Concept of Material Handling – Definition and Functions

Material Handling involves the movement of material, manually or mechanically in batches or one item at a time within the plant. The movement may be horizontal, vertical or combination of horizontal or vertical. Material Handling is the movement, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal. The focus is on the methods, mechanical equipment, systems and related controls used to achieve these functions. Briefly, Material Handling is the moving of materials from the raw stage through production to ultimate Customer with the least expenditure of time and effort so as to produce maximum Productive Efficiency at the lowest Material Handling cost.

Material Handling is concerned with motion, time, quantity and space. Material Handling Institute describes this as follows:

  1. Material Handling is MOTION. Parts, material and finished products must be moved from store to location. Material Handling is concerned with moving them in the most efficient manner.
  2. Material Handling is TIME. Each step in any manufacturing process requires that it supplies are on hand the moment it needs them. Material Handling must assure that no production process or customer need will be hampered by moving material arranged of location too late or too early.
  3. Material Handling is QUANTITY. Rate of demand varies between steps in the manufacturing process. Material Handling has the responsibility of being sure that each location continually receives the correct quantity of parts.
  4. Material Handling is SPACE. Storage space, both active and dormant, is a major consideration in any building as space costs money. Space requirement are greatly influenced by the Material Handling flow pattern.

Definitions of Material Handling

Basic Definition:

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.

Material Handling is the art of implementing movement-economically and safely. In the classic sense, Material Handling is the act of creating Time and Place utility, as distinct from Manufacturing, which creates form utility. The proper application of Material Handling knowledge will result in the smooth integration of all the process in an enterprise into one efficient Production Machine.

By J.R. Bright:

Material Handling is a system designed in order to get the materials. At right a) place b) at right time c) in right quantity d) in good condition e) at minimum cost.

By Henry Fayol :

It is a system of auxiliary equipment that improves flow of material which intern reduces stoppage in production machines and thus increases productivity of machine. These equipment are designed in order to supplement the production machines.

By James Apple :

It is that branch of Engineering concerned with development of special Machinery for transporting goods through various manufacturing stages to finished product stage. It is systematic physical movement of material.

By National Productivity Council :

It is a system which forms the single factors of movement, transfer, warehousing, in process handling and shipping into one interdependent cycle considering the most economical solution for the respective plant.

Functions of Material Handling

Material handling embraces three functions namely;

  1. Moving: It includes movement between machines or workstations, between department, between buildings, the loading and unloading of carrier’s, as well as much of more handling done at work place.
  2. Storage: It includes storage of material and tools and supplies between and around all of the above location, including finishing good, warehousing, and the other storage related activities that lie between the producer and consumer.
  3. Selection:
    • To choose production machinery and assist in plant layout so as to eliminate as far as possible the need of material handling; and
    • To choose most appropriate material handling equipment which is safe and can fulfill material handling requirement at the minimum possible overall cost.

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