Everything you need to know about material handling

Have you ever ordered in, excited to eat your takeout, when you realize that your order’s been crushed during its delivery, no longer recognizable or comparable to the photo of what you ordered on the food delivery app? Now, let’s think on a bigger scale. Imagine you manage the storage and delivery of your company’s end product and one of your most influential, multinational clients calls to inform you that their order has arrived–only late and in poor condition.  

Both situations illustrate poor material handling, a fundamental component to both B2B and B2C enterprises, that affects not only the quality of your product or service, but your reputation with your clients. That’s why we’re breaking down the importance of material handling, its role within Web 3.0, and the steps to optimize it within your own business. If you value customer centricity, keep reading to learn more.

Table of Contents

What is material handling?

There’s no one-size-fits-all material handling definition, but it generally refers to the management of the movement and storage of materials and goods. Depending on your business and your industry, material handling will require different resources and supply chains, so the solutions you choose should always be adapted according to the quality and quantity of the materials in question.  

Generally, material handling consists of manual labor, carried out by internal or outsourced employees, however it also includes the use of semi-automatic and fully automatic equipment and systems. Especially for the management and movement of materials for heavy industries, automated material handling is a popular option to improve efficiency and safety.  

For example, in the construction industry, handling robots (also known as Collaborative Mobile Manipulators) are being implemented and fitted with AI technology in lieu of manual systems for risky and repetitive tasks.

Its importance in the supply chain

Material handling is important throughout every stage of your business’s supply chain. Raw materials must be received, handled, transported, and distributed properly in order to be manufactured into finished products. Finished products must then be stored efficiently in warehouses until they’re ready for distribution. During all the aforementioned stages, materials must be handled ergonomically, avoiding all potential risk and damage. 

Thanks to improvements in the manufacturing space and the development of new technologies such as IoT and AI, businesses are relying on new tools to help them manage their material handling and navigate Web 3.0. In fact, according to Fortune Business Insights, the material handling market size is expected to exceed USD 319.6 billion by 2029. So, if you’re not prioritizing material handling, you should be. 

The potential hazards of material handling

Let’s take a closer look. Investment in material handling solutions isn’t just growing because prices everywhere are rising. Businesses are beginning to spend more on this segment of the supply chain because of the benefits it brings and the risks it mitigates. Here are the potential hazards related to materials handling: 

  • Injuries – Workplace safety is crucial for the health of your employees and your business. However, unfortunately during the manufacture, transport, storage and distribution of materials, workplace injuries may occur. The most common occurrences of injuries related to material handling include falling materials that pin or crush workers, back injuries from lifting heavy goods, and lesions from incorrectly offloading materials.  
  • Damages Damages to inventory, property and equipment is another common hazard related to material handling.  

Automated technology is just one way that you can avoid the potential hazards of material handling. But there are other ways to ensure that you’re prioritizing the health and safety of your employees and your materials. See below.  

Automated material handling machine

How to optimize material handling at your workplace

Like with everything, modern materials handling can be personalized and optimized to avoid risks and save time and money! Who doesn’t want that? Here are 5 ‘best practices’ we recommend to follow:

Plan, measure and analyze

Before taking action, project planning is a crucial first step. Define your needs as well as your capabilities and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure whether your plan is coming to fruition. Once you’ve measured your performance, analyze your strengths and points for improvement and develop a new plan or stick to the one you have in place. This is a crucial step if you’re pursuing a growth strategy.  

Simplify and streamline

Unnecessary steps during the supply chain or handling of materials should be eliminated as soon as possible as they only increase the likelihood of injury or damage. In fact, the steps in each stage of your supply chain should be reduced as much as possible. 

Stay organized and systematic

Organization is one of the most important elements in the construction supply chain. Storage areas should be kept organized to ensure that materials are in the right place at the right time. But organization doesn’t only pertain to storage and warehousing… an organized production process, transportation, and distribution can help you optimize material handling for your business.  

Along this same line, standardization is important. Since there are so many different faces and stages in the supply chain, making sure your communication, processes, and systems are systematic will help facilitate the smooth and safe flow of materials.

Don’t be afraid of automation

Automated technology can get a bad rep, but in the construction industry and especially in the world of material management, automation can optimize material handling considerably. Our sector is going through a major shift in terms of the technology being used and the workforce that is required to operate it.  

Worsened by the pandemic, the construction industry is facing a labor shortage and contractors are struggling to find skilled workers to fill their open positions. A lack of skilled workers coupled with a growing industry and a heightened demand for sustainable infrastructure means that automated construction technology is fundamental solution, especially for mundane and potentially hazardous tasks that can be found with materials handling.  

Prioritize safety

Perhaps the most important step of all, the safety of your employees, associates, and clients should be the first and foremost priority. Fortunately, it’s also a great way to avoid the perils associated with material handling. By adhering to the four prior points and adopting a “safety first” mindset, you can ensure that you follow the correct steps to practice proper material handling.  

How Cemex Ventures improves material handling

We could go on and on about the importance of the supply chain within the construction industry, but why talk the talk when you can walk the walk. We’re investing today in some of the most cutting-edge solutions that have the potential to revolutionize the construction industry, and Voyage Control is just one example of our investment portfolio companies disrupting construction supply chains (in the best way).  

Voyage Control

Voyage Control offers a SaaS platform to help construction firms manage their logistics and supply chain more efficiently as well as support their compliance needs. Their solution ranges from managing deliveries to inventory control and support for payment apps, end to end supply chain management, and meeting compliance requirements. The benefits of using Voyage Control include streamlining operational processes, enhancing security, reducing congestion, improving driver compliance, and benefiting the environment. Businesses that benefit from using the platform not only include construction sites, but also clients in ports, events and facilities management.  

Does your business have a solution (new technology, innovative business model) that revolutionizes material handling as we know it or improves another step within the construction supply chain?  

Apply today to the Construction Startup Competition 2023 and join the movement! As an applicant, you’ll join the construction industry’s biggest ecosystem-made up of 5000+ startups & 300+ investors and corporate partners-and be closer to receiving capital, piloting your solution in real markets, and pitching to keen investors at one of the industry’s biggest conferences.  

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