In a manufacturing firm, the raw materials are obtained from the suppliers and are stored in the store room. They are issued to production departments and are moved inside the plant area from one process to another for the purpose of processing till they are converted into finished products. Finished products are sent to the shipping section. The function of the material handling is confined only to the movement of raw materials from the store room to the shipping section.
Thus material handling involves the movement of materials from one place to another for the purpose of processing. They are moved either manually or mechanically with the help of different types of material handling equipment. The jobs tackled by material handling equipment include — lifting, moving dropping, positioning, holding, releasing, stacking etc. They are moved as a single item or in a lot depending upon size, weight etc. of the materials, the capacity of the material handling equipment and the type of the processing. Generally out of the men, machines and materials, the machines have fixed installations, men have specific working place on a shop floor area and their movements are mostly confined to the limited working space. While in case of materials, they travel extensively inside the plant area. So material handling is identified as one of the important functions of production engineering.
According to the American Material Handling Society, â€˜Materials handling is the art and science involving the movement, packing, and storing of substances in any form.â€™ Thus material handling function includes all types of movements vertical, horizontal or combination of both and of all types of materials fluid, semi fluid and discrete items and of movements required for packaging and storing. The material handling function is considered as one of the most important activities of the production function, as out of the total time spent by the materials inside the plant area, about 20% of the time is utilized for the purpose of actual processing on them while the remaining 80% of the time is spent in moving from one place to another, waiting for the processing or finding place in the sub stores. Moreover, about 20% of the total production cost is traceable as the material handling cost. Thus material handling function enjoys a pivotal role in production engineering. The relative percentage will vary according to the type of product, plant layout, production method, availability of resources like men, machines etc. The importance of material handling under the modern production system has increased to such an extent that, the production of material handling equipment itself has become a major industry of its own.
Material Handling and Plant Layout
The physical distance and the frequency of movements of the materials in between the process largely depend on the plant layout, i.e. the arrangement of the machines and plant services inside the plant area. The product layout with continuous system of production will require less time and cost of material handling, while under the process layout with intermittent production system, the to and fro movement of the materials, possibility of waiting for the processing and necessity of the inspection for the purpose of quality control will increase the time span of the material stay as well as the cost of handling. A good layout is one which reduces the material handling to the minimum. Both functions are so closely connected with each other that they cannot be considered isolated.
Material Handling and Production control
It should be noted that material handling is a distinct activity falling within the jurisdiction of production management. It is not a part of production control but it is closely associated with the function of production control. It is largely concerned with routing function of the production control activity and to the extent of the scheduling of the production activity.