Material Handling Definition and Advantages
Material handling, in its simplest form, is the process of transporting materials from one place to another. It includes loading, unloading, and storing products within a facility. An automated material handling system is a system that uses automated machinery and processes to move materials.
The advantages of material handling and automation in the production process are numerous and include:
1. Improved efficiency: Material handling equipment can help automate processes and reduce manual labour, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.
2. Cost reduction: Proper material handling can help reduce waste, damage, production downtime, and labour number resulting in cost savings.
3. Improved safety: Material handling equipment can help reduce the risk of workplace accidents by minimizing manual handling and the use of lifting devices.
4. Space optimisation: Material handling systems can help maximize warehouse space utilization and minimize storage costs by enabling better organization and movement of products.
Types of Material Handling System
Bulk Handling Material System
Bulk handling systems are used for the transport of large volumes of materials at a time. This type of system typically involves conveyor belts, cranes, hoppers and stackers. These systems can be used in various industries, including production, food processing, and shipping.
Conveyor belts are the most common type of bulk handling system. These systems are designed for efficient and continuous transport of materials from one location to another without interruption. They reduce the need for manual labour, as they can move materials quickly and precisely with minimal effort.
Cranes and lift truck machines are designed to move large volumes of materials safely and efficiently. They can be used to move materials from higher shelves, transport products over long distances, or even offload materials from a truck or container onto the production floor.
Hoppers are used to store materials and feed them onto the production line. This type of system makes it easy to control the flow of materials, as it can be adjusted quickly and easily depending on demand.
Stackers are another type of material handling system that is used in bulk handling operations. They are designed to stack and organise materials efficiently, which helps reduce labour costs by eliminating the need for manual stacking and organisation.
Engineered systems are designed to suit specific requirements in a production line. They utilise smart manufacturing automated technology to move materials between locations with minimal human involvement. This type of system can be used in industries such as automotive and aerospace, where precision is key.
One of the most common types of engineered material handling systems are robots. They are intended to provide accurate and efficient material movement from one location to another. Robotic arms can pick up objects with great accuracy and speed, reducing the need for manual labour and increasing the overall efficiency of the process.
AGVs are designed to move materials along predetermined paths without the need for human intervention. They are commonly used in warehouses and factories, as they can transport goods quickly and accurately with minimal labour involved.
Engineered systems also include automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). Automated storage and retrieval systems are a type of engineered system used to efficiently store and retrieve materials. They are typically used in inventory management operations, as they can store large volumes of products safely and securely while retrieving them quickly when needed.
Storage and Handling Systems
Storage and handling systems are designed to store and manage materials efficiently. These systems typically consist of flow racks, AR drive-ins, sliding pallet racks, bins, drawers, stacking frames, and mezzanines. Storage and handling systems reduce the need for manual labour by organising materials in an efficient manner that can be accessed quickly when needed.
Flow racks are a storage and handling system used to store items in an organised manner. This type of system consists of vertical racks that are mounted on rollers, allowing materials to move from one location to another with minimal effort.
AR drive-in systems are designed for large-volume products, as they can store items on pallets in a specified area. The AR drive-in system is also ideal for storing materials that need to be accessed frequently, as the rollers allow materials to move quickly and efficiently.
The sliding pallet is the type of system that utilises an automated shuttle system that can move materials quickly and efficiently. This type of system is ideal for companies that need to manage large volume products, as it can store and efficiently organise items.
Bins and drawer systems are designed to store small parts or products, making them ideal for retail or manufacturing applications. These systems utilise a series of drawers or bins that can be opened quickly when needed.
Stacking frames provide an efficient way to store materials vertically. This type of system is perfect for storing large items, such as furniture or appliances, as it reduces the need for manual stacking and organising.
Mezzanines are ideal for companies that need to store large items in a smaller space. This type of system utilises two levels, allowing materials to be stored above and below the floor level.
Industrial trucks are used to move materials from one location to another. Common types of industrial trucks include powered pallet jacks (forklifts), order pickers, turret trucks, and reach stackers. Each type of truck is designed for specific tasks, making them a versatile material-handling solution.
Powered pallet jacks (forklifts) are designed to move pallets quickly and accurately. They utilise a system of forks that can lift large items, making them ideal for loading and unloading goods from trucks or containers.
Order pickers are used to pick up smaller items from shelves or racks with great accuracy. They consist of a platform that is mounted on a vertical lifting mechanism, allowing the operator to reach products quickly and safely.
Turret trucks are designed to pick up large items from storage racks or shelves with great accuracy. This type of industrial truck utilises a rotating turret that can be used to access items from multiple angles quickly and easily.
Reach stackers are used in applications where space is limited. These industrial trucks are designed to be able to reach into tight spaces, allowing them to pick up items with great accuracy and speed.
What exactly is a Semi-Automated Material Handling System (SAMHS)?
A semi-automated material handling system is a type of system that combines both manual labour and automation to transport materials and products within a facility. Unlike fully automated systems that rely entirely on robotics and other machines, semi-automated systems involve human operators who work alongside automated equipment.
These systems typically involve a variety of material handling equipment, such as conveyor belts, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotic arms, and storage systems. These tools are designed to reduce manual labour and increase efficiency by automating repetitive or physically demanding tasks.
However, semi-automated systems require skilled operators to oversee and manage the equipment. These operators are responsible for ensuring that the equipment runs correctly and that materials are transported safely and efficiently.
One of the primary benefits of a semi-automated material handling system is that it can improve productivity and reduce labour costs. By automating certain tasks, workers can focus on more complex or high-value activities that require human expertise. Additionally, these systems can help reduce errors and increase accuracy in handling materials and products.
Semi-automated material handling systems are commonly used in a range of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, and logistics. They can be customised to meet specific needs and requirements, making them versatile and effective solutions for many businesses.
What Situations Call for Semi-Automated Warehouse Investments?
Investing in a semi-automated warehouse can be a major decision for any business, and it's important to consider a variety of factors to determine whether it's the right choice. Here are some situations in which a business may want to invest in a semi-automated warehouse:
- Rapid growth: If a business is experiencing rapid growth, a semi-automated warehouse can help keep up with increased demand and reduce labour costs. Automation can help speed up processes and increase efficiency, allowing a business to handle more orders without having to hire additional staff.
- High-volume operations: For businesses that handle a high volume of products, a semi-automated warehouse can help improve accuracy and reduce errors. Automated equipment can handle repetitive tasks, such as picking and packing, with greater consistency and efficiency than human workers.
- Complex operations: If a business has complex warehouse operations that require specialised equipment or handling, a semi-automated warehouse can help streamline processes and reduce the risk of errors. Automated equipment can be customised to meet specific needs, such as handling fragile items or managing inventory.
- Cost savings: Investing in a semi-automated warehouse can be expensive upfront, but it can also provide long-term cost savings. By reducing labour costs, improving efficiency, and minimizing errors, a semi-automated warehouse can help a business save money in the long run.
- Safety: Automated equipment can help improve safety in a warehouse by reducing the risk of accidents and injuries. For businesses that prioritise workplace safety, investing in a semi-automated warehouse can be a smart choice.
Ultimately, the decision to invest in a semi-automated warehouse will depend on a variety of factors, including the size and complexity of a business's operations, its growth goals, and its budget. Businesses should carefully evaluate their needs and goals before making any major investments in warehouse automation.