Reading the Alphabet Soup of Material Handling

Anyone familiar with the world of business understands there are an accompanying maze of acronyms to navigate. It seems wherever there is the name of an organization with a longer name, you frequently find a series of letters, shortening it. The material handling industry is no different. The industry in which we work is filled with acronyms for several important organizations. But what are these organizations? What importance does each carry?

Here are the major organizations and acronyms that carry a lot of weight (pardon the pun) in material handling:


The Material Handling Institute (shortened from Material Handling Institute of America), is the trade association of all things material handling. The 72-year-old trade association is the umbrella organization covers everything related to material handling, supply chain and logistics. It serves as the spokesperson for the industry by performing tasks of educating companies on best practices and showcasing innovation through major events (ProMat/MODEX) and regional gatherings.

MHI also sponsors several smaller sub-organizations, or industry groups. These groups cover everything from automatic guided vehicle systems (AGVS) to storage manufacturers. Each of these sub-organizations covers a specific aspect of the material handling industry. These include:

  • RMI – The Rack Manufacturers Institute is as the name implies— manufacturers of rack products. This sub-group gathers and shares industry data. Members also agree to develop products according to uniform standards and provide funding for research and development in addition to product testing within this industry segment. RMI serves to educate users on proper use of rack equipment.
    • R-Mark – R-Mark is a certification program of RMI. This certification provides users of rack products with standards for capacities of both frame and beams of rack equipment. These standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to provide guidance in rack design.
  • CSS – Conveyor & Sortation Systems (CSS) is another industry group under the MHI umbrella. CSS is responsible for the development of educational materials on all things related to conveying equipment for use in classroom and continuing education environments. It also serves to provide a forum in finding solutions for material flow challenges.


The Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association is as the name indicates: a trade association for distributors of material handling equipment. The group emphasizes several objectives that include being a resource on educating members to improve best practices, engaging in and providing industry research and performance data, and advocating for the industry and its members. You will often find this organization out in the marketplace providing training and other workshops with the goal delivering value to members and end-users.

There are several other related organizations important to the material handling industry.


The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association is a trade association of wood pallet manufacturers. This group promotes the use of wooden material handling products. More importantly, the organization is responsible for developing important unit-load information (valuable to all companies involved in pallet racking) and best practices for pallet design.


The Reusable Packaging Association serves as a counterpart to the NWPCA. Its members are manufacturers and suppliers of products made from materials including plastic, metals and in some cases, wood. The purpose of the organization is to provide information and promote the benefits of reusable packaging to the material handling industry by stressing the “cost-per-trip” savings offered by its products.


The American National Standards Institute is a 99-year-old organization designed to accredit entities for providing uniform standards to assure safety and health of end-users. ANSI works across industries, meaning their focus is not solely on material handling. However, rack manufacturers are very familiar with several standards for its products including ANSI MH16.1-2012 Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.

ANSI is one of several standards organizations around the world. All of these organizations relate to a main international organization.


The International Standards Organization as it states on its website, “brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.”

These challenges affect the material handling industry. ISO currently provides 45 different standards related to the industry—everything from symbols used with the transport and handling of materials to pallet size and more.

There literally is an alphabet soup of acronyms related to the material handling industry. All have an impact of the industry and its users. Understanding how each affects your business will ensure the proper and efficient use of material handling products.


Ellie Davis
September 25, 2017

I never knew that there was so much that goes into material handling. I think its interesting to see how developed some industries are despite the fact that we could go our whole lives without ever thinking about them. I hope that people who are a part of this industry are happy about having such detailed guidelines in place. I know that I would love that, if it was me.

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