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Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research

Vol. 65, August 2006, pp. 619-624

Materials handling technology and significance of expert systems to select

appropriate handling equipments in engineering industries: A review
Thoguluva Raghavan Vijayaram*
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Putra Malaysia,
UPM 43400 Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, West Malaysia, Poskod: 43400, Malaysia
Received 22 August 2005; revised 13 April 2006; accepted 12 May 2006
This review discusses various handling equipments and the role of material handling systems in engineering industries.
Flow of material through ecosystem of an industrial society is the physical manifestation of its substance, productivity and
wealth. A brief explanation on the material handling interests and activities are also highlighted. Simulation models are
precisely given to generate the expert system software for handling systems.
Keywords: Automated flexible manufacturing system, Automated guided vehicle, Integrated manufacturing system,
Inventory control, Material handling equipment, Prototype expert system, Simulation model, Transit

Introduction a business competes in the market place and early

Material handling (MH) system is applied for both identification of opportunities will become
manufacturing and distribution operations. It does not increasingly important for the survival in the future14.
add value to product but it usually adds a significant A prototype expert system has been developed to
element of cost1. The three basic characteristics of identify a suitable conveyor solution from 76
MH are picking up the load, transporting the load and conveyor types15. SEMH (selection of equipment for
setting the load down2, 3. Production effectiveness can MH) knowledge base system consists of 39 rules and
be increased by having the right quality of material at the knowledge base is divided into level of
right places at the right time4, 5. One of the most mechanization and the equipment selection
logical developments to evolve from the science of knowledge base15. A prototype expert system for
MH is the unit load concept 6, 7. The handling of a industrial truck type selection have been developed
quantity is treated as a single mass, which is a simple using a combination of forward and backward
outcome of mechanically assisted handling8. The chaining for inferencing15. MATHES (material
traditional approach for handling selection has been to handling equipment selection expert system)15 has
entrust this task to process engineers9. MH design been developed. A prototype knowledge based system
problem requires combining the total logical and has been developed for robot selection using an expert
physical aspects of material flow and then justify the system shell (Kappa-pc)15. An integrated approach
design from performance and economic has been developed to operation allocation (OA) and
perspectives10. Generally, handling control systems material handling system selection (MHSS) in the
can be fully integrated into the business to gain the cellular manufacturing system15. The model
maximum benefits from the investment. Testing the formulations can be used as a planning tool to
design of a conventional or automated MH system is generate some of the design features of manufacturing
essential to ensure that system will provide the system. An algorithm is presented to solve the models
expected benefits after implementation11, 12. in three steps. Each iteration consists of solving the
model P (OA), followed by solving the model P
History (MHSS), and then modifying the available choices of
MH technology is becoming increasingly important MH equipment for part process combinations and
to all types of business operations in today’s returning to P (OA)16. A hybrid knowledge based /
competitive society13. It can change the way in which optimization system for automated selection of MH
____________ selection have been developed. Kerni & Tsur17 has
*E-mail: vijayaram1@gmail.com developed six paradigms for knowledge-based system

Table 1Material handling interests and activities20, 21

Areas of interest Activities
i) Packing at the suppliers plants i) Handling and storage methods
ii) Loading at suppliers docks ii) Loading and unloading techniques; methods
iii) Transportation from suppliers iii) Packing (consumer and protective)
iv) Unloading activities at our plant iv) Testing packaging, loading, and handling methods
v) Receiving operations v) Setting specifications and standards for handling,
vi) Storage of both material and supplies packing, and storage
vii) Issuing material to production vi) Equipment feasibility studies
viii) In-process storage and handling vii) Handling and storage equipment selection
viii) Auxiliary equipment evaluation and selection
ix) Work place, Intra-departmental handling and Inter-
ix) Selection of containers (shop, packing, shipping)
departmental handling
x) Handling equipment repair and maintenance policy and
x) Intra-plant handling
xi) Handling related to auxiliary functions xi) Damage prevention (material and product)
xii) Packaging (consumer) xii) Safety
xiii) Warehousing of finished goods xiii) Training
xiv) Packing (protective) xiv) Surveys to uncover saving opportunities
xv) Loading and shipping xv) Handling costs and cost control methods
xvi) Transportation to customer xvi) Keeping up to date on equipment, methods, procedures,
xvii) Inter-plant transportation etc
xviii) Related record keeping xvii) Related paperwork, control and communication systems

in industrial engineering. A knowledge base is artificial intelligence in the decision-making

