The Importance of Material Handling in Manufacturing

Material Handling is one of the most important components in manufacturing. 

What is it, you may ask? 

In simple terms, it is defined as moving materials. 

In manufacturing, the production system set-up is crucial. A plant’s efficiency, productivity, and profitability is dependent on successful material flow. Without it, production would grind to a halt. The effects of a material disruption can cost more than 30% of an organization’s revenue. 

The goal of moving the right material to the right place, at the right time, in the right amount, in sequence, and in the right position or condition is to minimize production costs. Thankfully, there are a few tactics to help with this.   

How to Meet Material Handling Objectives 

The number one objective of material handling is to reduce unit costs of production. All other goals are subordinate to this. For help achieving this objective, the following list of sub-goals are a good checklist to help you keep costs down. 

1.            Maintain or improve product quality, reduce damage, and provide for protection of materials. 

2.            Promote safety and improve working conditions. 

3.            Promote productivity through implementing the following practices: 

o      Material should flow in a straight line. 

o      Material should move as short a distance as possible. 

o      Move more material at one time. 

o      Mechanize material handling. 

o      Automate material handling processes for disruption. 

o      Maintain or improve material handling/production ratios. 

o      Increase throughput by using automatic material handling equipment. 

4.            Promote increased use of facilities as follows: 

o      Promote the use of the building cube. 

o      Purchase versatile equipment. 

o      Standardize material handling equipment. 

o      Maximize production equipment utilization using material handling feeders. 

o      Maintain and replace all equipment as needed and develop a preventative maintenance program. 

o      Integrate all material handling equipment into a system. 

5.            Reduce tare (dead) weight. 

6.            Control Inventory. 

Material Handling 101 Areas of Cost Reduction Checklist

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The 10 Principles of Material Handling   

The Material Handling Institute Inc. has adapted 10 principles of material handling:

1.            Planning Principle 

2.            Standardization Principle 

3.            Work Principal 

4.            Ergonomic Principle 

5.            Unit Load Principle 

6.            Space Utilization Principle 

7.            System Principle 

8.            Automation Principle 

9.            Environmental Principle 

10.        Life Cycle Cost Principle 

We won’t go into detail of each one but will share some thoughts to consider on a few of them below. 

Planning Principle 

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

We tend to side with Eisenhower on this one. It may seem straightforward to plan how to move materials. But planning ways to optimize and reduce disruptions is key to keeping materials flowing and helping you achieve your goal. 

 
A series of questions have been used for generations that will serve you well in the planning stages: Why? Who? What? Where? When? How? If you answer these questions each time parts are moved, the solutions will become evident. 

 Say the goal is to unload 20,000 pounds of flat steel stock from a flatbed trailer into a plant. Here is an example of how you may answer the 5 Ws and an H. 

  •  Why = you need steel in the plant (maybe coil would be better) 
  • What = 20,000-pound loads of steel (3-1/2 feet × 10 feet × 20 inches) 
  • Where = from flatbed trailer into storage area 
  • Who = receiving clerk When = 40,000 pounds per day (one truck) 
  • How = bridge crane 

Even with detailed planning, one key consideration is materials missing at point of use. This will often stop the line and increase the cost of manufacturing a product.

Every company should have a standard process for handling material flow disruptions. Which brings us to the next principle. Find out how leading manufacturing companies are keeping materials flowing with StrataFlows.

Standardization Principle 

Standardization is recording the method and procedures to arrive at the same result consistently. Companies must establish standard methods, equipment, controls, and software to meet performance objectives. 

Automation Principle 

Any operations that are involved in handling materials should be automated when possible. This will improve operational efficiency, increase responses, improve consistency and predictability, and lower
operating costs. 

To see why this works, consider how much the industry has changed in the past 20 years. The number of people involved in each of the

stages of the process shrinks with new technologies. Currently, among the main technologies and solutions that are being used to improve the end of line process are: 

Keeping Materials Flowing 

In manufacturing, material handling accounts for 50% of the total operation’s cost. This fact alone justifies great effort on the part of material flow managers to save cost and minimize disruptions. 

 
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