Need for professionals in material handling

Materials handling is one of the most important activity in every industry. The requirement of each industry for efficient handing of materials differs except some common types of materials handling equipment applicable to every industrial sectors. The types of materials handled in the industry include raw materials, spare parts, consumables, components, semi-finished products and finished products.

Classification and characteristics of materials

The material handling requirements of each industry basically depends on the type and characteristics of materials handled. Broadly, materials are classified into three categories: gasses, solids, and liquids. The characteristics of these categories of the materials are widely different. Pressure and the chemical characteristics are the important aspects in case of gasses.

Solid materials can be unit loads or bulk materials. Unit load solids are of different sizes, shapes and weights and are characterized by their length, breadth height, shape, weight; temperature, strength and inflammability. Bulk materials are characterized by lump-size, specific density, bulk density, abrasiveness, moisture content, corrosiveness, explosiveness and stickiness. Angle of repose is an important parameter in designing the material handling system for solids.

Liquids include kerosene, diesel, petrol, milk, oils, acids, and water. They are characterized by various properties like density, viscosity, freezing and boiling points. The liquids are transported in containers, tanks or though pipe lines.

Material handling systems

Materials handling of different materials (gasses, solids and liquids) require tailor made solution for each type of materials. Solid are handled and transported by EOT cranes, belt conveyors, pneumatic conveying system, forklift trucks, chain pulley blocks and different designs of trolleys (mechanical or hydraulic). Some of the solids materials are explosive nature and can lead to serious accidents if not handled safely. They are to be handled and stored very carefully. Transportation and handling of liquids like petrol, diesel and kerosene is done very carefully due to risk involved in their handling. Gasses are inflammable and poisonous and can result in serious accidents if proper precautions are not taken.

Safety and security requirements 

In view of the danger involved in handling and storage of various materials, safety regulations and norms have been formulated. OSHA (Occupational and Safety Health Administration), USA has brought out various safety guidelines for different materials and material handling equipment. Every country also have their Safety Councils, which regulates the safety guidelines and norms to be followed in the industry.

Material Handling System Design

Design of material handling systems and equipment requires high technical knowledge, expertise in operational aspects of the plants, understanding of ergonomic engineering and knowledge of various laws relating to safety of equipment, safety of electrical systems, layout planning, and routing. The designer needs to understand the characteristics of different materials and the risks involved. Material handling system and equipment is not designed in isolation but should take into account the totality of the plant’s operations. Different material handling systems are designed for loading, unloading and moving the materials in horizontal plane or vertical plane or a combination of both horizontal and vertical planes.

Need for professionals in material handling        

Wide knowledge and good experience is required in designing the material handling systems that are easy to operate, maintain and repair and offer safety to workmen, machines and materials. There have been serious accidents involving material handling equipment resulting in partial or total disability to the workers. Huge compensation is to be paid in case of fatal accidents. Loss of production, absence of worker from work during recovery from the injury, union activities and lowering the employee morale are other after effects of the accidents.

It is not easy to find a professional who can cover all the aspects in designing safe material handling systems. Industry need trained professionals to meet the growing demand of such professionals. Number of institutes are offering degrees in material handling. In addition, institutes are giving attractive scholarships to attract students to make their career in this important area. The Material Handling Education Foundation (MHEFI) offers scholarships for university undergraduate and graduate students to pursue studies in material handling, supply chain and logistics in the United States and Canada. The scholarships for the 2016/2017 academic term range from $1,500 to $9,000 (news dated November 13, 2015). It is reported that forty scholarships totaling $127,150 were awarded for the academic year 2015-16. It is worth that more and students take the advantage of such opportunities and become part of the materials handling expert’s group.

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