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Improving material handling process

By Guest Author,

Added 30 April 2018

Material handling is essential part of logistics and manufacturing industry and is integral to design of most production systems. By Shantanu Singh Chauhan


Material handling embraces all of the basic operations involved in the movement of bulk, packaged, and individual products in a semisolid or solid state by means of machinery, and within the limits of a place of business. Material handling is essential part of logistics and manufacturing industry and is integral to design of most production systems. Here are few tips that can get most out of your material handling system:

Focus on customer services
Planning and standardisation is critical for improving the process. While planning focus on customer services. Setup up customer satisfaction criteria and plan your actions accordingly. Focus on what your commitments to customers are and design processes to adhere to same. Once you have setup a process which can deliver satisfaction to customer, standardised it to maintain consistency.

Optimise and segregate
Taichi Ohno, the father of lean manufacturing, identified ‘seven deadly wastes’ that prevent the value-added flow from raw materials to finished goods. The wastes are Overproduction, waiting, downtime, unnecessary movement, excess inventory, unnecessary motion and defective products. By implementing the process of lean manufacturing your organisation can easily move from build-to-order to build-to-stock.

Design for your Unit
It is important to identify and design all your systems and processes for unit load. A unit load is either a single unit of an item, or multiple units so arranged or restricted that they can be handled as a single unit and maintain their integrity (Wikipedia, n.d.). Have clear understanding of shape, weight and velocity of your SKU and Units. Identify how fast your SKU move and assign most active SKUs to closed to input/output point.

With technology evolving rapidly, automation is key to your success. Material handling operations should be automated to improve operational efficiency, improve consistency and to eliminate repetitive or potentially unsafe manual labour. Before implementing automation, remember to simplify/redesign your process.

Put Human in centre
No Material handling process can be fully automated due to complexity and cost involve in handling different SKU. Human are essential part of your successful Material handling. Ensure your system are designed with ergonomics in mind.  Keep safety and accessibility as key ingredient of your process. Optimise task to eliminate multiple touch points. Use experienced staff for unloading and offloading.

Maintenance is the key
Perform audits, and maintenance frequently. Use retrofitting wherever as possible. Keep floor and area crack free. Keep extra spare parts like motors, belts, bearings and rollers all the time.

Being caring to environment is not only a virtue but a fundamental for success in your Material handling system. Energy use and potential environmental impact should be considered when designing the system. Reuse packaging, reduce wastages, put consistent effort in maintenance of machinery and area. By using simple easy to remember approaches—reduce, reuse and recycle, you will not only do good to environment but also save you money.

The author is Co- founder, Startup Arena.

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