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Material Handling



  • All movement of materials in a manufacturing environment (broad definition)

  • The art of and science involving moving, packaging, and storing of substances in any form (American Society of Mechanical Engineers)

  • The function of moving the right material to the right place, at the right time, in the right amount, in sequence, and in the right position or condition to minimize production cost (specific definition)

  • The art & science involving the moving, packing, and storing of substances in any form. ASME definition: (More practical)

  • All movement of materials in a manufacturing environment


  • On the average, material handling accounts for 50% of the total operations cost

  • Non powered material handling equipment such as gravity chutes, rollers, hand carts, and hand jacks can be very cost efficient and should always be considered

Related to planning (8 Principles apply)

  1. Planning Principle: ll handling activities should be planned.

  2. System Principle: Plan a system integrating as many  handling activities is practical and coordinating the full scope of operation..

  3. Material flow principle: Provide an operation sequence and equipment layout optimizing material flow.

  4. Simplification Principle: Reduce or eliminate unnecessary movement or equipment.

  5. Gravity Principle:  Utilize gravity to move material wherever practical

  6. Space Utilization Principle: Make optimum utilization of building cube.

  7. Unite Size principles: Increase the quantity, size, or weight of units loads, or flow rates.

  8. Safety Principle: Provide suitable methods/equipment for safe handling

Related to Equipment (9 Principles apply)

  1. Automation Principle: Provide automation to include production, handling, and storage functions.

  2. Equipment Selection Principle: In selecting handling equipment consider all aspects of the material handled-the movement and the method of use.

  3. Standardization Principle Standardize handling methods as well as type and sizes of handling equipment. 

  4. Flexibility Principle: Use methods and equipment that can perform a variety of tasks and applications

  5. Dead-Weight Principle: Reduce ratio of dead weight of mobile handling equipment to load carried

  6. Motion Principle: Equipment designed to transport material should be kept in motion.

  7. Idle Time Principle: Reduce idle or unproductive time of both handling equipment and workforce.

  8. Maintenance principle: Plan for preventive maintenance and schedule repair of all handling equipment.

  9. Obsolescence Principle: Replace obsolete methods and equipment when newer methods or equipment will pay off in a reasonable time.

Related to Operation

  1. Production and Inventory Control Principle: Plan all material handling and storage activities to obtain maximum overall operating efficiency.   

  2. Capacity Principle:  Use handling equipment to help achieve desired production capacity.

  3. Performance efficiency Principle: Determine effectiveness of handling performance in terms of expense per unit handled.

  • J. M. Apple, Georgia Institute of Technology, Material Handling, Encyclopedia of Management