Take a moment to think about the multitude of equipment and systems that interact with your inventory daily. All that “stuff” falls under the umbrella of material handling, and it has a massive impact on the efficiency and profitability of your business. Let’s look closely at material handling and the benefits of getting it right.
In the business world, material handling is all about moving, storing, controlling, and safeguarding materials and products during manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution and throughout the consumption and disposal processes. Material handling questions and solutions are part of any manufacturing or logistics project, and any attempts to improve efficiency or productivity must involve conversations about material handling.
Material handling can be divided into four general categories:
This category refers to equipment that stores materials at times when they are not being used or transported, short or long-term. Examples include shelves, bins, drawers, stationary and moveable racks, pallets, stacking frames, mezzanines, and many others. Getting this type of material handling equipment right helps maximize space and provides easy access to needed materials
Automated systems, sometimes called engineered systems, can help with both storage and transportation. An example of an automated material handling system that does both is an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) that stores and retrieves inventory on demand.
Other examples of automated systems include conveyors, AGVs (automated guided vehicles), and robotic systems. While these three involve different engineering, the idea behind them – to move materials between locations automatically in the most efficient way possible – is the same.
These aren’t trucks for driving on the road, they’re trucks used inside to move materials around the warehouse or manufacturing floors. Some industrial trucks are hand operated while others can actually be driven. Examples include forklifts, side loaders, hand trucks, and pallet jacks.
These systems are made to store, manage, or move very large quantities of material. Some automated conveyor systems can fall into the bulk material handling category, as do grain silos, hoppers, stackers, reclaimers, and others.
It bears repeating: all your raw materials and everything you make and sell come into contact with material handling systems and equipment. All of it. The power of leveraging the relationship between productivity and material handling cannot be overstated. Here are just a few of the benefits:
People are expensive and slow. Anything you can do to reduce the number of people it takes to do tasks such as sorting, picking, transporting, and shipping will speed things up and save money.
You need enough space on the warehouse and production floors to store everything you need to store and to allow your staff and equipment to maneuver freely and easily in order to access everything you’ve got stored. A crowded space is an inefficient space. Storage and handling equipment helps you use your space efficiently while still providing the access needed to accomplish daily operations.
People drop things, but so does the wrong material handling equipment. When materials aren’t handled correctly, damages occur. Having the right solutions in place to move materials safely decreases the rate of product damage. Replacing damaged materials results in unnecessary costs and time delays.
Solid material handling solutions tailored to your business means your customers are more likely to get what they want when they want it. Accuracy improves, as do delivery times, both of which lead to happy, loyal customers.
Material handling solutions improve efficiency and productivity in countless ways. In addition to those improvements already mentioned, implementing modern material handling gets more work done in less time. There’s less fatigue, fewer errors, shorter trips, and more speed when the right systems and equipment are in place.
Moving large quantities of material manually is rough on employees. Solutions such as lift trucks and conveyors take the burden off your people and prevent the risks of health problems related to over-exertion or repetitive motions. The right approach to material handling improves the safety of your crew and reduces the number of work-related injuries, which is good for you and your staff.
The best equipment makes your facility a good place to work. Your employees will appreciate having the right equipment to get their jobs done safely, and they’ll stay. Morale is also better when injury rates are low and when workers don’t have to spend time on problems like fixing errors or searching for missing items. Plus, word will get ‘round that you take care of your staff, making attracting good workers easy. A positive workplace and a culture of caring are good for your people, productivity, and business.
Everything comes down to money, and material handling is no exception. As your profit margins tighten, finding ways to save money becomes critical to boosting your bottom line. Yes, investing in material handling equipment costs money, but the productivity and efficiency improvements it brings – when done right – can save big bucks over the long term. All the benefits listed here have a direct and measurable impact on the bottom line.
Are you ready for material handling solutions? We’ve got you covered if you need a high-tech conveyor system, ideas for speeding up your warehousing processes, more space for inventory growth, or robots to make your materials flow fast and smooth. Indoff is a trusted material handling distributor and supplier.
If you’ve got material handling questions, Indoff has the answers. Call us today to find out what we can do for you.
Jim joined Indoff in 1988 after spending 5 years at Ernst & Young, where he specialized in audit and accounting for privately-held businesses. Jim is responsible for the day-to-day management of Indoff.
Phone: (314) 997-1122 ext. 1203
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John’s background includes the start up and acquisition of several successful business ventures, and he provides strategic planning and overall corporate governance.
Phone: (314) 997-1122 ext. 1201