October 1, 2020 Last updated October 1st, 2020 1,029 Reads share

Material Handling Solutions and Systems Explained

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

Material handling is crucial in every manufacturing and logistics project, and it represents a significant portion of Australia’s economy. Almost all physical commerce products are transported using forklifts, pallet trucks, or hand trolleys. For that reason, it’s important to get familiar with the basics of conducting an efficient material handling project.

But what does material handling involve? Basically, material handling is the process of moving products or items over a short distance inside a warehouse, construction site, or transportation of goods into a vehicle or containers. It includes the use of two main types of equipment – manual and automated. Additionally, it involves the storage in the form of heavy duty shelves and racks, movement, protection, and control of materials. 

Material handling is a crucial operation in the warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, and material waste disposal industries, amongst others. It helps to manage the flow of materials between the activities of production systems efficiently. For instance, if there are two activities close to one another, you can use a heavy duty hand trolley to transport them. However, if the activities are separated, you’ll want more expensive transport trucks to move the loads. A heavy duty hand trolley is a much more affordable solution when compared to industrial trucks, not only due to its price, but also the labor cost of operators and upkeep.

Making sure workplaces that involve material transportation are safe is another growing need across almost all industries. This is due to the high risk of accidents that occur in these facilities, which is why efficient material handling processes are necessary. That being said, besides reducing manual labor and improving worker efficiency, a proper material handling process allows workers to safely and conveniently transport materials across facility floors, help streamline work activities and organize spaces, and reduce accidents where heavy loads and materials are transported. 

As briefly aforementioned, there are two main types of material handling equipment – manual and automated. Here’s what you need to know about both of them:

Manual Material Handling

Manual material handling equipment refers to handling solutions that are moved and operated manually. Workers will lower, lift, fill, carry and empty the trolleys, carts, or containers manually when transporting them to remove some of the strain that comes with doing the same things without manual material handling equipment. 

Common risks and injuries from too much use of manual material handling equipment include strains and sprains in the lower back, shoulders, and upper limbs. However, most modern manual material handling equipment features ergonomic designs that reduce the risk of injury and make the entire process of moving materials and products more convenient and efficient.

Automated Material Handling

This type of equipment is used to reduce the manual handling of materials to a minimum. In fact, most material handling equipment available today is semi-automated, as the human operator needs to load and unload materials and drive, simply because automating these processes is challenging and costly. 

But if your budget allows it, there are so many improvements in machine programming, robotics, and sensing that you can completely automate your material handling operations. Semi-automatic solutions, such as the multi-purpose stacker, are also a viable option, and they generally include minimum operator involvement. 

When assessing the type of material handling equipment that’s best suited for your facility, a physical evaluation is key. Doing so will help you determine how to make the most out of it. You’ll have to consider the specifications, programs, service records, drawings, and spare parts to ensure the equipment meets your specific needs.

The raw materials also play a crucial role in the service organization and manufacturing industry. In fact, in any industry, material handling can be performed in multiple different ways depending on the requirements of the company. Whether you end up going for manual or automated material handling, finding the best equipment and tools is essential. With a competitive and globalized environment, it’s crucial for every business to control costs and reduce time in any material handling operation.

Besides differentiating between the types of material handling solutions, it’s important to understand the principles involved in the processes, which include:

  • Planning – Involves assessing available system relationships and evaluation of existing problems and methods, as well as the consideration of your basic needs and contingency planning.
  • Systems – Integrating handling and storage activities that can cost-efficiently be integrated into the process.
  • Unit Loading – Involves the handling of products through unit loads.
  • Space Utilisation – Making sure you utilize your available space as efficiently as possible, such as taking advantage of vertical storage space using racks, heavy duty shelves, etc.
  • Standardization – Encourages handling method standardization for improved equipment performance.
  • Ergonomics – Recognising the capabilities and human limitations and improving comfort and safety.
  • Energy – This principle considers the energy consumption needs of the material handling process.
  • Ecology – Ensuring your material handling process has as least impact on the environment as possible.
  • Mechanization – Encourages material handling efficiency.
  • Flexibility – The utilized methods and equipment should be practical in multiple situations.
  • Simplification – Simplified processes are better than complex methods as they remove obsolete movements.

Advantages of Material Handling Systems

The latest advancements in material handling systems support the requirements of various industries that depend on handling equipment. With the material handling processes being complex, having a feasible material handling system in place that can adapt to your business’s and operator’s unique needs can be a great advantage. Here are some of the advantages of using material handling equipment when transporting unit loads or containers from one place to another:

  • Save Money
  • Save Space
  • Increase Safety
  • Increase Efficiency
  • Increase Capacity
  • Increase Flexibility
  • Improve Ergonomics
  • Improve the Work Environment
  • Reduce Downtime
  • Reduce Transport Traffic

So, no matter whether you’re a production engineer, assembler, logistic operator, maintenance engineer, logistics engineer, safety engineer, or head of management, material handling trucks, trolleys, and forklifts are the best tools for the job today. Innovative material handling equipment can improve work efficiency and reduce waste generated by careless usage or damage. When materials are handled correctly, the amount of lost or damaged goods is reduced, so you get a safer and cleaner work environment. Many people believe that automated material handling equipment is a risky investment, but with appropriate management, its more beneficial than any other machine or tool used today.

DepositPhotos – handling boxes

David Smith

David Smith

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