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Materials Handler Duties and Responsibilities

Materials handlers usually perform the same duties and responsibilities, regardless of the employer. However, the specific materials they handle may differ. A materials handler usually performs these core tasks:

Handle Shipments Materials handlers typically spend most of their time handling shipments coming to and going out of the warehouse. This includes using forklifts and pallet jacks to move pallets of materials on and off of trucks.

Package and Unpackage Materials Materials handlers pack materials to ready them for shipment and unpack materials to place them in their proper places on the shelves of the warehouse.

Inspect Materials Materials handlers inspect all the materials they handle to ensure they are properly packaged and undamaged. They also inspect shipments to ensure the quantities ordered are all present.

Maintain Inventory Records All shipments going in and out of the warehouse need to be properly tracked. Materials handlers are responsible for maintaining inventory records to ensure all products are appropriately stocked and available.

Customer Service Materials handlers may provide customer service for clients or customers that call in to inquire about the status of different shipments. They may also make recommendations on when materials will be available to purchase.


Materials Handler Skills and Qualifications

The best materials handlers are strong, efficient, and reliable. They can keep track of multiple moving parts without getting confused. Employers look for employees who have at least one year of previous experience in a materials handler position, along with job-specific certifications like forklift operation. Employers also prefer to hire materials handlers who have the following skills:
  • Math Skills - Materials handlers possess basic math skills, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They should also be able to remember stock levels and perform quick math in their heads to know what orders need to be made
  • Material Handling Experience - Successful materials handlers typically have previous experience in this field. They know how warehouses work and understand their organization and process flow
  • Inventory Tracking Skills - Materials handlers know how to keep track of inventory, in both shipping and receiving situations
  • Active Listening - Warehouses are loud, and materials handlers need to be constantly aware of their surroundings using active listening
  • Organizational Skills - The stock of the warehouse depends on the efficiency and organization of materials handlers. They need to be able to keep everything in order without skipping a beat
  • Physical Fitness - Materials handlers are able to lift and move heavy items and maintain that lifting ability throughout their entire shift

Materials Handler Education and Training

Materials handlers typically don't need any formal training to gain employment. However, most employers prefer candidates to have at least one year's experience in a related field. Successful candidates should also have a forklift operation certification, along with any certifications that may apply to the specific position, like handling hazardous materials. Materials handlers should also receive on-the-job training once hired so that they can learn about the specific warehouse policies and procedures.

Materials Handler Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for materials handlers is $24,880. Annually, materials handlers in the highest 10 percent of earners make as much as $41,570 while those in the lowest 10 percent of earners make as little as $18,510. Materials handlers usually receive healthcare benefits and vacation and sick time, which can vary depending on their employer's specific policies. Employment outlooks for materials handlers is expected to go through a 7 percent growth over the next 10 years, according to the BLS, which is on par with other industries. With the emergence of more online retailers, materials handlers may experience more growth in the coming years.

Helpful Resources

Read through the following helpful resources to learn more about the materials handler position and how to succeed in this role:

Warehouse Management Professionals - Learn what warehouse management professionals are talking about in this LinkedIn group. Warehouse management professionals use this forum to discuss inventory management, equipment they use, and things they want to improve. If you're a materials handler, you can gain some valuable insight from joining this group of over 45,000 members.

Forklift Training: Equipping You for Success - This forklift training guide by Charlie Gray can help you prepare to take the

forklift operator certification exam. It was designed by the Carolina Trucking Academy and offers lessons for both employers and employees who want to learn more about becoming certified forklift operators

Productivity: Become a Master in Getting Things Done - This book by A.C. Drexel examines the ways you can improve your overall productivity in any job you have. This is especially important for materials handlers to learn, as they often have quotas to fill. In the book, you'll learn about unproductive habits, efficiency, and effectiveness as they all relate to productivity. This book has been rated highly and helps you start realizing your productivity goals.

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