How to Optimize Material Handling!

Optimize Material Handling

One of the priorities of distribution and manufacturing firms is to regulate costs, especially since they operate with slim margins. This explains why such industries spend a significant time enhancing programs that emphasize advancing operational productivity. However, part of this is to manage and optimize material handling.

Material handling can affect the company’s operation, from forecasting, production, and after-sales to support. And due to the complexity of material handling and its effects on the operating margins, it’s essential for business owners and managers to understand how it works and learn ways to manage it efficiently. 

In this article, we’ll outline tips for optimizing material handling throughout the supply chain.

What is Material Handling?

Material handling refers to the method materials and products are moved, stored, protected, and distributed. But before distribution, there’s transportation, which entails shipping stages and delivery throughout the supply chain. Similarly, there’s also packaging and moving products in pallets or units.

Optimizing material handling is a significant way of boosting the operations of businesses that produce goods and products, such as hardware supply stores. And if you’re running a warehouse, this helps minimize the risk of damaging or losing goods. 

How to Optimize Material Handling Throughout the Supply Chain?

With an appropriate material handling process, not only can you manage operational costs, but manufactured items in your company will also be safe. Furthermore, proper material handling allows you to transfer material from the company to its final destination without wasting.

To help you get started, here’s an overview of what you can do to optimize material handling:

1. Define the Current State of the Material Handling Process

As you optimize material handling throughout the supply chain, you must know how your company operates by reading and understanding critical data. Some of these relevant data include the number of working forklifts, the lines each team member has worked on, number of manufactured orders.

They might also include the expenses of managing your distribution center. Another relevant data that can’t be left out is your distribution center utility costs.

After understanding how material handling throughout the supply chain works, you can confidently make a few changes and adjustments depending on the weak points you’ve determined. These changes can help your business to advance to another level.

To achieve this quickly, you must make a routine of examining each of your equipment regularly and running maintenance on them often. Some machines, like stretch wrappers, case erectors, palletizers, conveyors, and carousels, usually require thorough maintenance, which needs to be done regularly. After the machines have been serviced properly, ensure you store the maintenance logs well.

Ensure that you also make plans for future maintenance of your machines in the distribution center. In most cases, maintenance allows you to lubricate your tools and monitor their motor temperature. Similarly, maintenance requires you to have spare parts like bearings, motors, rollers, and belts. With these measures, there’s no doubt your orders will continue moving, and your business will encounter significant growth.

2. Utilize Appropriate Tools

To achieve an efficient material handling process in your company, you must use the correct tools for the job at hand. In addition, at any given time, you should ensure that various components used in material handling are reorganized and comparable. You must also consider working with suppliers who understand the nature of the work and can distribute your items. 

It’d be good to note that you’re likely to experience lower production levels if you don’t have local support. However, this shouldn’t worry you because using the correct tools can help enhance accuracy, responsiveness, and efficiency in your operations.

3. Analyze The Storage Layout

Material handling is more than just material movement. There’re other primary components you must consider, such as storage. While the cost of storage solutions can break your wallet, investing in appropriate ones can be to your advantage.

To start, you must analyze your warehouse storage space and layout and figure out if there’s any way you can save on valuable space. You can choose to stick your products on the pallets tightly. Or perhaps, you may also opt for varying storage, such as stackable bins. To further save space for storage purposes, you can decide to move shelves together in your warehouse. However, ensure that your narrow aisles continue to accommodate your workers, customers, and machines.

On the other hand, raw material storage can be quite costlier, especially when it comes to delicate materials that require a lot of care. Moreover, dangerous products may require you to exercise special safety measures. And suppose you usually manufacture delicate products. You should consider investing in HVAC-controlled facilities for housing. This can drain you financially, but it can be worth it.

4. Standardize and Simplify

Being consistent in your material handling processes can also assist you in reducing errors and confusion. That said, storage tools such as equipment for transporting material, racks, shelves, and bins should also be consistent. 

Similarly, try to eliminate or reduce movement to simplify the material handling process. For instance, you can decide to move manufactured goods straight to your shipping dock than keeping them in your warehouse.

5. Be Sustainable and Green

As the company’s owner, you should encourage recycling and reusing equipment. This can allow you to minimize material handling environmental effects. You can make your operations greener and more sustainable by considering recyclable packing materials, returnable containers, and reusable packaging.

Likewise, you and your employees must ensure that your supply chain is sustainable. You also need to assess the material handling process to determine its performance and address areas that might be experiencing issues. For example, if your shipment order can’t fill the truck, you can co-ship with a nearby company. This can help you save fuel and reduce your commercial environmental footprint.


Goods getting damaged or lost during production and in transit is the last thing you’d want to experience, as it can significantly affect your business revenue and customers’ satisfaction. Therefore, proper material handling throughout the supply chain is critical because it protects your deliveries from the warehouse, stores, and distribution centers to their final destination. 

If you haven’t considered it, it may be time to try and look for ways to optimize material handling and your operations. You can follow this detailed guide to help you get started in creating a positive change in your business.

Optimize material handling article and permission to publish here provided by Claire Glassman. Originally written for Supply Chain Game Changer and published on September 7, 2022.

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