Material handling is the science of movement, handling and storage of material during transportation. People can move material by lifting the items directly or use handcarts, slings, and other handling accessories. Material can also be moved using machines such as cranes and forklifts. These are generally used when heavy materials need to be moved.
Material handling requires systematic recording, critical review and overseeing of all related activities to eliminate as many unnecessary movements as possible. It is a primary activity in all industries and involves numerous people and specialized material handling equipment.
Different types of material handling processes are required at different locations. Cranes are used at docks, trucks are used to transport factory products and conveyor belts are used at airports. The main objectives of material handling are to prevent damage and improve productivity. If one sees long queues at supply and dispatch areas or if one receives goods in a damaged condition or at a date much later than the expected date of delivery, it’s definitely a case of bad material handling.
The two main factors that affect material handling are related to engineering and economics. The nature of the material to be handled and the material handling equipment are the factors related to engineering. The cost of handling the material and the equipment used are related to economics. During the last few decades, handling of material has become highly automated. Computers are being widely used to systematize material handling.
Generally, material handling is considered an important activity along all the links of the supply chain, which include production, distribution, storage and retail. Minimizing the complexity of handling operations can increase productivity and cut costs.