Materials handling Note

Materials handling

Material Handling is the field concerned with solving the pragmatic problems involving the movement, storage in a manufacturing plant or warehouse, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the processes of cleaning, preparation, manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal of all related materials, goods and their packaging.[1] The focus of studies of Material Handling course work is on the methods, mechanical equipment, systems and related controls used to achieve these functions. The material handling industry manufactures and distributes the equipment and services required to implement material handling systems, from obtaining, locally processing and shipping raw materials to utilization of industrial feedstocks in industrial manufacturing processes. Material handling systems range from simple pallet rack and shelving projects, to complex conveyor belt and Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS); from mining and drilling equipment to custom built barley malt drying rooms in breweries. Material handling can also consist of sorting and picking, as well as automatic guided vehicles.[2]


Material handling is an important element, which determines the productivity of a warehouse. Material handling is highly labor intensive as compared to any other operations in a warehouse. Therefore the personnel cost in material handling is usually high. Most of the activities in material handling require significant manual handling and hence has little benefits from computerization and improved information technology.


Objectives / Roles

  • Handling

The primary handling objective in a warehouse is to sort inbound shipment according to precise customer requirements. The three handling activities are receiving, in-storage handling and shipping.

  • Receiving:

When material reaches the warehouse it has to be received by the warehouse. One of the important activities here is to unload the goods from the transportation vehicle. Most of the time unloading is done manually. Containerized or unit-load shipments considerably reduce the unloading time.

  • In-storage Handling:

In-storage handling consists of all movement within a warehouse facility. The two types of in-storage handling are transfer and section.

Various transfers of goods happen within the warehouse. The goods as soon as they are received in the warehouse are transferred to the storage area. The second transfer may be required during order selection where goods are transferred from storage area to order selection area. The final transfer of goods takes place when the goods are finally shipped from the warehouse. Here the goods are transferred from the or election to the shipping or outbound area.

Selection activity basically involves selecting different materials and is grouped to meet the , customer demand. The idea of using warehouse as a selection area is to reduce the overall transportation cost.

  • Shipping: Shipping consists of checking and loading orders onto transportation vehicles. As in receiving, shipping is manually performed in most systems.


  • Five Major Types Of Materials Handling Methods:
    Movement – involves the actual transportation or transfer of material from one point to the next.
  • Quantity – dictates the type and nature of the material handling equipment and also cost per unit for the conveyance of the goods.
  • Time -how quickly the material can move through the facility
    Space – concerned with the required space for the storage of the material handling equipment and their movement, as well as the queuing or staging space for the material itself.

Control – tracking of the material, positive identification, and inventory management

A major competitive advantage,due to its impact on
quality,cost,productivity,inventory,andresponse time;
in sum,a revenue enhancer,not a cost contributor.
Advantages of correct materials handling
– – Savings in storage and operating space
– – Better stock control
– – Improved working conditions
– – Improved quality
– Lower risk of accidents
– – Reduced processing time
– – Lower production costs
– – Less waste of time and materials
In order to perform the activities of materials handling the basic goal is to minimise the production costs. This general objective can be further subdivided into specific objectives as follows :
i) To reduce the costs by decreasing inventories, minimising the distance to be handled and increasing productivity.
ii) To increase the production capacity by smoothing the work flow, iii) To minimise the waste during handling.
iv) To improve distribution through better location of facilities and improved routing.
v) To increase the equipment and space utilisation.
vi) To improve the working conditions. ‘
vii) To improve the customer service.