proposed for determining most appropriate process18.
architecture suitable for the given application.
A decision model and methodology have been Material Handling
developed for the selection of bulk MH equipment18. MH maintains product quality by reducing damage
The model accounts for economics, characteristics of and providing protection of materials. It promotes
the equipment, environmental characteristics and safety and improves working conditions19. MH
compatability between equipment types. A multi promotes productivity, increases use of facilities,
attribute MH equipment selection called as MHAD reduces weight and controls inventory (Table 1)20, 21.
introduces fuzzy information and axioms approach
and uses it in the selection of MH equipment18. Benefits and Advantages
MHAD consists of a database, a rule-based system, There is an upward trend in most industry segments
having multi-attribute decision-making models18. The that reflects the growing labour force required to
most important factor influencing the selection is service and maintain increasingly complex
effective use of labour, providing system flexibility, equipment22. In-transit movements, either from
increasing productivity, decreasing lead-time and supplier to plant, from plant to plant, or in-plant, have
cost. MH equipment selection have been developed a tendency to increase the level of the damage that
by fuzzy multi criteria decision-making methods18. occurs to the product being handled23. Since scrap and
Fuzzy multi criteria decision making methodology is rework can be costly, one should make every attempt
used to aggregate the rating attitudes of decision to prevent such losses by the proper training of
makers (DMs) and trade-off various selection criteria material handlers and by getting good data on the
to find ranking values of fuzzy suitability indices. A costs of the damage due to materials handling.
hypothetical problem is designed and coded into Factory and warehouse space becomes more costly
TURBO C Programming language to obtain the final each year. It is even more costly when reviewed from
ranking of the alternatives automatically. MHESA the standpoint of the dislocations and lost time that
(material handling equipment selection advisor) is occur when a move is made or when plant expansion
knowledge-based expert system for assessing material takes place24. MH is a vital part of layout planning,
handling equipment selection and analytical hierarchy but of equal importance is MH interdependency that
process (AHP) model to choose the most favourable is found in both production scheduling and inventory
equipment type18. MHESA can automate design of a control25. The most important of MH project is the
MH equipment selection system, and provides safety of the worker26. Expert materials handling

Table 2Classification of MH equipment38, 39

Conveyers Chute conveyor, Wheel conveyor, Roller conveyor, Gravity roller conveyor, Live (powered) roller conveyor, Chain
conveyor, Slat conveyor, Flat belt conveyor, Magnetic belt conveyor, Toughed belt conveyor, Bucket conveyor,
Vibrating conveyor, Screw conveyor, Pneumatic conveyor, Dilute-phase pneumatic conveyor, Carrier-system pneumatic
conveyor, Vertical lift conveyor, Reciprocating vertical conveyor, Cart-on-track conveyor, Tow conveyor, Trolley
conveyor, Power-and-free conveyor, Monorail, Sortation conveyor, Diverter, Pop-up device, Sliding shoe device, Tilting
device, Cross-belt transfer device
Cranes Jib crane, Bridge crane, Gantry crane, Stacker crane
Trucks Industrial trucks, Hand truck, Two-wheeled hand truck, Dolly, Floor hand truck, Pallet jack, Manual pallet jack, Powered
pallet jack, Walkie stacker, Manual walkie stacker, Powered walkie stacker, Pallet truck, Platform truck, Walkie
platform truck, Rider platform truck, Counterbalanced lift truck, Sit-down counterbalanced lift truck, Stand-up
counterbalanced lift truck, Narrow-aisle straddle truck, Narrow-aisle reach truck, Turret truck, Operator-down turret
truck, Operator-up turret truck, Order picker, Side loader, Tractor-trailer, Personnel and burden carrier
AGV Tow AGV (automatic guided vehicles), Unit load AGV, Assembly AGV, Light load AGV, Fork AGV

