The Importance of Material Handling Systems

Material handling in any industry accounts for a significant part of the manufacturing costs of any product. Material handling involves the movement, storage, protection and control of various products and materials throughout the manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and consumption processes. Material handling systems encompass a wide range of manual and automatic equipment and systems that are used to support logistics and ensure that the entire supply chain flows smoothly.


Material handling systems are used in:

  •  Forecasting
  •  Product Planning
  •  Resource Allocation
  •  Inventory Management and Control
  •  Customer Delivery
  •  Flow and Process Management
  •  After-Sales Support 

Problems related to material handling assume importance due to factors such as: 

1. Studies done in various industries indicate that the cost of handling materials accounts for 20%-25% of total manufacturing costs. The methods and equipment used in material handling can have a large impact on the overall cost of the product.

2. Studies have also shown that the average manufactured part is handled an average of 50-60 times as it passes through the manufacturing chain. For every ton of finished product, 59 tons of materials are handled.

3. Material handling accounts for 25% of temporary disabilities and 21% of permanent disabilities in the manufacturing sector.

4. Modern material handling systems have gone a long way in reducing damage in parts and materials used in the manufacturing process.

5. Mechanized material handling system has made it easier to handle huge workloads that would otherwise be simply unmanageable if done manually.


The Scope of Material Handling

The field of material handling is still not fully exploited. These systems are not only one of the industry’s biggest opportunities but also one of its most important.  Materials handling traverses many engineering fields:

  • Manufacturing

Materials handling is most widely used in the manufacturing sector. A wide range of material and equipment is used in manufacturing processes. Material handling processes are used in surveys, routing, plant and equipment layouts, storage of materials and packaging.

  • Processing

The processing industry requires bulk handling of different materials such as liquids, semi liquids, gases and bulky solids. Special handling problems often affect plant design.

  • Construction

The construction industry requires proper sorting, receiving, storing and moving materials. Heavy construction projects make use of special equipment when handling materials.

  • Mining

Both underground mines as well as open pit operations use a wide variety of equipment for the extraction and transportation of mined ore. These processes have helped to reduce the cost of extraction.

  • Truck Building

Automotive engineers design trucks and trailers for efficient materials handling functions that enable rapid loading and unloading of materials as well as the safe transportation of the materials.

  • Rail Road Car Builders

Improved rail road cars facilitate better material handling of bulky goods. Terminal equipment design takes into consideration the need for lading and securing large volumes of materials.

  • Barge and Ship Building

The marine industry involves the transportation of very bulky materials. New handling services as well as improved marine carriers are used in the industry.

  • Aircraft

The air transport industry now uses better cargo handling and storage methods.


Materials handling systems touch virtually every industry you can think of.  Efficient material handling systems are necessary for improving customer service, lowering delivery time, reducing inventory and lowering manufacturing costs.

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