Organisation of material handling and concepts

Material handling is a job that directly affects each area in a plant, and as such requires a carefully planned organizational structure. The structure varies with the industry, the type of manufacturing process, the product manufactured, its bulk and its value. Emphasis depends on the amount of handling required in the manufacturing process. In small firms, for example the materials handling function may be one of several duties assigned to the plant engineer, the purchasing manager or the production manager. As firms grow in size, however, an increase in specialization is usually manifest in this area until a stage is reached where a separate department is developed to study procedures and devise better materials handling techniques. When organized, materials handling is a function and is often a part of the industrial engineering section. In some organizations, however, materials handling is subordinated to materials management, production, purchasing, storing or maintenance. Irrespective of which department it is subordinated to, materials handling should be centralized under one head so that an overall coordinated approach is possible.

Unit Load Concept

One of the basic requirements of efficient material handling is observance of the Unit Load Principle, which implies that the larger the load handled, the lower the cost per unit handled.

A unit load is understood as a number of items, or bulk material, so arranged that the mass can be picked up and moved as a single object, too large for manual handling. It is implied that any single object too large for manual handling is a unit load.

Simply stated, the unit load principle means that, it is quicker to move a lot of items as a unit than it is to move each one of them individually. With machines at our disposal, these units can be made for machine size rather than man size.

In grouping materials into units, many companies use skids or pallets so that mechanical trucks can be employed to lift and move the unit. Not only do skids and pallets save time in handling materials, but goods so handled are more compact and require less floor space because they can be stacked.

The use of the principle of unit load has been so effective that many firms today are insisting that materials which they buy be supplied on a unit load basis(palletized, for example) rather than in individual units or packages.

Despite the obvious advantages, unit load has specific disadvantages which should not be ignored.

The disadvantages are:

1.Cost of unitizing and de-unitizing.
2.Equipment and space requirements.
3.Bare weight of unitizing medium.
4.Problem of returning empty pallets or containers.
5.Transfer equipment often not available on both ends of the move.

Flow Pattern

Another basic requirement of effective materials handling is the planned material flow. When drawn on paper, the flow pattern becomes a flow chart, which will help locate needles, crisscrossing and back-tracking of material movements. Once the areas of unwanted movements are known, steps can be taken to eliminate or reduce such moves

A well conceived and carefully planned material flow pattern will have many advantages. Some of the advantages are as follows:

1.Increased efficiency of production.
2.Better utilization of floor space.
3.Simplified handling activities.
4.Better equipment utilization, less idle time.
5.Reduced in-process time.
6.Reduced in-process inventory.
7.More efficient utilization of work force.
8.Reduced product damage.
9.Reduced walking distances.
10.Minimal accident hazards.
11.Basis for an efficient layout.
12.Faster supervision.
13.Simplified production control.
14.Minimal back tracking.
15.Smooth production flow.
16.Improved scheduling process.
17.Reduced crowded conditions.
18.Better housekeeping.
19.Logical work sequence.