Material Handling – What it is, How it’s Used, & How to Optimize Your Warehouse

Angela Barlow

04.23.2021

There are a lot of key elements and factors that go into maintaining a productive, efficient warehouse. For example, you need employees who understand the warehouse’s logistics and can finely tune their tasks to ensure orders are met on time and correctly. You also need proper safety precautions to ensure they are safe at all times and tools and solutions in place that make their jobs easier.

After all, there is plenty of truth to the age-old adage “work smarter, not harder.” There are many groundbreaking tools and technologies out there that can make material handling—or the handling of goods and materials within a warehouse or facility—much more straightforward. Companies that optimize their material handling using these premier tools and solutions will position themselves ahead of the competition.

Before we dive into those solutions, let’s first discuss material handling using a more in-depth definition of this crucial warehouse term.

What is Material Handling?

material handling guide
Warehouse worker dragging hand pallet truck or manual forklift with the shipment pallet unloading into a truck. Distribution, Logistics Import, Export operation, Trading, Shipment, Delivery concept

While handling goods within a warehouse is a crucial part of material handling, the term encompasses much more than that specific area of a company’s logistics. Material handling uses a wide range of manual, semi-automated, and automated equipment and includes the protection, storage, and control of materials throughout their manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal.

Depending on what a company does, they may go through all those steps in their material handling, or just a few. For example, consider an automaker in which the actual manufacturing of their product is a vital part of their material handling. On the other hand, a grocery store is mainly concerned with collecting goods that have already been made (though there are exceptions for grocery stores with their own name brands).

Some of the main goals of a company’s material handling strategies may include:

  • Facilitate the reduction in material damage to improve quality
  • Reduce overall manufacturing time by designing efficient material movement
  • Create and encourage safe and hazard-free work conditions
  • Improve productivity and efficiency
  • Better utilization of time and equipment
  • Determine the appropriate and optimal distances that need to be covered to carry out the creation and distribution of goods.

Many principles are incorporated into material handling strategies. You can read about all of them in this article, but here are some of the main ones to keep in mind:

  • Standardization Principle: Utilizing the standardization of handling methods and equipment.
  • Systems Principle: Integrates handling and storage activities, which is cost-effective, into integrated system design.
  • Orientation Principle: Making sure to look at all available system relationships before moving towards preliminary planning.
  • Safety Principle: Encourages provision for safe handling equipment according to safety rules and regulation

But, to keep it simple, you can think of material handling as the logistics of a company that creates and/or sells goods.

Now let’s look at some real-world examples of companies that have their supply chain and material handling down to a science.

Examples of Companies That Excel With Material Handling

A company with a massive global presence that is often recognized for its supply chain and ability to integrate innovative and effective material handling is Nike. Nike is a particularly interesting company, as Morgan Stanely analysts recently forecasted that 20% of Nike’s production of (and Adidas’) shoes will move to more automated factories by 2023. Automation has and will continue to be an area of interest for large enterprises looking to fine-tune their material handling. For an example of a company at the forefront of automation in material handling, look no further than Amazon.

H&M is also lauded for its supply chain and material handling. After a down year in 2017, the Sweden-based clothing brand decided to integrate new technologies into their logistics. These technologies aimed to make their supply chain faster, more flexible, and more responsive to their customers’ needs, according to CIPS.

Another company that has taken great series in their material handling systems is Unilever. A massive company with global reach, Univler’s decision to consolidate roughly 30 warehouses into five distribution center’s in the early 2000s illustrated their understanding of the importance of being efficient and cutting out excess with their supply chain.

Now let’s discuss some potential solutions that companies can use today to optimize their material handling.

Solutions For Optimizing Your Material Handling in Your Warehouse

Carts

It might seem like a simple swap at first, but using actual price change and inventory carts for your warehouse needs instead of shopping carts (which are for your customers!) can significantly improve your warehouse efficiency. ENS’ Price Change & Inventory Management Cart solution is durable and can be used in-store and in your warehouse as well.

Device Mounts

Integrating devices into your warehouse processes is a fairly easy step to take that can have far-reaching and positive effects on efficiency. For example, warehouse mobile devices allow warehouse employees to find what they need fast.

But, before you can add them into your warehouse logistics, you’ll need sturdy, reliable mounts for them. While other device mounts only work for some devices, ENS’s new WL-1000 Warehouse Arm is the one-size-fits-all solution you’ve been looking for. The WL-1000 allows you just one product to attach to multiple structures and accept devices with either AMPS or VESA mounting patterns.

 To learn more about how WL-1000 can help you meet your customers’ demand, reach out to ENS today

Warehouse Management Software

If you don’t have a warehouse management system or software, the time to get one is now. Even if you do have one, perhaps it’s time for an upgrade. Utilizing warehouse management software with all the capabilities and functions you need can help you gain a massive competitive edge.

Check out this recently updated article, titled “Top 10 Best Warehouse Management Software Systems (WMS) In 2021”. Some of their recommendations for software include Fishbowl Inventory, Softeon, and High Jump.

Your warehouse is a key part of the overall supply chain and material handling process. Make sure that you’re constantly looking for ways to improve. The three solutions listed above are great places to start!

CATEGORIES