Tips for Increasing Material Handling Efficiency

Material handling is defined as the process of movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products undertaken in certain workplace environments that deal with the manufacturing, distribution and disposal of products (MHI, 2017 ¹). Such processes mainly take place in demanding work environments like warehouses, involving the use of in-house equipment such as pallet trucks, transportation trolleys, forklifts, etc. In fact, material handling is one of the most important processes dealt with in the warehousing industry. Improper and inefficient handling of products may lead to a loss of work productivity, an increase in production and manufacturing costs, a decrease in the quality of operations carried out, etc. In order to avoid these negative effects, businesses that operate warehouses should follow the tips below.

Maintain Equipment Properly

Any machine, be it manual or automatic, needs to be properly maintained. This can help increase its effectiveness and longevity, which is obviously beneficial for warehousing activities. For example, transport equipment ranging from simple devices, such as a platform trolley, to large and complex ones, such as a forklift truck, are commonly used for ferrying goods. If these machines are not regularly oiled, cleaned and checked for irregularities, they might malfunction. This could affect the entire material handling chain in the warehouse, leading to inefficiency. Hence, ensuring equipment is kept in optimal condition is extremely important for good warehouse management, especially with respect to material handling (Machine Transport, 2016 ²).

Get the Most Out of Your Labour Force

Warehouse labour often accounts for at least 50% of the total operating costs (Machine Transport, 2016 ²). Businesses in this sector might incur further costs if their employees do not work effectively. This might badly affect the material handling processes, thus leading to a decrease in business productivity. To avoid this, management should follow a few simple steps. Firstly, appropriate training should be provided to the workers so that their knowledge and working efficiency can increase. Businesses should also make sure that the workforce abides by any safety protocols in order to minimise the risk of injuries or damage in the event of an accident. One of the best ways to ensure that the warehouse runs efficiently is division of labour. By assigning sufficient personnel to every sub-process, all parts of the process will operate smoothly, thus maximising overall output. Businesses can also cross train employees so that they learn about different parts of the business and can handle a variety of processes apart from the one to which they have been assigned. For example, a labour force that handles transportation equipment like pallet jacks and transport trolleys can also be trained to take part in racking and shelving processes (Machine Transport, 2016 ²).

Be Tech Savvy

Technological developments have also entered the sector of warehousing. Using Warehouse Management Software (WMS) Programs is an example of technological development that can help increase warehousing processes. Those businesses that haven’t yet adopted management software should consider changing their working processes. By following this tip, businesses can increase the efficiency of their material handling systems.

From an overall perspective, using new technology, taking care of equipment and properly managing the labour force can be beneficial for material handling systems.

  1. MHI (2017), Material Handling [online] accessed from: http://www.mhi.org/fundamentals/material-handling [accessed 2017]
  2. Machine Transport (2016), Warehouse Cost Operations: How to Maximize Efficiency While Keeping Overhead Down [online] available from: http://www.machinetransport.com/2016/08/warehouse-cost-operations-how-to-maximize-efficiency-while-keeping-overhead-down/ [accessed 2017]