Material Handling Principles

Handling box on convayer belt

Material Handling Principles – 10 Steps to Create Effective Working Conditions


Material Handling is any process that involves moving, controlling, protecting, or storing materials throughout the manufacturing process. Material handling is a significant part of lean manufacturing because it is a non-value added activity. Non-value added activities are considered major wastes and should be eliminated or at the very least minimized under a lean philosophy.

On the other hand, production does add value (value-added). Unfortunately, this means that every minute spent sorting, moving, and storing material, is productivity that is lost. It then makes sense that having a process in place would cut down on this excess movement. This is why establishing an effective material handling process is necessary to optimize the flow of materials.

The process developed will reduce wast such as damaged materials from improper handling or pure disorganization. It will also reduce the waste of any surplus of unnecessary or expired materials. The financial and reputational expense of damaged materials will be directly affected as customers become more satisfied. Processes make employees aware and accountable of the expectations for efficiency. The workplace will be substantially safer as a result of handling materials properly.

By using the following 10 best practices in creating a material handling process, you can ensure that it will be thorough and effective.

1. Planning

With your team (suppliers, consultants, management, engineering, computer, finance, and operations specialists) define a plan that will reflect the goals of the organization. Identify the process design, layout, and methods, keeping in mind current restraints and future requirements.

2. Standardizing

Make sure choices of methods, equipment, and storage are consistent without sacrificing overall performance goals but remembering some flexibility may be necessary.

3. Simplify

Work involving material handling should be simplified reducing, combining, or eliminating as much excess movement as possible. Recall that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and when applicable, use gravity to assist or move materials.

4. Ergonomics

In assigning tasks and equipment for material handling, worker capabilities, limitations, and safety must be considered. Eliminate any repetitive or strenuous work.

5. Unit Loading

When it is possible, move many items as a single load instead of separately.

6. Space Utilization

All available work areas should be, organized and decluttered. Maximizing space should be thought of as three-dimensional balancing accessibility and selectivity.

7. Systemize

Movement and storage of materials should become coordinated and integrated into every step of the manufacturing process.

8. Automating

After simplifying existing methods, automate processes wherever possible. Automation improves efficiency, responsiveness, and consistency.

9. Environmental

Environmental impacts should be considered when implementing new material handling processes. Make decisions for storage and equipment that can be reused, recycled, and are not harmful to the environment.

10. Life-Cycle Cost

Thoroughly evaluate costs when investing in material handling equipment other than the initial capital investment. Consider installation, setup, programming, training, testing, repair, etc.


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