Basic Materials Handling Systems : The different material handling systems can be classified according to the type of equipment used, material handled, method used or the function performed.
Equipment-Oriented Systems : Depending upon the type of equipment used, there are several systems. :i) Overhead systems
ii) Conveyer systems
iii) Tractor-trailor system
iv) Fork-life truck and pallet system
v) Industrial truck systems
vi) Underground systems.
Material Oriented Systems : These may be of the following types:

i) Unit handling systems

ii) Bulk handling systems

iii) Liquid handling systems
A unit load consists of a number of items so arranged that it can be picked up and moved as a single entity such as a box, bale, roll etc. Such a system in more flexible and requires less investment.
Method Oriented Systems : According to the method of handling and method of production, the material handling systems can be:

i) Manual systems
ii) Mechanized or automated systems
iii) Job-shop handling systems, or
iv) Mass-production handling systems
Function Oriented Systems : The systems can be defined according to the material handling function performed as follows:

i) Transportation systems
ii) Conveying systems
iii) Transferring systems
iv) Elevating systems
Selection and Design of Handling System : The selection and design of the material system should be done alongside the development of the layout as each one affects each other. Hence, an integrated approach to the design process is usable. A computerized technique known as COFAC (Computerized Facilities Design) has been developed for
integrated handling system and layout design. The steps to be followed in the selectionand design of handling systems are as follows :

i) Identification of system
ii) Review of design criteria and objectives of the handling system

iii) Data collection regarding flow pattern and flow requirements iv) Identification of activity relationships
v) Determining space requirement and establishing material flow pattern
vi) Analysis of material and building characteristics
vii) Preliminary selection of basic handling system and generation alternatives
considering feasibility of mechanization and equipment capabilities
viii) Evaluation of alternatives with respect to optimal material flow, utilizing gravity, minimum cost, flexibility, ease of maintenance, capacity utilisation and other objectives of the system design considering various tangible and intangible factors
ix) Selection of the best suited alternative and checking it for compatibility
x) Specification of the system
xi) Procurement of the equipment and implementation of the system



The principles of materials handling which ensures effective and efficient handling of material are as follows:

  1. Planning Principle: All material handling should be the result of a deliberate plan. Non-plan movement of materials should be avoided as far as possible.
  2. Standardization Principle: Material handling equipment, controls, and software should be standardized. While standardizing it should be ensured that performance objectives and flexibility in operations are not sacrificed.
  3. Work Principle: Material handling work should be minimized without sacrificing productivity.
  4. Ergonomic Principle: human capabilities and limitations must be taken into consideration while designing material handling tasks and equipments.
  5. Unit Load: Unit load should be properly determined so that it accommodates all materials and material handling becomes easier.
  6. Space Utilization Principle: Effective and efficient use must be made of all available space.
  7. System Principle: Material handling and storage should be fully integrated so that there is a smooth flow of materials in the warehouse.
  8. Automation Principle: Material handling operations should be mechanized and/or automated where feasible in order to improve operational efficiency. This will reduce potentially unsafe manual labor operations.
  9. Environmental Principle: Environmental impact and energy consumption such as petrol, diesel, should be considered as criteria when designing or selecting material handling systems.
  10. Life Cycle Cost Principle: Cost of equipment throughout its entire lifecycle and not only its initial cost should be considered before selecting it.


Designing Handling Systems

The following guidelines should be considered while designing the mate  handling systems.

  1. Equipment for handling and storage should be standardized as possible.
  2. When in motion, the system should be designed to provide maximum continuous product flow.H
  3. Investment should be in handling rather than stationary equipment
  4. Handling equipment should be utilized to the maximum extent possible.
  5. Wherever practical, gravity flow should be incorporated in system design.



The selection of materials handling equipment requires the attaining of proper balance between the production problem, the capabilities of the equipment available, and the human element involved. The ultimate aim is to arrive at the lowest cost per unit of material handled.

Equipment factors to be taken into consideration may well include the following:

  1. Adaptability: the load carrying and movement characteristics of the equipment should fit the materials handling problem.
  2. Flexibility: Where possible the equipment should have flexibility to handle more than one material, referring either to class or size.
  3. Load capacity: Equipment selected should have great enough load-carrying characteristics to do the job effectively, yet should not be too large and result in excessive operating costs.
  4. Power: Enough power should be available to do the job.
  5. Speed: Rapidity of movement of material, within the limits of the production process or plant safety, should be considered
  6. Space requirements: The space required to install or operate materials handling equipment is an important factor in its selection.
  7. Supervision required: As applied to equipment selection, this refers to the degree of automaticity designed into the equipment.
  8. Ease of maintenance: Equipment selected should be easily maintained at reasonable cost.
  9. Environment: Equipment selected must conform to any environment regulations.
  10. Cost: The consideration of the cost of the equipment is an obvious factor in its selection.


