Material handling is a part of supply chain management that ensures the smooth and aligned process starting from warehouse and manufacturing plant to distribution centers. It is an essential part of manufacturing industry. Material handling is a system of movement, protection, storage and control of product throughout the sequence of a warehouse, distribution center, consumption to disposal unit. It is necessary to have a significant material handling system in every industry to safeguard the integrity of products, improve the productivity of warehouse, distribution center and manufacturing plant, and to protect the physical & mental health of their workers. Thus, it will help in eliminating the errors & delays and maintain the customer loyalty resulting in a successful business.
Reasons to practice optimum Material Handling:
Proper material handling is required to store the products in an organized manner and make it highly effective inventory for fast delivery to customers. There are various guidelines of the material handling system when followed helps in cutting down the additional costs in process. Let us discuss them below
- To Avoid fatal accidents and workplace compensation costs - It is prevalent to have the occurrence of accidents at the workplace due to mishandling of products or machines. Thus, it is vital to have the proper equipment and well-trained staff to avoid these workplace mishaps. It will thereby reduce the workplace compensation cost to a large extent.
- Saving of both time and money - The combination of well-designed warehouse and correct material handling equipment will result in less misplaced items. The workers will take less time in finding the right product and thus save the money.
- Reduction in product loss - It is a loss to the company after product damage due to poor material handling practices. Thus, there will be decrease in profit margin. So, it is crucial to have a good material handling process to avoid product damage or loss.
- Well-efficient warehouse layout - It is suggested to have an open design plan for your warehouse to enhance the easy material handling and reduce the risk of danger. Also, it will prove to be a safe and secure space for your workers.
- Customer Delivery and After-sales support service management - Customer always seeks for good quality customer service. If your warehouse has a proper layout, the staff can reach the required product in no time and can deliver it fast. Also, good after-sales support service helps in retaining the existing customers and attracting new ones.
Fundamentals of Material Handling:
The material handling system is applicable in almost every industry, namely aerospace, automotive, food and drinks, chemical, construction, e-commerce, hospital, manufacturing, paper, plastic, retail, and pharmaceuticals. This system is a combination of equipment and processes. So, it is necessary to integrate them well to get desirable results like reducing inventory and delivery time, lower handling cost and better customer service. That is possible after embedding the fundamentals of material handling in the system. These fundamentals include -
- Planning - The first step is to set the goal, define the strategic objectives and functional specification for the system using the supporting technology. It would help if you designed the plan by taking the inputs from your consultants, suppliers, end-users, management, developers, and staff from operations, finance and IT department.
- Standardization - It is recommended to standardized the equipment, methods, controls, software and make it suitable to perform various tasks in different working conditions.
- Unit load - To reduce the manual efforts on workers, it is better to move the items in bulk, i.e. single load than by moving them one by one, e.g. Pallets, containers, totes, etc.
- System - It is the aggregation of material movement and storage that is to be coordinated throughout the process. That includes receiving, inspection, storage, production, assembly, packaging, order selection, to shipping, transportation, and handling of returns.
- Space Utilization - To have proper space utilization, you need to keep workspace more organized and clutter-free. It helps in increasing the density in storage areas and you can even occupy the overhead space.
- Automation - It helps in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system, reactivity, consistency and predictability. Thus, limit the manual process where automation can be implemented.
- Environment - You have to see to it that there is no impact on the environment while handling the materials. Thus, reusability and recyclability are two parameters that are to be considered.
- Life cycle cost - It includes capital investment, installation, set-up, programming, training, system-testing, operation, maintenance, repair, reuse-value and disposal source. It would be best if you had the analysis of life cycle costs for all equipment included in the system, i.e. its expected life cycle and on-going maintenance cost.
Different Types of Material Handling Equipment:
- Storage and Handling Equipment - It is used for holding the materials in buffer time like during downtime or when goods are not getting transported (temporary pauses). E.g. Pallets, shelves, racks, standing frames.
- Engineered System - It comprises various units that are required during storage and transportation. They are usually automated types. Thus, it reduces manual intervention. The robotic delivery system, automated storage, conveyor systems are some of its examples.
- Industrial Material Handling Trucks - They are the type of transportation items or vehicles to move the products in the material handling system. These trucks include forklifts, hand-operated trucks, pallet jacks, and side loaders.
- Bulk Material Handling Equipment - These devices that can store, transport and control materials in loose bulk form that can include food, liquid or minerals. Such as conveyors, stackers, elevators, reclaimers, and hoppers.
Good material handling system is useful to transfer the products in appropriate units in very less time and also have proper control over the materials. It also reduces the theft, damage or spoilage of the products by limiting the access of certain parts of the warehouse to eligible employees. So, start making your material handling system efficient by planning the warehouse layout, selecting the correct equipment, and delivering the product just in time. You can find the various types of material handling equipment online that have high performance.