Material Handling is the process of moving goods and materials short distances within a building, factory, facility, or warehouse. Material handling includes a wide range of different types of materials, ranging from tiny boxes to large and heavy components for manufacturing. To conduct this process of material handling, there is a wide range of material handling equipment. The types of equipment range from:
and automated equipment
Material handling refers to the entire process of processing, storage, as well as the control of the goods. It is used to help create “time & place utility” through handling, storage and the control of the material (Michael G. Kay, Material Handling Equipment, 2012).
According to MHI.org:
“Material handling is the movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal. As a process, material handling incorporates a wide range of manual, semi-automated and automated equipment and systems that support logistics and make the supply chain work. ”
The role of material handling plays is significant and has become a topic of discussion, in particular amongst manufacturing companies. Every type of product that has been manufactured or produced has been involved in a material handling sequence of some sort. Whether that be transported via forklift, or along a conveyor line. Many large manufacturing companies invest millions of dollars every year to ensure that there material handling processes and flows are up to date and efficient.
This is where the idea of lean manufacturing and six sigma have originated, as processes and ideas to eliminate inefficiencies within manufacturing processes.
Creating an efficient material handling system for a large factory, facility or warehouse isn’t an easy take to accomplish. The dynamic environment that all industries exist in today makes it very difficult to plan long term. Especially with the development of the internet and the personalization of many products it has become more and more difficult for manufacturers to keep up with the level of customization now offered to consumers.
Material handling systems are planned out to help develop best practices and methods within a facility for long-term efficient flows. There are generally ten material handling principles which have been taken and used by a majority of facilities globally. These principles have been made and have greatly helped facility managers with the productivity, customer service, and profitability of their factories.
The ten principles of material handling (according to MHI.org) are:
- Planning Principle
- Standardization Principle
- Work Principle
- Ergonomic Principle
- Unit Load Principle
- Space utilization Principle
- System Principle
- Automation Principle
- Environmental Principle
- Life Cycle Cost Principle
These principles help with the planning and processes of all material handling and are just as relevant whether the equipment is manual, semi-automated or fully automated.
While material handling of a product does not add any direct value to the customer, how efficient or inefficient a process is, can directly affect the consumers outlook on the company, product and possibly industry.
What Is Lean Manufacturing?
As a production and manufacturing company, certain factors lead to increased quality of work without ever having to compromise on the value of the product. After all, no customer will pay for commodities that are below the standards. Therefore, companies will put in place measures designed to fast-track the designing and distribution process so as customers can get value for their money. That is why companies like Toyota use the lean manufacturing technique. And for the most part, Toyota production system is credited with coming up with this technique.
But before going any further, just what is lean manufacturing? Simply put, it’s all about adding value to the process by minimizing waste. The waste in this context is anything that only ends up taking much of your time and money just to add no value to the finished product. As such it is essential to know these types of muda (the traditional Japanese name for waste in the manufacturing process) for better implementation of the technique.
Categories of muda
- Overproduction- when the demand increases it is only natural for companies to produce more products to meet the customer’s needs. However, if the results of the production, mostly producing before the demand, causes storage costs that could have been avoided, that’s waste.
- Over-processing – dwelling too much on a product so that you can meet the customer requirements. It might be due to inadequate tools or lack of simpler manufacturing processes
- Transportation – do not move raw materials or finished products unnecessarily. Better yet, find transportation alternatives with better rates. Otherwise, you will be creating waste.
- Motion – how often do you move equipment or do people move about without any significance in the manufacturing process?
- Inventory – any products, work-in-process or finished goods that aren’t supporting any needs.
- Defects – results to wastage of time inspecting and fixing production errors
- Waiting – this waste emerges from in-between breaks during work-in-process just waiting for the next step.
- Unused workforce- any time you do not value employees ideas, skills and creativity, that is another form of waste.
The importance of knowing these categories of lean manufacturing waste is to improve quality while reducing costs, time wastes and eliminating the non-value adding processes. Once identified, the waste can be removed using different tools including Jidoka, Poka-Yoke, Kanban, SMED, Kaizen, value stream mapping, continuous workflow, Takt Time and many others.
It is essential to produce quality goods in an optimized manufacturing process to save on cost. Through avoiding the above waste there is increased productivity, and the process’s goals can be met.
Material handling plays a vital role in manufacturing projects and logistics. It represents 20 percent of America’s economy. Just about all physical merchant products are shipped through Tugger carts and trains. Understanding how the material handling process works can help you deliver successful projects.
Importance of Material Handling
Material handling involves short distance movements within an area or building. The process includes different equipment like automated, semi-automated, and manual machines. It also consists in storing and protecting materials through manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal process.
Basics of Material Handling Methods
For businesses, material handling is helpful in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and retail stores. For production workers, it’s a convenient way to manage material movement. The operators of such equipment utilize it to move items from the building to another industrial setting. Material handling system designs include an integral structure so that material movement can efficiently be managed between production stages.
