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What Does a Material Handler Do?

Material handlers are responsible for loading materials.
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  • Written By: Cassie L. Damewood
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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A material handler processes all goods received or shipped by a company. She is in charge of the physical receipt, distribution and storage of all products from office supplies to raw materials, parts and tools. Her work may take place in a large or small company. Depending on the size of the business, she may work alone or as part of a team of material handlers.

Good organizational skills are typically imperative to the success of a material handler. As goods are received from outside sources, she is commonly expected to log their receipt, place them in appropriate storage areas or distribute them the correct departments. Her authority generally allows her to sign bills of lading, so it is important that her review of the shipment is detailed and accurate.

If she is required to ship materials, the handler is commonly required to follow a similarly meticulous process. She generally reviews the accompanying documents for accuracy and confirms special shipping details and instructions. If problems arise concerning the destination of the goods or shipping methods require alteration, she is customarily expected to keep all involved parties informed of the changes.

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Since she normally interacts with all of a company’s departments, her communication skills are typically expected to be clear and concise. If a production manager requires expedited shipment on materials to keep the manufacturing processes on schedule, the material handler is ordinarily expected to make sure the order is given top priority. If there are problems with a contractor or vendor, the material handler is normally the person designated to resolve the issue.

Other departments that depend on the accuracy and efficiency of the material handler are accounting and inventory control. The accounting department relies on the material handler to efficiently validate and transfer invoices to them for payment. Inventory control personnel generally expect to be readily notified of items on back order to advise appropriate departments of necessary adjustments to work or delivery schedules.

In addition to being organized, a material handler is usually required to have good math and computer skills. Discretion and honesty are important, as she is frequently required to handle sensitive goods and materials. Good writing abilities are generally needed to compile reports and summaries for management.

A high school diploma or equivalent is normally required for this position. College courses or other formal training is preferred by some employers. However, most of these jobs are awarded to those with solid experience in related positions, regardless of educational background.

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Discuss this Article

anon340248
Post 7

This job is very hard work! I am a material worker and get paid only $3 an hour. So it's not enough money and it is hard to for me to find a better job.

anon255309
Post 6

I'm a material handler at michael's warehouse and yes, heavy lifting is involved. I'm a female and my doctor calls this man's work, and the pay is not good. I come home every day with bruises pulled muscles and sometimes broken fingers.

If you're looking for a great job, this is not it. Unfortunately it's the only job that was available in my area. I had to take what I could get. I worked there for four years and still nothing better.

strawCake
Post 5

@ceilingcat - That does sound like a lot of work for one person! I have a friend who used to work in a warehouse, and from what I understand a material handler is kind of like a manager. So they definitely have people who work under them to help them get all that work done!

ceilingcat
Post 4

It seems like this job would be different depending on how big the company is. For example, a small warehouse would probably only need one material handler. But in a very large warehouse I think a team would be necessary.

It sounds like the material handler is basically responsible for everything involving shipping and receiving goods. That seems like too much for just one person to take on!

Mammmood
Post 3

@nony - I totally agree about the importance of motivation. I know a gal who just graduated from college and she was hired by a major soft drink company.

They put her on fast track training for management. After a year of training she will be a manager; during this time, she has to travel, observe warehouse and bottling operations, meet with sales managers and so forth.

I was surprised that they were hiring her on a fast track to management. I asked, weren't there other workers in the company, who have been there for years, who would be more qualified?

She said yes; but the reality is that many of these workers didn’t want to be managers. Well, if you don’t want to move up, nobody will force you. There’s certainly nothing wrong with manual labor either.

nony
Post 2

@everetra - I believe that some people see the material handler job as menial labor with no chance for promotion. My understanding is that just the opposite is true, but it depends more on the motivation of the worker.

If you just want to do the material handling for the rest of your life, more power to you. However, if you want to move up, there are opportunities for advancement. I’ve heard of people becoming shift supervisors after serving so many years as materials handlers.

The reason that they became supervisors is that they understood the entire shipping and fulfillment process during their time working in the warehouse. These people are ideal candidates for supervisory positions.

everetra
Post 1

I think that it should be pointed out that material handler responsibilities may include lifting heavy objects or equipment. There is also most likely shift work.

You will probably be asked to work second or even the graveyard shift from time to time. It may never happen, but I think that you should at least be flexible enough so that you’d be willing to do that if needed.

Beyond that, I think if you know computers you’ll have an advantage over someone who just brings physical brawn to the task. The reason is that a lot of inventory coordination has been computerized; this lessens the chance for human error in the process, but of course only if you know how to use the computer programs.

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