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Warehoused goods, especially in large distribution centers, must be accurately inventoried, safely handled and efficiently moved without damage or delay. Materials handling systems, such as pallet jacks, fork lifts, conveyors, and inventory management software, are essential in maintaining an efficient and smooth-running warehouse. A well-managed operation will have procedures and equipment in place to maximize efficiency, reduce injuries and mitigate loss or damage. The following guide covers the most basic aspects of materials handling systems and will assist managers and business owners in determining the most efficient and effective systems for their companies.
Having reliable materials handling systems in place allows companies to save time and energy without wasted efforts. Proper materials handling involves more than simply storing different products. It involves accurate inventory, proper safety, and effective use of all available space.
One aspect of materials handling is making sure all space is utilized efficiently. For example, if a product stays on shelves with very little turnover, superior materials handling makes certain the lack of movement gets passed along to company personnel. The space might be better served with products that have better turnover rates.
Working with different materials involves a certain degree of risk, especially in warehouses. Superior materials handling requires taking a close look at working conditions and ensuring personnel receive proper training on the various methods to handle a variety of products. The more efficiently personnel are trained, the less likely they will lose work due to accidents occurring on the job.
Proper materials handling results in overall savings benefits. One aspect of materials handling is ensuring that stock is constantly rotated, with products expiring being moved to higher movement positions. Using materials approaching expiration dates results in not having to take a loss on the stock in question.
Top materials handling companies provide exemplary training to their employees. For example, many warehouse personnel suffer back injuries, due to improper lifting techniques. Companies specializing in materials handling prevent such injuries by addressing all aspects of handling the materials within the warehouse environment, ranging from storage to loading to transporting.
While materials handling for products and services is a necessary part of many businesses, these products and services are not without drawbacks.
While it may seem like a good idea to tackle the problem of materials handling on your own, business owners who don’t have experience in this area may cost themselves more money. Experts in materials handling optimization can help set up and optimize a materials handling system that works for your business instead of against it. Consider the expense of hiring an experienced person or team to assist versus the expense of making costly mistakes.
Jobs involving manual labor, with or without mechanical assistance, can lead to worker injury. This can be costly to the company due to the incurred medical bills and the potential worker shortage. Properly trained workers and properly maintained equipment can reduce this risk.
Wherever you have workers doing a job involving manual, mechanical, or repetitive handling, it is wise to have a job assessment done to learn how to minimize worker injury. Workers should be trained in proper lifting techniques, such as moving larger items and lifting with the legs. They should also be trained in the proper ergonomic adjustment of their workstations and how to safely use any equipment necessary for their job.
Additionally, all mechanical equipment, such as trucks and cranes, should be inspected frequently. Results of these inspections should be kept securely. Records detailing the training provided to workers should be kept as well, and files proving your employee’s training should be taken care of.
Regardless of who is responsible for setting up the materials handling system or how well the system is set up, there will always be expenses any time a materials handling system is used. In a statement to FEN, Toyota Material Handling Australia’s national product manager Jim Lobow said, “The lifetime cost of ownership is really the true cost of Materials Handling Equipment (MHE) to an organization.”
You should consider the initial cost of equipment, the cost of the upkeep of equipment, and the cost of employing whoever will run the equipment. The expense of MHE can be decreased by doing these practices: keeping up with proper maintenance of equipment, hiring experts in the setting up and optimization of materials handling systems, and properly training employees in the safe use of equipment.
In a recent study done by the industry trade group known as the RIA (short for Robotic Industries Association), the first part of 2011 showed a jump of 41 percent in the North American robotics industry (its best quarter in six years). This means that to stay competitive in your companies industry, you need to also be using robotic materials handling just the same as your competitors. Most basic robotic arms with different packages cost between $25,000 and $40,000. A robotic arm package combined with pre-installed safety equipment can cost $50,000 at the very basic. The return on investment is invaluable in the long term with any materials handling and is no different with robotics.
The primary advantages in material handling systems are the safe and efficient movement of products to and from the warehouse. Equipment, such as forklifts and conveyors, can save time and reduce injuries. Inventory management software helps maintain organization and makes for the most efficient use of storage space. The primary caveats involve training and safety. Employees who are not properly trained in the use of systems and equipment can do significant damage to products, as well as risk personal injury. Some systems may not be cost-effective for particular companies. The nature of products being warehoused, the size of the company, and available budgets are all factors to be considered when choosing the most efficient materials handling systems.
Are you interested in materials handling in warehousing and distribution? Warehousing and distribution is the area of a business, usually a product based business, which stores and ships items when they are ordered. This task may be done in house or it may be outsourced. Handling refers to the various jobs where handling the product is necessary, from storing to loading and shipping.
As you look for a source for materials handling for your warehouse or in the distribution branch of your company, you may have a number of options. There are several things you will want to consider as you make your decision. First is the sort of materials being handled. Different materials may be more delicate and easy to damage, if this is the case for your product you will want to keep this in mind. Next consider issues like whether you are storing and shipping perishable items, the kind of packaging used, whether you hire in house or outsource, the extent of shipping logistics and the size of your warehouse, and of course the price.
Reviewing your options is always recommended when it comes to handling of your materials. Business.com has links to sources that may be useful.
View the links to the left for materials handling in warehousing and distribution.
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