What is Material Handling: Types, Importance & its Principles

keyKey Takeaways:
  • Material handling is the process of moving, storing, and managing products and commodities throughout a facility or warehouse.
  • Your material handling system can last longer with regular maintenance and inspection of the equipment.
  • Automated material handling systems require a sizable financial commitment and careful planning to increase productivity and save labor costs.
  • An effective material handling system relies on ongoing analysis and process optimization to cut costs and eliminate waste.

Truth is the way you run and manage your business says a lot about your business. And for logistics and shipping businesses, managing equipment is the most crucial element. 

Because in the logistics and shipping industries, you don’t want your customers to receive damaged products because it can negatively impact your business. So, to improve your supply chain process and logistics, you should streamline your business with material handling. 

Let shall discuss everything you should know about material handling. 

This blog will cover material handling, its different types, and how it will benefit your business.

What is Materials Handling?

Material handling refers to moving materials and goods from one location to another. It includes store, protect, and control of materials from production to distribution.

It is commonly used in warehousing, where goods must be securely stored, retrieved, and shipped. It helps reduce costly issues such as product damage or loss.

Material handling can rely on the human operator or automated storage process. 

Proper material handling also speeds up movement through the supply chain, allowing you to get goods into customers’ hands faster. Improving your material handling process can boost last-mile delivery to customers faster.

Types of Material Handling

Material handling is a multifaceted process involving human and machine-led processes. There are two main types of material handling you should be aware of:

1. Manual handling

Manual materials handling is the movement of individual containers by workers using their hands. They carry, lower, fill, empty, or carry containers when transporting containers. 

However, this can be dangerous for workers because it exposes them to potentially injurious physical movements. Workers frequently experience sprains and strains in the lower back, upper limbs, and shoulders.

Manual materials handling involves equipment such as carts which are operated by hand. These carts usually have wheels and handlebars for movement and steering. They are the most common cart type carrying loose-form materials and can be found in almost any industry.

2. Automated handling

Businesses are prioritizing automated handling over manual handling. Instead of completely relying on people, automated handling uses machinery to move goods.

Many materials handling machines available today are semi-automated because some automated handling still requires human intervention. A traditional lift truck, for example, requires a driver.

Advanced automating handling uses machine intelligence, motion sensors, and robotics to automate tasks fully. For example, a robotic arm can transfer packages from a conveyor belt to a pallet truck, or an automatic guided vehicle can be used instead of a human-driven vehicle.

The use of automated equipment handling reduces the possibility of human error. It can also save money by eliminating the need to train employees.

Why is Material Handling Important? 

The way you handle products in your warehouse can make or break your business, you must design a safe and efficient transport system for your products from one area of the warehouse to another.

No company wants to deal with product loss or damage in their warehouse because it will reduce their profit and their reputation. So, it becomes extremely crucial to invest in proper material handling equipment.

The importance of material handling is as follows:

1. Reduces operational costs

Reduces operational costs for better material handling

Material handling equipment is costly, but it saves a significant amount of money in the long run. Using such equipment allows for more efficient product quality delivery without straining the budget or adding additional manpower.

Reducing the number of people required to sort, ship, and handle items not only saves money but also significantly reduces the shipment time frame. This means that work is done faster and with fewer people.

2. Minimizes accidents and damages

Manual movement of materials or goods across the facility floor, if not handled carefully, may result in product damage. When facility personnel manually lift and transport goods, the risk of product damage increases.

This is where material handling equipment comes into play, ensuring product safety and minimizing product damage. Forklifts, for example, are used to lift heavy objects material while avoiding damage and accidental drops.

3. Enhances customer experience

Shipping and delivery times that are shorter translate to more business and happier customers. Material handling equipment enables faster production and delivery times, resulting in quicker order fulfillment.

Ensuring that customers’ inbound shipments arrive on time and in good condition not only helps to retain customers but also brings in new business through customer referrals.

4. Increase efficiency and productivity of your workers

Workers become tired after handling bulk materials, which reduces productivity. Material handling equipment boosts productivity by relieving workers of this burden. For instance, conveyor belts boost productivity by increasing manufacturing speed and cycle time.

Get Best Routes for Delivering Materials on Upper

A route optimization software that plan and makes your delivery effortless and profitable. Experience seamless route planning and optimization on Upper now.

What is Material Movement in the Supply Chain?

Material handling is essential for ensuring that your materials and goods are safely transported from one stage of the supply chain to the other, from manufacturing to distribution.

The ability of most businesses to efficiently transport parts from all over the world to manufacturing facilities is critical to their success. Products are moving faster than ever from the raw material state to the end user, and the demand for speed is only increasing.

Consumer expectations for choice and customization only add to the workload of the supply chain and material handling functions. Products must be located quickly and accurately tracked and delivered on time to the customer.

Material movement processes help streamline the entire process. When a part is inbound or cross-docked, it should be barcoded. Barcodes help to ensure that the correct SKUs, flow of material, and quantities are received into inventory and, more importantly, that they can be found when necessary. 

They also allow automated material handling equipment to function properly. Using technology such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), parts and products can now be moved to their proper locations.

When production requires parts, they can be quickly located, retrieved, and transported to the line side.

Main Principles of Material Handling

Materials handling optimization can help you improve your overall business operations and reduce the risk of lost or damaged goods. The following principles will help you plan and execute all material handling processes.

