Starting from the time the raw materials enter the factory gate and goes out of the factory gate in the shape of finished product, it is handled at so many stages, so material handling is the integral part of the manufacturing process.
As the materials must be turned, moved and positioned on the respective machines to produce the required output, there are also the inter-department transfers of materials or finished goods for the final conversion operation performed to final inspection.
“Materials handling include all movements of materials in a manufacturing situation. It is an art and science involving the moving, packing and storing of substances in any form.” — American Society of Mechanical Engineers
“Material handling involves the movements of materials, manually or mechanically, in batches or one item at a time within the plant. The movement may be horizontal, vertical or the combination of horizontal and vertical”.
The overall objectives of materials handling is to reduce production cost. This general objective can be sub-divided into more specific goals, such as:
1. To increase equipment and space utilization.
2. To reduce costs
3. To increase capacity
4. To improve working conditions.
5. To improve customer service.
In order to realise the above objectives, certain principles of materials handling need to be observed by the management.
The basic function of material handling is to choose most appropriate materials handling equipment which is safe and can fulfill material handling requirements at the minimum possible overall cost and to choose production machinery and assist in plant layout so as to eliminate, as far as possible, the need of materials handling. In general, the functions of good materials handling system include:
(a) Using the principles of centralization, unit load or cartelization, aim at moving optimum number of pieces in one unit.
(b) Safe, standard, efficient, effective, appropriate, flexible and proper sized materials handling equipments should be selected.
(c) To employ mechanical aids in place of manual labour in order to speed up the materials movement.
(d) To minimize the movement involved in a production operation.
(e) Changes in sequence of production operations may be suggested in order to minimize backtracking and duplicate handling.
(f) Handling equipments’ arrangement should minimize distance moved by products and at the same time handling equipments should not interfere with the production line.
(g) To minimize the distances moved, by adopting shortest routes.
(h) To design containers, packages, drums etc., to economise handling and to reduce damage to the materials in transit.
(i) To utilize gravity for assisting materials movement wherever possible.
(j) Materials handling equipments should periodically be resorted to check ups, repairs and maintenance.