Materials Handling 101

Published: 08th December 2005
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Materials handling can be defined as the act of loading and unloading and moving goods within a factory, using mechanical devices. Materials handling equipment means equipment, including its supporting structures, auxiliary equipment and rigging devices, used to transport, lift, move or position persons, materials, goods or things. It also includes mobile equipment used to lift, hoist or position persons, but does not include an elevating device that is permanently installed in a building. Though the specifics of material handling would vary from industry to industry and from organization to organization, it broadly refers to the movement of materials (raw materials, scrap, semi-finished and finished) to, through, and from productive processes; in warehouses and storage; and in receiving and shipping areas. When we use the term 'materials' with reference to materials handling, it includes: apparatus, devices, implements, or methods for placing or displacing particular articles in a particular manner or with reference to a particular support.

To give the reader a better idea of some practical environments where material handling is vital consider:
Loading or unloading vehicles with materials or objects in general
Charging or discharging furnaces, bins, chambers, or other receptacles
Stacking or piling articles or materials
Combinations of general types of carriers or forwarding mechanisms
General types of elevators, cranes, or hoists when associated with special means for handling the load to place it on the carrier or remove it from there

The term 'handling' in materials handling refers to those more or less complex and intricate movements, imparted to matter by instruments or mechanisms which are deemed analogous to non-shaping manipulations, or the varying movements imparted to matter or objects by hand.

One of the key aspects of material handling, and one of principle importance since the rise of retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart is warehouse management. Warehouse Management System (WMS) is a computer-based inventory management system for material in the warehouse. It uses RF and computer terminals to guide and support receiving, storage, picking, cycle inventory, and shipping operations. It helps improve inventory accuracy, productivity, and customer service.

Chris Tolamalu is interested in material handling.

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