Recent trends in manufacturing and material handling techniques focus on optimizing productivity rather than just simply increasing it. Businesses can achieve maximum advantage if they can leverage technology by making the most of everything they have on hand such as people, space (both vertical and lateral), and tools. Gone are the days when the storage warehouse is just for keeping goods. For a business to thrive, the warehouse should be an integral part of the overall manufacturing process.
Inventory costs count against the balance sheet. The faster you can make your goods flow, the faster the cash flows as well. In basic business, keeping cash and goods for a longer time than necessary isn’t good. Handling bulk materials and getting them quickly to the customer is essential to any business regardless of their scale and complexity.
There are many things to consider before selecting the appropriate storage equipment. Every warehouse is unique, and storage and handling equipment may not be the same for every factory. For instance, bulk material handling equipment will depend greatly on space, products, and what the next step is going to be. Do you have storage with a loading dock? Or is it just a small factory where everything arrives and leaves the facility in small packages? That is, what works for the material handling methods for the tulips in Rotterdam is different from handling iPhones in Shenzhen.
In this article, we will be discussing the principles, considerations, and types of material handling equipment that will take your business to the next level.
What are the 3 parts of the material handling system?
The first techniques used three basic steps in handling: material gathering, manufacture, and product distribution—in separate steps, where materials had a single unit instead of bulk. The proper consideration of these will determine how you can select the right material handling equipment types for your business. Note that these don’t end in the warehouse. These can work well with your manufacturing process as well.
There are four dimensions businesses should consider before selecting the right warehouse equipment. The nature of the business, such as customer requirements, manufacturing methods, order systems, and the goods handled are considered in these four dimensions. These are:
Quantity of goods handled: Floor space, material handling equipment needs, size of goods, are defined by how much goods will pass through a warehouse. That is why factoring in how many goods stay in the warehouse, among other factors, will determine the floor space design, warehouse equipment, storage equipment, and material handling techniques.
Time: Some goods may stay for a longer time than others. Manufacturing principles such as Kanban and JIT calls for real-time planning for the supply chain. That is, once an order is placed (or planned orders for some industries), the goods stay in the warehouse for a short time (or for a defined time). The time spent by goods in the warehouse, along with the number of goods, will factor in on how and which warehouse handling techniques will be implemented.
Space: Space doesn’t end with the floor space and design. Businesses should also consider utilizing vertical space as well. In some cases, the land shape of the facilities can play a crucial part in designing your material handling flow. For instance, cross-docking equipment is more appropriate for open areas.
Movement: With all the other three considerations in mind, we come to how the movement of goods happens from the receiving end of the warehouse to the outgoing end. Here is where storage equipment and material handling equipment can play a huge part. Small businesses might just require a wire fence to create floor space for stored goods whereas large quantities of goods handled by substantial e-commerce companies will require engineered systems for their bulk material handling equipment needs. The key is to find the most efficient storage that a business requires.
The Goals of Your Material Handling Flow
It is crucial for businesses to know the goals of, not just your warehouse team, but your material handling team as well. This is a checklist of what your goals are:
Shorten the Time to Customer: The less time your materials linger in your manufacturing process, the lower the cost. Knowing the principles in this article is crucial to saving minutes, hours, or days it will take for the goods to reach the customers. Customer satisfaction is key for any business.
Improve the control of your material flow: Meaningful use of your storage and handling equipment directly correlates to how you can improve the control of your material flow. The proper combination of these can facilitate a more efficient production pathway.
Determine the distance to be covered. The shorter, the better: Analyzing your warehouse space and properly placing your material handling equipment should take the distance as a crucial consideration.
Eliminate material damage and maintain the high quality of goods: With the right handling equipment and methods, you can prevent goods from being lost to scrappage. Writing-off good shippable materials can be a huge headache.
Maximize the utilization of manual labor as well as equipment: Efficient material handling methods can lead to optimization of manual labor. The less manual labor you have, the less you have to spend on onboarding, training, recruitment, and learning curve for your workers. Moreover, leaving equipment idle for extended periods of time is wasteful.
Provide a hazard-free and safe workspace: Designing your material handling system should take employee safety as a primary consideration. Accidents result in substantial costs. Frequent accidents can be a matter of life and death to a business as well as the affected employee.
The Principles of Material Handling in the Warehouse
Consider material handling in a warehouse floor as a crucial element in the manufacturing process. To boost your warehouse material handling process, you should consider these principles first:
- Planning: A team approach is essential to making the planning stage work. Note that the warehouse is integral to the manufacturing process. This includes the order cycle, IT team, manufacturing team, and most importantly, the management team. All functional specifications, needs, and performance objectives should be in everyone’s minds.
- Work Flow: This is the technical aspect of the overall work principle for people on the warehouse floor. Note this formula: count per unit time, volume, weight, and multiply that by the total distance covered. Studying micro-movement to minimize unnecessary action will reap dividends in the long term. The additional seconds added in productivity can go a long way.
- Automation: Meaningful implementation of automated systems, robotic delivery systems, automated storage, in a well-executed engineered system can also help boost productivity. Note that the objective of automated storage equipment is not to eliminate manual labor. The goal of these automated systems is to free the employees to take on more high-value, and safer tasks.
