Material Handling Systems in Construction

Material handling systems mean the control of materials and products for project use in various stages starting from manufacturing, storage, distribution, consumption, and finally disposal. The system must ensure the safe handling of all project materials. In this process, the material handling system uses various manual, automatic or semi-automatic equipment known as material handling equipment. So, the material handling system basically deals with the safety of material handling equipment & their operations.

Material Handling Systems are very important mechanisms in supply chain management as it efficiently manages the material movement in a controlled way. The material handling operation varies between manufacturing, storage, construction, and transportation based on industry types.

The main objective of the material handling system is to ensure proper handling, lifting & offloading equipment in order to ensure a safe workplace. It ensures the operations are in line with the required guidelines & project specifications. Debating with these standards and guidelines means tolerating the life of self and stakeholders. Basically, standard guidelines are followed in the construction of refineries, chemical & petrochemical, pharmaceutical companies, and power plants.

Typical Material Handling Equipment
Fig. 1: Typical Material Handling Equipment

Advantages of Material Handling Systems

A properly designed material handling system helps a project in many ways like:

  • proper resource allocation
  • shorten delivery time
  • Forecasting
  • Proper Inventory control and management
  • improved Production planning
  • improved customer service and after-sales support and finally
  • reduce overall material handling costs

That is the reason proper material handling systems are widely popular in all industries like chemical, aerospace, construction, automotive, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, oil&gas, petrochemical, paper, material processing, warehousing, and distribution, etc.

Material Handling using an Overhead Crane
Fig. 2: Material Handling using an Overhead Crane

Components of a Material Handling System

There are various components that constitute a material handling system. It may vary significantly from project to project. A few of the widely used components are added below as reference.

Cranes-

Cranes as material handling equipment are widely used for lifting and shifting of equipment and material. There are a variety of cranes (Fig. 2) available in the market. Some of those are from 5 MT TO 8000 MT. In the construction industry, basically two types of cranes are being used nowadays.

  • tyre mounted cranes and
  • crawler mounted cranes.

Both can be used for lifting and shifting. The crawler-mounted cranes are used for high-strength and it can move over Mud or difficult places. On the other hand, the tyre mounted cranes are used for clear surfaces, roads or proper compacted places.

Slings & belt-

Sling and belt both are used to tie a piece of equipment. The number of slings and belts for a particular operation is decided based on load calculation. The formulae for load calculation is mentioned below for reference.

Load Calculation formula for slings and belts
Fig. 3: Load Calculation formula for slings and belts

Here, V1 is load at point 1, V2 is load at point 2 & W is overall load.

D rings

D rings are used to tie belt or sling with equipment or material to be lifted with cranes. Prior to place color code, specification & TPI (Third party inspection report need to be ensured).

Eyebolts– 

These are the mechanical Bolts that are being used to fix and ensure that D rings and sling or belts have tied properly and they are ready to lift. Lifting operations could be performed only after conforming to the inspector. Inspector or safety in charge shall ensure SWL (safe working loads), TPI reports, visual checking of color and threads, and SOPs.

Guiding rope

After assembly, this one is vital to guide the load/ equipment to place at the foundation or workplace.  Because of the presence of air, the material can move here and there so guiding rope shall be used to guide it under formal instruction. Traditionally 2 guiding ropes shall be used for proper erection, loading, or offloading.  The first rope will guide and the 2nd rope will resist the movement.

The other components that can form the material handling system are

  • Hoisting equipment
  • Monorails and workstation cranes
  • Conveyors
  • Casters and wheels
  • Automatic guided vehicles
  • Lift trucks
  • Automated storage and retrieval systems
  • Industrial robots, etc

In recent times, automation is used in material handling systems which makes the material handling systems more efficient to perform their job.

Types of Material Handling Systems

Normally four types of material handing systems are used widely.

  • Storage Systems
  • Engineered Systems
  • Industrial Material Handling Trucks and
  • Bulk Material Handling Equipment

For maximum efficiency and safety, standardization material handling methods, equipment, controls, and software should be used.

Pre-operation material handling system checklist

Use checklist to avoid mishap
Fig. 4: Use material handling system checklist to avoid mishap

As the operation is big and is being used by some of the biggest industries such as refinery, power plants, and aviation industries, a checklist should be followed to ensure safe operation. The following points must be ensured:

  • Crane operators, trailer operators, and rigging foremen should be competent with experience in using specified equipment.
  • All tools & tackles shall be TPI inspected.
  • The approved color code is getting followed.
  • Lifting plans & JSA (Job safety analysis) should be in place.
  • All inspectors and supervisors should operate using required PPES.
  • The workplace has to be inspected, compacted as per industry requirements.

Click here to know regarding crane safety during construction

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Anup Kumar Dey

I am a Mechanical Engineer turned into a Piping Engineer. Currently, I work in a reputed MNC as a Senior Piping Stress Engineer. I am very much passionate about blogging and always tried to do unique things. This website is my first venture into the world of blogging with the aim of connecting with other piping engineers around the world.

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