Material handling involves short-distance movement within the confines of a building or between a building and a transportation vehicle. It uses a wide range of manual, semi-automated, and automated equipment and includes consideration of the protection, storage, and control of materials throughout their manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal. Material handling can be used to create time and place utility through the handling, storage, and control of waste, as distinct from manufacturing, which creates form utility by changing the shape, form, and makeup of material.
Material handling is integral to the design of most production systems since the efficient flow of material between the activities of a production system is heavily dependent on the arrangement (or layout) of the activities. If two activities are adjacent to each other, then material might easily be handed from one activity to another. If activities are in sequence, a hand pallet truck can move the material at low cost.