AS/RS are easy because replacement parts are fast and simple to install.

For more information on “The Market for Material Handling Equipment,” contact Business Trend Analysts at (631) 462-5454.


Year Value ($ Millions) Annual % Change

1985 $250.5 -

1986 303.8 21.3%

1987 364.4 19.9

1988 419.1 15.0

1989 497.8 18.8

1990 599.4 20.4

1991 650.9 8.6

1992 614.4 -5.6

1993 651.3 6.0

1994 678.0 4.1

1995 692.2 2.1

1996 716.9 3.6

1997 770.4 7.5

1998 825.3 7.1

1999 888.1 7.6

2000 936.5 5.4

2001 942.5 0.6

2002E 955.4 1.4

2003E 983.3 2.9

2011P 1,160.0 2.1*



* Average annual growth rate, 2001-2011

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce; Business Trend Analysts

Reprinted from “The Market for Material Handling Equipment: A Strategic Marketing Analysis and Biennial Review.” Business Trend Analysts, Inc., Commack, NY.