In a warehouse environment, material handling is commonly defined as the “movement, protection, storage and control of materials and products throughout manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption and disposal.” The process incorporates a variety of manual, semi-automated and automated equipment and systems that allow the supply chain to work efficiently. When used properly, material handling can improve:

  • Forecasting
  • Resource allocation
  • Production planning
  • Flow and process management
  • Inventory management
  • Customer delivery
  • Customer service and support

Types of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

During the course of the day, a material handler may rely on different types of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) to be as efficient and accurate as possible. Some of the most common types of AS/RS technology include:

  • Shuttles
  • Automatic identification and data collection
  • Automatic guided vehicles
  • Cranes
  • Conveyors
  • Carousels
  • Vertical lift modules (VLMs)
  • Hoisting equipment
  • Industrial robots
  • Lift trucks
  • Monorails
  • Integrated material handling systems
  • Micro and mini loads
  • Unit loads

In most cases, AS/RS technology is integrated with warehouse execution software (WES), warehouse management system software (WMS) or other controls.

How to Maximize Warehouse Capacity via Material Handlers

By training material handlers properly and providing them with the right equipment, you can increase productivity, maximize available space and improve safety throughout your warehouse. To help your material handlers perform to their fullest potential, first ensure that the aisles in your warehouse are wide enough for forklift trucks to maneuver safely. You can also make sure all forklift trucks are equipped with working lights and horns. Finally, use the right storage systems throughout the warehouse, including vertical storage solutions, to help increase capacity and lower carrying costs.

When material handlers change shifts, the arriving employees should perform a pre-shift equipment check to ensure everything is operating as required. You should also schedule recommended maintenance regularly for your AS/RS technology to avoid extended downtime from broken or failing equipment.

The material handlers and AS/RS technology you employ are essential to the success of your warehouse operations. Make it a priority to provide your material handlers with everything necessary to be as productive as possible. When it comes to maximizing warehouse space without losing operational efficiency, material handlers make the biggest impact.

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