Materials handling covers virtually all aspects of all movements of raw materials, work -in-process or finished goods within a factory or warehouse. Basically, material movement is considered as a non value adding activity. Hence, primary objective of Supply Chain manager should be to eliminate material handling where is possible. This includes minimizing inventory, travel distance, bottlenecks and loss due to spillage, wast, wrong handling, damage etc. Manual sorting of materials is quite labor-intensive. It involves separating & regrouping picked items into the customer orders. Items have to be physically examined and placed on to pallets or containers for the purpose of dispatching to customers. This is not only time consuming but also error-prone.
Hence, with a view to minimize manual sorting, organizations use powered or non powered equipments like pallets, palletizers, strapping machines, stretch wrappers etc. Very often these equipments represent a major capital outlay for an organization in spite of all the developments, manual equipment has been the mainstay of the traditional warehouse. Such equipments can be categorized according to function performed- storage & order picking, transportation & sorting and shipping. similarly the storage systems can be "Fixed" or can be "Movable" depending on the requirements.