Introduction to Industrial Engineering

By Jane M. Fraser

Chapter 6

Design or improve a production system

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6.3 Material handling and inventory equipment

The design of a layout must also include the selection of appropriate material handling and storage equipment, including equipment to move incoming supplies, to move product between work stations, to move finished goods to shipping, to store supplies, WIP (Work in Progress), and completed products. Material handling is a large part of the cost of a product.

Material handling and storage uses a wide range of equipmen, such has

Browse in the web pages at the Material Handling Exchange to see the range of material handling equipment. Browse in the web pages at Concept Storage Solutions to see the range of storage equipment.

The Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) lists these 10 principles of material handling:

  1. Planning. The material handling system should be planned, and not just allowed to evolve.
  2. Standardization. Where possible, use standard equipment, containers, and racks so they can be reused. Methods and software should also be standardized.
  3. Work. Movement and storage of supplies, WIP, and finished product should be minimized.
  4. Ergonomic. Consider the ergonomic implications for workers, especially concerning lifting.
  5. Unit Load. Use as large a unit load as possible when transporting material so the human and equipment make as few trips as possible.
  6. Space Utilization. Make efective use of all space. For example, shelves should be placed so that vertical space is not wasted.
  7. System. Plan the entire material handling system to include receiving, storage, retrieval, and shipping to customers.
  8. Automation. Use mechanized processes where appropriate.
  9. Environment. Energy use and harmful environmental effects should be minimized. Hazardous material should be handled appropriately.
  10. Life Cycle Cost. Equipment should be evaluated based on the cost over the entire life cycle.

The Conveyor Center lists The Twenty Principles of Material Handling which include other ideas as well, such as.

13. Utilize gravity to move material wherever possible, while respecting limitations concerning safety, product damage and loss.

They also recommend making sure that data flows with inventory, and that a maintenance plan be developed for material handling equipment.

I believe that some of these principles conflict with other ideas of industrial engineering. For example, maintaining flow requires that products move in small batches (in fact, a batch size of 1, where possible) rather than in large unit loads.

Robot Rx is a good example of an integrated system of receiving, storage, dispensing, and tracking.

“ROBOT-Rx is a stationary robotic system that automates the drug dispensing process using bar code technology. Located in the central pharmacy, ROBOT-Rx automates the storage, dispensing, returning, restocking and crediting of bar coded medications.”