Unit 12 Material Handling Systems


Unit 12:

Material Handling Systems

Unit code:

QCF level:

Credit value:


The aim of this unit is to familiarise learners with the knowledge and skills required in the management of materials in the engineering/manufacturing industries.

Unit abstract

Learning outcome 1 introduces learners to the aims and strategies of material handling systems. This is followed in learning outcome 2 by a detailed study and evaluation of systems. Learning outcome 3 examines the control of material handling whilst the learning outcome 4 covers the planning and layout of material flow and handling systems.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit a learner will:

1     Understand the aims of logistics and strategies for achieving these aims

2     Understand about the operation of material handling systems

3       Understand the control of material handling systems

4       Be able to plan the layout of a material handling system.
Unit content

1      Understand the aims and strategies used for logistics

Aims of logistics: flow of materials; movement of work in progress; minimising cost of holding stock and maintaining high quality

Strategies used: eliminate handling or movement; combine processing and movement; plan layout of operation together with planning of material handling; use automation or mechanical handling; use of correct equipment; training; minimise pick up/put down movements; use unit loads, pallets and or containers to avoid mixing materials; economy of movement; central authority and control of operation

2      Understand the operation of material handling systems

Stages of engineering material handling: selection and loading; moving and unloading; placement and positioning; materials can be raw materials, components, sub assemblies, parts, tools and consumables

Criteria for the selection of a material handling system: location of material centres; material type and appropriate handling conditions; capital and resources available; future needs – expansion or contraction of operation; total cost of the handling system; compatibility with existing equipment and systems technologies

Material handling systems: comparison of a centrally co-ordinated and controlled operation with one that is controlled by individual departments; comparison of automated systems with semi-automated systems

Cost benefit analysis: benefits eg reduced accidents and losses, increased capacity, speed, space, flexibility, ‘double handling’ bottlenecks and accidents, cost of designing, installing, staffing and maintaining

3      Understand the control of material handling systems

Control of material flow: computer-controlled networks; programmable logic controllers (PLCs); dedicated software; departmental control panels; automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRs); robots; radio-controlled vehicles; closed circuit TV; advanced guided vehicles (AGVs) with onboard computers

Tracking and identification: voice recognition; coding systems; job tickets; programmable silicon micro chips; recording devices such as bar code reader (OCR); numbers input manually; identification devices such as optical sensors; proximity sensors

Controlled material handling system: using material flow process, dedicated or non-specialist material handling programmes to represent the control of a material handling system; detailed critical analysis of all decisions made; detail all critical control points; critical path network diagrams; variety of graphical communication techniques

4      Be able to plan the layout of a material handling operation

Types of material handling equipment: cranes; lifts; vehicles; conveyors; pneumatic and hydraulic equipment; towing; chute and robots

Application: the range of equipment eg overhead, vertical, horizontal, horizontal fixed route, horizontal non-fixed route; speed of the equipment

Factors influencing selection: material handling equipment; materials features; size; weight; nature; volume/rate of movement; route of movement; storage before and after movement; safety/hazards and concurrent processing

Planning the layout: features of modern material handling systems; detailed analysis of material movement needs; work study and layout and planning techniques; handling conditions required by the materials; requirements and constraints of the material handling system; critical path analysis techniques and Gantt charts to determine the key processes, procedures, sequence of events, equipment and time requirements; technical and graphical techniques to illustrate the final layout
Learning outcomes and assessment criteria

Learning outcomes

Assessment criteria for pass

On successful completion

The learner can:

of this unit a learner will:

LO1 Understand the aims and

identify the aims of logistics for material handling

strategies used for

explain strategies used for achieving the aims of logistics


LO2 Understand the operation

describe the stages of engineering material handling

of material handling

explain the criteria used for the selection of a material


handling system

compare different material handling systems

carry out a cost benefit analysis by comparing two modern

material handling systems

LO3 Understand the control of

explain the systems used for the control of material flow

material handling systems

explain material tracking and identification methods

evaluate a controlled material handling system using a

range of techniques

LO4 Be able to plan the layout

identify modern material handling equipment and its

of a material handling



identify and analyse the movements, conditions,

requirements and constraints of a proposed material

handling system

4.3 justify the selection of material handling equipment for the


use critical path analysis to plan the material handling


present a layout of the proposed system using appropriate

graphical techniques.



This unit can be linked with Unit 11: Supply Chain Management and Unit 34: Integrated Logistical Support Management.

Essential requirements

Learning outcomes 3 and 4 require the use of either detailed case study information and/or primary information obtained from research and industrial visits.

Employer engagement and vocational contexts

Visits to local manufacturers can help provide relevant and up-to-date information. Many multinational companies are large enough to accommodate in-house educational officers, who will tailor visits according to specific requirements.