1. Planning 

Planning for material handling

Identifying where you currently stand is the first step in improving any process. To begin, assess your current material handling procedures.

For last-mile delivery, this could include raw data such as how many packages you move per day, the number of drivers required, and the periods of time it takes to complete a route.

It would be best to account for moving packages’ costs on material handling and operations costs, such as utilities, fuel, and machinery.

Once you’ve gathered this data, it can help you figure out where you can save money. This will improve your business efficiency and also save you time and money.

2. Standardization 

When simplifying processes, you should minimize the amount of movement required. This saves workers time and effort, and it may even save space.

For example, instead of storing finished goods in a warehouse, you can save a step by moving them to a loading dock. This way, your employees will directly transport goods from point A to point B, rather than from point A to single-level storage and back to point B.

Also, investing in bulk handling material equipment stores allows for better control of large quantities of material and lowers handling costs as bigger pallets will allow you to move bulk handling equipment simultaneously, eliminating extra steps. 

3. Space utilization 

Material handling is more than just moving things around. Storage is also an important consideration.

Raw materials storage can be expensive, especially if your organized materials and productive materials require special handling. Hazardous goods necessitate special precautions, whereas delicate goods may necessitate storage in climate-controlled facilities.

Examine your multi-level storage arrangement to see if you can save your available space. You could, for example, stack items more tightly on pallets or experiment with a different type of storage equipment, such as stackable bins.

Moving shelving closer together, for example, can also help. However, ensure that narrow aisles can still accommodate people and machines comfortably.

4. Ergonomic 

Keep ergonomics in mind when simplifying and streamlining processes. Reducing repetitive motions and manual labor can help to improve overall safety and efficiency.

For example, despite what appears logical, Amazon does not organize inventory by category type. Instead, they prioritize efficiency in their warehouses by distributing single types of inventory across multiple picking points.

So, if a product picker needs to locate a cooking pot that a customer has ordered, they can use a barcode scanner to locate the nearest pickup location for that pot. This helps workers save time and energy by using multiple pickup points.

5. Automation principle

Finally, make use of the cutting-edge technology available to you. Automation is an excellent way to increase productivity and efficiency.

Automated machinery can reduce operational costs while also improving product handling. Automated material handling systems (AHMS) may be a more expensive initial investment, but they can pay for themselves in the long run.

Automated systems reduce human error risk, saving money by preventing losses and damage. Automation can improve efficiency and reduce waste by increasing accuracy.

How can Upper Help You Perform Material Handling? 

Material handling optimization can help you move, store, and protect products throughout the supply chain. However, to create a reliable, repeatable process, you must also improve other aspects of your outbound efficient logistics process using a route planner such as Upper.

Upper’s route optimization feature can optimize routes for your drivers, leading to safe and timely deliveries. 

Dispatchers can optimize routes based on priority, service time, time windows, driving preferences, curbside delivery, and the customer’s requested delivery timeframe.

When almost all deliveries are completed on time, your staff has more time to handle industrial materials, construction materials, gaseous materials, and heavy materials with care, reducing the likelihood of injuries and damaged goods.

Sign up for a 7 days free trial to flourish your business with Upper today.

Deliver your Materials Faster with Upper

A route planner designed to simplify day-to-day logistics needs, Upper lets you send goods to and from multiple locations easily


Material handling incorporates a variety of manual, semi-automated, and automated equipment and systems that support logistics and the supply chain. The most commonly used equipment by experts in material handling are:

  • Lift industrial trucks and forklifts
  • Conveyor systems
  • Pallets unit, pallet jacks, and pallet trucks
  • Hoisting equipment such as a winch or jack
  • Automated guided vehicles

Manual material handling systems are slower than automated material handling systems. A manual system cannot be programmed to handle more than one operation, so it lacks scalability and agility. The manual system may contain errors and inaccuracies due to its reliance on human labor.

One of the most common ways warehouse and manufacturing facility owners reduce their efficiency is through unused space. Before adding new equipment or storage areas, you should also look for ways to increase storage capacity, such as vertical space. Construction of more efficient shelving, mezzanines, crane systems, lift tables, and other material handling solutions could help your entire operation run faster, safer, and more efficiently.

Automated material handling systems use computerized devices and robots to move, lift, pull, push, store, and retrieve products. Heavy equipment box lifts, conveyors, pallet lifting devices, and industrial lifting devices are a few examples.

A conveyor belt is a material handling system used to move supplies, materials, and components efficiently and effortlessly, saving time, energy, and money. Conveyor belts are made of two motorized pulleys with the conveyor material looped over them.

The material handling in a warehouse defines protection storage and control of product and equipment throughout the process. It makes it easier to find products and ensure the products are secure and reduce changes of disabilities.


The journey of your equipment and products are more than just a few meters between a truck and a warehouse.

Effective material handling processes keep production moving, ensure that goods arrive on time, prevent workplace injuries, and boost overall employee morale.

But, along with the right material handling system, you also need to pay close attention to your shipping and logistics. 

Upper can assist you in streamlining your route planning. Its unique and advanced features let you optimize routes in minutes which can boost operational efficiency and ensure that your customers receive their packages on time.

Sign-up today for a 7 days free trial and see the change for yourselves.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.