practice requires each job involving the movement of computer control has again permitted application of
materials to become safe every time it is performed27. MH automation in a very random scheduling
Efficient MH has following factors: 1) Improves environment36. Manufacturing material handling
production operations and indirect to direct labour automation has been the result of the programming
handling ratios; 2) Reduces damage due to MH and control technology37.
maximum space utilization; 3) Reduces accident rate
and severity of injury; 4) Minimizes unit cost and Classification of Available Material Handling Equipment
hence minimizes project cost and optimizes quality; MH equipment is broadly classified into 5 major
5) Promotes the effective use of people, equipment, categories (Table 2) 38, 39 as follows: i) Transport; ii)
space and energy and provides for employee’s Positioning; iii) Unit load formation; iv) Storage; and
convenience, safety and comfort; 6) Controls project v) Identification and control.
costs, archives the production standard, builds Application of Material Handling System
flexibility in the plan and reduces or eliminates MH systems are having greater applications in the
excessive inventory; 7) Achieves miscellaneous goals manufacturing engineering industries like mechanical,
to use work cells which will reduce inventory and metallurgical, chemical, automotive and in aerospace
material handling and to build visual management industries40-42, and used to handle heavy weight
system into the design to improve factory components in the assembly workshops43, 44. Some of
management; and 8) To design for first-in-first-out the important engineering operations requiring MH
inventory for inventory control. systems are arc welding, metal coating, metal
bending, metal sealing, plasma cutting operation,
Role of Material Handling Systems in Industry assembling operation, palletizing, packaging,
MH engineering automates materials movement at measuring and inspection, spot welding, pressure
all stages of the economy. In hard goods joining and riveting, laser welding and cutting, water
manufacturing industries, the complexity of MH jet cutting, deburring, polishing and grinding, paper
operations has been approached in a list of statement manufacturing industries, metal casting industries,
handling oriented productivity improvements28. This heat treatment industries and rolling mills45-47.
pattern has matured into automated flexible
manufacturing system (FMS) and the integrated Classification of Material Handling Equipment Selection
manufacturing system (IMS) or automated System
factory28-30. Conveyers and automated vehicles move Recent advances in the development of MH
warp beams, quills bales and cloth rolls in the basic equipment selection system have affected most of
mills. Robots pick spinning frames and tie yarn31. manufacturing industries. Handling equipment is used
Automated system operates the dying and printing of for movement and storage of materials within a
cloth. Computers control looms and direct weaving facility or at a site. MH is classified into categories
patterns32. It has also control on sewing machines. such as transport, storage and identification and
Automated monorails are being used to move, work control equipments47. Each class of this handling
stations in garment factories33-35. The flexibility of equipment is used for a particular application, which

Table 3Existing software package and expert system

Sl No Software package of expert system Year Reference
1 SEMH (Selection of equipment for material handling) 1984 15
2 Prototype expert system for industrial truck type selection 1987 15
3 MATHES (Material handling equipment selection expert system) 1988 15
4 MAHDE 1988 15
5 MHES (Material handling equipment selection) 1989 15
6 MATHES II (Material handling equipment selection expert system) 1990 15
7 EXCITE (Expert consultant for in plant transportation equipment) 1990 15
8 EMHES (Expert system for material handling equipment selection) 1992 18
9 ICMESE (Intelligent consultant system for material handling equipment) 1996 48
10 MASHES (Material handling selection expert system) 1997 48

mainly depends on the mass and size of the handling forms the basis for predicting the behaviour of the
material. Transport equipment is used to move the real-life situation- and subsequently it is useful in
items from one location to another. Some examples of controlling the real situation58. Simulation models
transport equipment are conveyors, cranes, and may be classified in several different ways according
industrial trucks48. to how closely they appear to typify the real
situation59. Models that include all the characteristics
Software Package and Expert Systems for Selecting of the real situation are called as isomorphic.
Appropriate Material Handling Equipment Systems Simulation models are further classified as:
Various researchers have developed different MH
system selection software packages (Table 3) 15, 18, 48. Iconic Models
Principles involved in MH equipment selection expert Iconic models appear similar to the subject of
systems are as follows49: 1) Planning; 2) System; 3) inquiry, and are characterized by the use of some
Material flow; 4) Simplification; 5) Gravity; 6) Space metric transformation or scaling. Such models (globe,
utilization; 7) Unit size; 8) Mechanization; 9) still photos etc.) describe static or dynamic things at a
Automation; 10) Equipment selection; 11) point in time.
Standardization; 12) Adaptability; 13) Dead weight;
14) Utilization; 15) Maintenance; 16) Control; 17) Analog Models
Performance; and 18) Safety. Analog models are characterized by the use of a
convenient transformation of one set of properties for
General Methods Available for Material Handling Equipment another set of properties in accordance with certain
16, 50-54
Selection Programme Development specified rules60, 61. Such models are flow charts,
The following methods are available for schedule boards, plant layouts, etc.
developing the handling equipment selection software
program: i) Mixed integer programming; ii) Hybrid Symbolic Models
knowledge-based optimization system; iii) Weighted Symbolic models are characterized by the fact that
evaluation method; iv) Expected value creation; v) If- the components of the subject of inquiry, and the
then rules; vi) Analytical hierarchy process and interrelationship among them, are represented by
dividing weight; vii) Rationalization procedure; viii) symbols, mathematics and logic62, 63. In order to
Fuzzy multi-criteria decision-making methods; ix) identify the particular homorphic, symbolic model
Fuzzy information axiom approach; and x) 0-1 integer used in systems simulation, one more stratification is
programming formulation. required. This is done by the solution mode numerical
methods and Monte Carlo methods.
Simulation Models and Industrial Engineering Aspects on
Material Handling Equipment Selection Conclusions
Stochastic simulation, systems simulation or just Appropriate selection of material handling system
plain simulation has come to mean the technique of reduces rework, time and increases the production
preparing a model of a real-life situation and then effectiveness by increasing the profit and application
performing a series of sampling experiments upon the of expert systems in the manufacturing engineering
model55-57. Observing the behaviour of the model then industries. Material handling system helps to choose

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