For instance, if two different activities are connected, transporting materials can quickly be done. However, separated activities may sometimes require costly transport trucks. It’s expensive to use industrial trucks due to labor costs and the overheads in production systems. Fusing in several units together in a single transfer also has adverse effects on the performance of production equipment.
Therefore, it’s sometimes more expensive to do a single transfer with more units to reduce moving trips than to go with the average number for every transfer batch.
Different Types of Material Handling
The following are the primary material handling types that business owners and operators should know about:
- Manual. Manual handling means workers move materials and individual containers using their own hands. It involves lifting, lowering, filling, carrying, and emptying containers when running them. However, manual handling can be dangerous because of the potential physical injuries that workers may acquire while at work. Generally, workers may experience sprains in their shoulders, upper limbs, and lower back. Good thing there are ergonomic developments to ensure risk-free manual handling operations.
- Automated. This type of material handling involves equipment that is designed to reduce and replace manual movement of containers. Today, semi-automated and automated material handling equipment is used to assist human operators in unloading, loading, and driving materials to another area. To overcome challenges and high costs of transporting materials, automated machines are essential. The ongoing developments in equipment programming, robotics, and sensing have been useful in completely automating the movement of materials.
Implementing Successful Handling of Materials
Knowing where to start and how to conduct and employ successful material handling processes is vital to any business. With the complexities in moving materials, it’s crucial to understand the best strategies to deliver material handling projects. Automated handling may be expensive and risky. But overall, it’s an ultimate money-saver when it comes to transporting materials needed in building sites. Physical evaluation helps in assessing equipment to determine the best advantage.
You can consider the programs, drawings, service records, spare parts, and specifications to ensure the efficiency of the equipment.
Some of the intralogistics projects modifying the industry today include workstation improvements, new product launches, new plant buildings, forklift traffic reduction, and part kitting implementation.
Over time, material handling will become even more significant for many businesses and organizations around the globe.
Pallets today are becoming an integral part of the modern warehouse and manufacturing logistics. They are not only being used for assembling, handling, storing and product transportation but also for sustainability. Sustainability is becoming more difficult to achieve with all the changes that are defining the manufacturing world with each passing day.
With that brief introduction, companies want to know which pallet designs will save them transportation and operational cost while helping them achieve sustainability. This has brought about the pallet pooling system which by the way, has received mixed reactions.
Pallet pooling is a useful trend that assures companies reduced costs, and they do not have to spend on their fleet continuously. That means they can redirect the money that would have otherwise been used for new pallets to other supply chain operations. However, not all will feel comfortable using the system. Mainly it’s due to their customized needs which is why some companies might prefer having their pallets.
They have to align with the companies systems. For instance, if they are using automation, they have to provide a viable solution. Consequently, you have to consider three things;
- Pallet strength – If they keep breaking down causing downtimes, then they are contributing to waste production decreasing the efficiency of the process.
- Pallet durability – Expenditures from having to buy pallets after a short while are a significant threat to companies stability and sustainability.
- Pallet reusability- Campaigns for a greener earth have worked marvelously as companies are looking for reusable pallets that will save fuel energy.
With these three factors, it is easy to find the best pallets. And wood pallets fit this description. They have existed longer than any other types. But given the changing circumstances, plastic and composite pallets are being used today as an alternative to wood. This trend has come to be because wood pallets have some flaws.
Taking the case of automated processes, plastic pallets are more preferred. Reason being they are uniform and identical, and therefore sensors can read data easily. Unlike wood pallets, which may vary slightly in size cause a lot of trouble in automated processes. The sensors have a hard time detecting edges. Also, wood may chip off jamming automation equipment. The consequences of using wood are that the system stops and you know how this affects the process. It will increase the downtime and the cost.
The only remedy to wood pallet inconveniences would be to use the plastic pallet designs once you automate your production processes. It saves time and future costs hence the best solution.
Additionally, plastic pallet designs are being re-engineered to increase their strength-to-weight ratios which reduce the breakdown risks, and since they are lighter yet strong, there is reduced fatigue. The injury risk for the workers are reduced as well.
Another pallet design that is in use is the customization of wood pallets to boost their strength and stiffness. Not all pallets support the different storage equipment. A three-stringer floor wood pallet has high chances of breaking when used for drive-in rack since it is weak and doesn’t help the design. The easy way out here is the collaboration between racking and pallet suppliers to ensure that the models work before their installation.
Lastly, manufacturers are coming up with sustainable, biodegradable and recyclable pallets that are geared toward reducing the companies’ environmental impact.
These trends are bound to take root firmly, and with the technological advancements and lean manufacturing methods being adopted, more pallet designs will emerge with the aim of improving sustainability.