DEFINITION AND SCOPE OF MATERIALS HANDLING
Expressed in simple language, materials handling is loading, moving, and unloading of materials. To do it safely and economically, different types of tackles, gadgets, and equipment are used, when the materials handling is referred to as mechanical handling of materials.
Since primitive men discovered the use of wheels and levers, they have been moving materials mechanically. Any human activity involving materials needs material handling. However, in the field of engineering and technology, the term materials handling is used with reference to industrial activity. In any industry, be it big or small, involving manufacturing or construction type work, materials have to be handled as raw materials, intermediate goods, or finished products from the point of receipt and storage of raw materials, through production processes and up to finished goods storage and dispatch points.
Materials handling as such is not a production process and hence does not add to the value of the
product. It also costs money; therefore it should be eliminated or at least reduced as much as possible.
However, the important point in favor of materials handling is that it helps production. Depending on the weight, volume and throughput of materials, mechanical handling of materials may become unavoidable. In many cases, mechanical handling reduces the cost of manual handling of materials, where such materials handling is highly desirable. All these facts indicate that the type and extent of use of materials handling should be carefully designed to suit the application and becomes cost-effective.
Hand warmer during cold
Based on the need to be of optimum design and application-specific to different types of industries,
materials handling can be as diverse as industries themself. As a consequence, unfortunately, there is no
universally accepted definition of materials handling. One of the definitions adopted way back by the
American Materials Handling Society is: Materials handling is the art and science involving the
moving, packaging, and storing of substances in any form(1)*. Some of the other definitions are:
• Materials handling is the movement and storage of materials at the lowest possible cost through
the use of proper methods and equipment.
• Materials handling is the moving of materials or products by any means, including storage, and
all movements except processing operations and inspection.
• Materials handling is the art and science of conveying, elevating, positioning, transporting,
packaging, and storing materials.
There are other definitions also, but the above few jointly bring out the salient features of materials handling. It is referred to as an art and science because to most of the materials handling problems no unique solution exists and more than one solution may be prescribed. A lot of subjective considerations of the materials handling engineer go into it. At the same time, many scientific factors are also considered to arrive at the solution.
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