Materials preparation handbook Guidelines for choice of materials preparation design
Bok, 2018

Materials preparation is increasingly applied with mixed model assembly as means of support to the assembly process. With materials preparation, components are sorted at a picking area before reaching the assembly process. This is required when, for example, materials are supplied to the assembly process by kitting or part sequencing approaches. When presented to the assembler, prepared materials shorten the walking distance and simplifies the search for components in the assembly process compared to other approaches, and promotes the assembly’s performance. However, to best support the assembly process, the materials preparation must be carried out cost effectively with satisfactory quality, flexibility, productivity, and ergonomics, with respect to the current context.

Previous research and practitioner experience has shown that the materials preparation design can greatly affect the performance outcome. There is a multitude of decisions involved with the choice of materials preparation design, and choosing an appropriate design that fulfils the performance expectations with respect to the context can be a complicated task. The aim of this handbook is to present previous research and practitioner knowledge regarding how to design materials preparation processes in assembly systems, and to consolidate the various decisions associated with materials preparation design into a framework that can be applied by practitioners and academics dealing with materials preparation design.

The handbook presents the various aspects related to the design, context and performance of materials preparation, in form of guidelines for how these aspects may be considered in the design process. The guidelines focus on how to design manual picking processes where a single worker carries out the picking work. The context in which the guidelines are presented is mixed model assembly, but much of the content would also find applicability in other contexts, for example warehouse order picking in distribution or e-commerce settings. The guidelines presented in the handbook are based on the outcome of a research project which was a joint venture between academia and industry, and included partners from both the manufacturing and distribution sectors.

The perspective taken on the design problem of materials preparation processes in the current handbook is to view the design as a set of design variables, for which the aim is to find suitable settings to achieve the desired performance outcome. For each design variable, a number of typical options are presented and the effects on the performance, and the influence of the context when making the choice, are explored and discussed based on the findings from the research project.

The first chapter of the handbook introduces the scope and aim of the book, and provides an overview of the chapters to come. In the second, third and fourth chapters, the various aspects and typical options with respect to the materials preparation performance (chapter 2), context (chapter 3), and the design (chapter 4) are presented and discussed. In the fifth chapter, a design process is outlined and guidelines for achieving the performance objectives by means of the design and with respect to the context are provided. In the sixth chapter, a set of examples of materials preparation design from industry and from the research studies are presented to give a hands-on view of what can be done and what should be avoided. In the final chapter, the book is concluded along with an outlook of future opportunities and challenges related to materials preparation design.

This handbook is intended for readers interested about the design of picking systems. The book is written for readers from both academia, for example researchers or students, and from industry, for example engineers, managers or consultants. The book’s structure permits easy access to referential reading about various aspects of the materials preparation design, and although the book certainly could be read from start to finish, it would serve the reader to start with a set of questions already in mind. Materials preparation is carried out for supporting the assembly process, and this book supports the decision process when choosing a materials preparation design.


mixed model assembly

materials preparation

order picking

sequenced part supply


in-plant logistics


kit preparation


Patrik Fager

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Supply and Operations Management

Framväxande digitala teknikers tillämpbarhet som plockstöd inom materialhantering

VINNOVA, 2017-02-01 -- 2018-01-31.

Utformning av processer för effektiv materialkonfigurering

VINNOVA, 2014-06-01 -- 2016-11-30.


Produktionsteknik, arbetsvetenskap och ergonomi

Transportteknik och logistik


Hållbar utveckling




Lärande och undervisning

Pedagogiskt arbete




Chalmers University of Technology, Department of Technology Management and Economics

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