- Space: Acquisition of the most appropriate storage and handling equipment takes a huge consideration on how they will fit in your space. However, there are storage and handling equipment designed to maximize your warehouse space. Mezzanines and multiple stacking frames can help you utilize vertical space as long as you can keep with the ceiling-to-rack requirements.
- System: Note that the warehouse is just a part of the supply chain. It should serve your customers and distributors, as well as support your manufacturers, and suppliers. The goal for this is to ensure on-time delivery, at a lower cost, at the right quantity, and with good quality.
- Standardization: Standardization means placing everything on paper. Every move, action, and change is properly documented and follows defined rules. Standardization makes it easy for engineers, and management to make improvements, or point out flaws in the system quickly.
Material handling equipment Types
Storage and handling equipment
- Shelves: These are the most obvious and basic form of storage and handling equipment and are less open to racks. These may contain drawers and could be cantilever types, boltless types, and revolving types.
- Work assist tools: These can include retrieval systems to load materials. These may be automated systems or aids for manual material retrieval. Examples are pallet jacks,
- Racks: These include sliding racks, drive-in racks, push-back racks, drive-through racks, and pallet racks.
- Mezzanines: It is a novel way to maximize vertical space and can double the productive area of any warehouse. You can create a tool room, office space, archive storage, or even rent out the upper levels to other businesses. Some manufacturing operations can even accommodate an additional assembly line this way.
Bulk Material Handling Equipment
- Conveyor systems: a conveyor belt is just a part of a system that will move items from one part of the warehouse to another to save floor space and manual effort.
- Reclaimers: These are an essential part of conveyor systems. These will facilitate the sorting of materials that pass through the conveyor system and pass it on to another tool that can transport materials to their destination.
- Stackers: These can be either be small or hand-propelled trucks.
- Hoppers: These are specifically useful for small materials in loose form. They use gravity to help facilitate transporting materials down to their intended destination. Particularly useful for toy production.
- Bucket elevators: These can be hand-cranked or motorized. Materials in a loose bulk form such as gravel, small raw material components, and other bulk material in loose form can use these tools especially if it requires relaying these to the upper levels of the production floor.
- Silos: These are particularly useful for storing grain. Other applications are for aggregate, sawdust, coal, and woodchips.
- Grain elevators: These are material handling equipment designed for large quantities of grain. These may include either a conveyor system or bucket elevators.
- Industrial Trucks
- Hand trucks: These are normally associated with transport loads that weigh a few hundred pounds or less. These resemble trolleys with some varieties having metallic frames and toe plates.
- Pallet trucks: These are for transporting products from a stack of pallets. These can either be electrically operated or manual. They have appendages that move beneath the pallet to pick them up.
- Walkie stalker: These are optimized versions of pallet jacks.
- Order picking process machines: These are bigger versions of the walkie stalker. There are some automated systems that use computer-operated trucks that can replace or retrieve stacked items from 15 to 30 feet.
- Sideload equipment: These retrieval systems load and unload materials from the side. Though not as versatile as forklifts, these are specifically useful for storage with limited space.
- Platform trucks: These are simple trucks resembling platforms but with wheels.
Why Warehouse Layout is Important
The proper selection of material handling equipment should take the overall warehouse layout as an essential consideration. If you don’t take layout seriously, you may run the risk of injury, bottlenecks, motion waste, and overall loss of efficiency.
- Warehouse objectives: The first consideration is knowing what the goals of your warehouse are. Is it for inventory management, or is it for streamlining your packing and picking processes? You may also consider if your warehouse may need to hold materials that will linger such as archived products.
- Efficient storage space: The goal is to maximize the space. Note that not all of the warehouse is all about storing stuff. The proper approach for achieving the most efficient space takes into account how the staff moves. Selecting the most appropriate material handling equipment will depend on the efficient use of storage space.
- Uninterrupted Flow: Uninterrupted flow calls upon ensuring the efficient and proper utilization of all tools, personnel, and equipment. Uninterrupted flow can also serve your space requirements. Best of all, this can help the bottom line by cutting down on inventory costs.
- Inventory Storage: There will be instances when some of your goods may not move as fast as the others. You need to map out and plan where you will store your inventory depending on the time they will leave your facility. For instance, improper consideration of your inventory storage might lead you to place it in an area that can better serve faster-moving materials.
Takeaways: Why is a material handling system important?
Material handling is a critical part of achieving a successful warehouse. … It also enables you to reduce shipping and handling time by eliminating the hassle and costs associated with storing goods in a warehouse.
Acquiring material handling equipment is a substantial investment for any business. Proper consideration of the principles, goals, objectives of the warehouse with respect to your business operations will determine how well your material handling equipment helps your bottom line.
Blindly selecting handling equipment such as conveyor belts, material handling equipment, automatic guided vehicles, or even an engineered system may lead to more loss if it doesn’t help the goals of your warehouse.
Storage Equipment Systems, Inc. offers experienced, licensed, insured and bonded installers for all your material handling needs.
We guarantee that our professionally trained and certified technicians understand your equipment and will fix it right the first time.
If you ignore the building permit process it can cost you money or even having to remove the equipment being installed until a permit is obtained.