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Materials Handling Equipment (MHE) In The Warehouse

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Materials Handling Equipment (MHE) In The Warehouse

Materials Handling Equipment - Inventory management in distribution centers (DCs), fulfillment centers, and cross docks requires a fast, accurate, safe, and economical transfer of materials. Many types of stock-keeping units (SKUs) inventory and large quantities cannot be handled using manual labor.

Imagine, Amazon every day picking and shipping goods no less than 34.4 million of the purchase orders on-line in 24 hours. Likewise Lazada, Zalora, Alibaba, Tokopedia, eCommerce, and others, every minute thousands of items are received from merchants or brand owners, to be put (put-away) on shelves or storage places, replenishment, taken accordingly. purchase order (order picking), packing, then the product is ready to be sent to the recipient at the destination address.

The same situation occurred in the DCS warehouse. At any time, the activities of moving and moving inventory in and out of DCs warehouse are fast-moving products to be sent to retail stores, traditional markets, and modern trade. Speed, accuracy, security, and economy are important factors in managing inventory in the warehouse.

Companies' need for material handling in warehouses quickly, accurately, safely, and economically requires reliable and efficient materials handling equipment and technology. Materials handling focuses on activities, equipment, and procedures related to the movement, storage, protection, and control of materials in the warehousing system.

The characteristics of the material will determine the handling method. The material can be distinguished from size (width, length, and depth), weight (weight per item or unit volume), shape (round, square, long, rectangular, irregular), and other characteristics (fragile, sticky, explosive, and frozen).

In a logistical context, the focus of materials handling is being able to efficiently transfer materials and products over short distances within DCs, factories, cross-docks, transportation terminals, and in stores.

From a logistical perspective, the materials handling equipment and technology selected must use appropriate methods to manage the transfer of materials and products in the right quantity at the right place and time, in the right order, in the right position, under the right conditions, and with the most cost-efficient.

The objectives of materials handling are expected to increase work productivity, be efficient, environmentally friendly, and have a safe operation. In some circumstances, these objectives can be trade-offs. Reliability and service are sometimes less efficient in terms of costs. The need for MHE that can operate safely and environmentally friendly sometimes has to be paid for by a more expensive MHE investment.

Managers must be able to balance logistical performance between service and cost, safety and productivity, volume and capacity, by managing four important dimensions of MHE: movement, time, quantity, and space.

The movement dimension of material handling is related to the movement of material or goods flow for production and order fulfillment from/to DCs. Managers must be able to select and adjust the composition of labor and equipment to achieve efficient movement of material flow.

Meanwhile, the time dimension relates to the time it takes to prepare materials and goods for production and order fulfillment. The longer it takes to prepare materials for production, the more likely it will be a halt in production activities, excess inventory, and the need to increase storage space.

The quantity dimension is related to a material handling system that can meet the exact quantity of material for production to meet customer demands. The space dimension relates to the DCS facility capacity constraint. Choosing the right design and materials handling system will result in efficient and effective materials handling in optimizing DCS facility space, both horizontally and vertically.

Selecting the MHE type requires a good understanding of the unit load concept. A unit load is a unit of one item or several units that are regulated or limited so that it can be handled as a unit and still maintain its unity.

Advantages of unit load

  • More tems can be handled simultaneously, reducing the number of item trips required and reducing handling costs, loading and unloading times, and product breakdowns.
  • Use of MHE standardization.

The downside of unit loads

  • The time it takes to reshape and break down unit loads.
  • The cost of containers/pallets and other load-bearing materials used in unit loads.
  • Empty containers/pallets that may have to be returned to their point of origin.

Materials Handling Principles

In selecting MHE types according to materials handling needs, managers need to pay attention to the following design principles and materials handling systems (Material Handling Institute, 2015):

1. Planning principle

Managers need to determine operational requirements, objectives, goals, performance, specifications, and materials handling methods that meet the dimensions of movement, time, quantity, and space.

Standardization principle. MHE should be designed with standardization and integration between equipment, application systems, and operators to achieve high product performance while taking into account flexibility and modularity.

2. Work principle

MHE to operate with high productivity and easy operation according to the specified service level.

3. Ergonomic principle

Ergonomic principles are important to ensure MHE operators are safe and comfortable in operating MHE.

4. Unit load principle

MHE must be able to handle materials of the appropriate size and dimensions for the smooth flow of material movement.

5. Space utilization principle

Operate MHE with the available space efficiently and effectively.

6. System principle

MHE should be integrated with the logistics operation system, starting from receiving, monitoring, storage, production, assembly, packaging, unitizing, order selection, shipping, transportation, and handling returns.

7. Automation principle

MHE should use mechanized, semi-automated, or fully automated methods, to increase operational efficiency, be responsive, reliable, and enable it to eliminate repetitive work or reduce risks to workforce safety and security.

Environmental principle. This principle requires that MHE can be operated with the most energy-efficient use, the development of MHE technology with renewable energy, and the selection of environmentally friendly MHE materials.

8. Life cycle cost principle

Overall costs during the use of MHE (total cost ownership) are the most efficient.

MHE Classification

According to the category of MHE types according to The College-Industry Council of Material Handling Education, MHE types are classified according to their function in materials handling.

a. Materials transport equipment

MHE transport is used to move material from one location to another within DCS. MHE is intended to improve product flow by minimizing labor effort and lowering dwelling time. Types of MHE transport include pallet jack, gravity conveyor, gantry crane, forklift truck, belt conveyor, and jib crane.

b. Product positioning equipment

MHE product positioning is used to handle material in a single location so that the material position is correct for subsequent handling, machining, transport, or storage. Examples of MHE product positioning are scissor lift tables, rigid-link manipulators, and industrial robots.

c. Unit load formation equipment

This MHE will keep the material in one unit load. Examples: pallet, wire bin container, and rolling cart.

Storage equipment: MHE storage for material storage within a certain time economically. Examples of MHE storage: drive truck racks, mezzanines, automated storage and retrieval systems, and vertical carousels.

Materials handling is needed to increase work productivity in DCs. The selection of the type, method, MHE technology according to operational needs, and the type of material appropriately is an important decision for managers in improving the company's logistics performance.

Managers must understand the types, functions, use of MHE, and total cost ownership during MHE operations to improve the overall logistics performance of the company.


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