Materials handling may be defined as the art and science of movement, handling and storage of materials during different stages of manufacturing considered as material flow into, through and away from the plant. It is in fact, the technique of getting the right goods safely, to the right place, at the right time and at the right cost.
All tangible and intangible benefits can be reduced to four major objectives. The application of material handling methods and equipment to be of greatest benefits should be governed by the following:
1) Reduced Costs:
Cost-Reduction programs have two broad goals; either to reduce the cost of Material Handling or to reduce total production cost; by improved handling procedures. The latter concept net reduction in total manufacturing costs. The Ways in which cost reductions are realized through improved material handling are;
- Reducing material handling labour.
- Reducing the Material handling work done by direct labour. High-skill and high-cost labour should not be assigned low-skill and low-cost labour.
- Reducing indirect labour associated with material handling activities, such as shipping, production control personnel, inspectors, etc.
- Reducing waste and damaged materials through more careful handling.
- Reducing paper work and associated clerical help through handling systems that minimizes control requirements.
- Reducing the amount of material in the system by faster through-put and less in-process storage.
- Reducing the amount of subsidiary materials such as packaging materials and other protective devices such as trays, racks and special containers.
2) Increased Capacity
Material handling improvements can increase capacity in the following ways,
- Better space utilization: Modern storage systems make use of “AIR RIGHTS” by means of racks or containers that stack upon each other when full and nest completely when empty, e.g. handling systems, particularly cranes and conveyor can operate in unused space above production activities. They can be arranged to operate outside buildings in unnecessary stairways, through underground passage-ways, or other unusable space. This can release prime space for production and storage. The net result is a great increase in space utilization and handling efficiency.
- Improving the layout to reduce travel or excessive waste of spaces: By analyzing the flow of materials between operations, the volume involved in the flow paths and the timing of material movement, it is usually possible to reduce travel time and space needs. Rearranging equipment and providing handling systems that reduces the distance material must travel are usual practices.
- Higher equipment utilization: Many pieces of expensive production equipment do not operate at their potential capacity because are limited by the rate at which materials are supplied to, or removed from, the equipment or the work area. A proper handling system, or efficient control of an existing handling system can greatly increase production equipment utilization.
- Faster loading and discharge of common carriers: The adaptation of portable conveyor systems & cranes to the loading of motor carriers greatly reduces loading time. Thus the transportation unit can spend more time moving and less time sitting the loading dock. This not only lowers operating cost but reduces the number of docks or terminal spaces required, with a corresponding reduction in loading crews (workers) and of supervision.
3) Improved Working Condition
- Safety to men, materials and associate equipment: These may be enhanced by a proper material handling system. Insurance cost. Accident cost, lost time associated with accidents, etc. is all reduced by proper material handling. Material and equipment damage are also greatly reduced.
- Easier jobs: When heavy objects must be handled, the rate of output may be significantly affected by the physical ability and condition of the operators. Moreover, heavy work can only be done by men, and often only by young men. Many handling system have been justified in part, by the fact that they have taken the high effort out of the task, resulting in a steadier flow of work throughout the day and in higher production. It also may mean lower employee turnover, less training on replacement workers and better morale in the work force.
- Lighter Work: If the work is physically lighter, it may be possible to use operators at different job classification i.e. at lower wage rate.
- Fool proof operation: In some activities it is also too easy for an operator to become confused and to direct material to a wrong location, to use the wrong amount, to mishandle or damage materials, or to otherwise disrupt production operation. Handling systems are sometimes installed to insure that such errors will not happen. In the mixing of fertilizers, foods, and other bulk products that are formulated to order, this may be very attractive benefit.
4) Value Addition to Products
Handling systems often enhance the value of a product to the customer. The adaptation of such handling system may make the difference in the customer’s decision to use one vendor instead of another. This may be accomplished by the following means.
- Speed of service: If the handling procedure can provide goods or materials promptly, accordingly to the customer’s desire, or with a significant time advantage over competitors, it may be the prime reason that business is obtained or retained.
- Helping customers cut costs: The development of the unit load has enabled vendors to help customer cut there of cost since they need not handle individual items or undertake the expense of palletizing on their own docks. The reduction in packaging or packing materials and their cost is sometimes obtained through unit load techniques. This may enable the vendor to cut his cost to the customer. Also, the use of materials by the purchaser may be simplified by proper unit load design thereby reducing the cost of unpacking and disposing of the packaging material. Unitizing by the vendor may be done at the end of his assembly lines, or other final operations.
- Sales value of an outstanding installation: While it might be hard to prove that a handling system is justified in promotional value alone, a tremendous amount of publicity can accrue to a truly outstanding system. Several managers have been heard to argue vigorously that by taking prospective customers through their new factories, the visitors have become so impressed that an order was obtained because of the impression of efficiency, quality and service conveyed by the installation. An outstanding plant is admired by employees as well as customers.
In brief, the primary objectives of Material Handling are;
- To save money
- To save time
- To save men