Material-handling equipment is equipment that relate to the movement, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Material handling equipment is the mechanical equipment involved in the complete system.[1] Material handling equipment is generally separated into four main categories: storage and handling equipment, engineered systems, industrial trucks, and bulk material handling.


Material handling and efficiency

Material handling equipment is used to increase output, control costs, and maximize productivity. There are several ways to determine if the material-handling equipment is achieving peak efficiency. These include capturing all relevant data related to the warehouse’s operation, measuring how many times an item is “touched” from the time it is ordered until it leaves the building, making sure you are using the proper picking technology, and keeping system downtime to a minimum. A special analytical data-set known as Stock-keeping units (SKUs) has been devised to aid analysis of materials handling, which is obviously less efficient when a material asset is handled any more than a minimally necessary number of times.

Types of material-handling equipment

  1. Storage and handling equipment

Storage and handling equipment is a category within the material-handling industry. The equipment that falls under this description is usually non-automated storage equipment. Products such as pallet racking, shelving, casters[2] and carts, among others, belong to storage and handling. Many of these products are often referred to as “catalog” items because they generally have globally accepted standards and are often sold as stock materials out of Material handling catalogs.

  1. Engineered systems

Engineered systems are typically custom engineered material-handling systems. Conveyors, Handling Robots, AS/RS, AGV and most other automated material-handling systems fall into this category. Engineered systems are often a combination of products integrated to one system. Many distribution centers will optimize storage and picking by utilizing engineered systems such as pick modules and sortation systems.

Equipment and utensils used for processing or otherwise handling edible product or ingredients must be of such material and construction to facilitate thorough cleaning and to ensure that their use will not cause the adulteration of product during processing, handling, or storage. Equipment and utensils must be maintained in sanitary condition so as not to adulterate or contaminate product.

  1. Industrial trucks

Industrial trucks usually refer to operator driven motorized warehouse vehicles, powered manually, by gasoline, propane or electrically.[3] Industrial trucks assist the material-handling system with versatility; they can go where engineered systems cannot. Forklift trucks are the most common example of industrial trucks but certainly aren’t the extent of the category. Tow tractors and stock chasers are additional examples of industrial trucks. Their greatest advantage lies in the wide range of attachments available; these increase the truck ability to handle various types and shapes of material.

  1. Bulk material handling

Main article: Bulk material handling

Bulk material-handling equipment is used to move and store bulk materials such as ore, liquids, and cereals. This equipment is often seen on farms, mines, shipyards and refineries. This category is also explained in Bulk material handling.

  1. On-rails transfer cart

On-rails transfer cart is a kind of material-handling equipment. It moves on the rails and can transfer heavy cargoes or equipment with the weight 1-300t between the workshops or warehouses in the factory. It is widely used in the line of metallurgy, coal, heavy manufacturing, automotive assembly, etc. Its power can be AC or DC. DC Power has rail transmit power and battery power, while AC power includes cable power and slippery touch line power. In addition, there is the manual rail transfer cart or towed rail transfer cart, also called motorized transfer trolley.

  1. Conveyors

Conveyors are another form of material handling. Conveyors can be used in a multitude of ways from warehouses to airport baggage handling systems. Some types of conveyors are unibilt, power and free, chain, towline and roller conveyor.

  1. Cantilevered crane loading platform

Cantilevered crane loading platforms are temporary platforms attached to the face of multi-storey buildings or structures to allow materials and equipment to be directly loaded on or shifted off floor levels by cranes during construction or demolition. They may be fixed or rolling and a variety of designs are used including fully fabricated and demountable types. The platforms are supported on needles (cantilevered beams) anchored to the supporting structure


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