In a military context, materiel relates to the specific needs of a force to complete a specific mission. The term is also often used in a general sense ("men and materiel") to describe the needs of a functioning army. Materiel management consists of continuing actions relating to planning, organizing, directing, coordinating, controlling, and evaluating the application of resources to ensure the effective and economical support of military forces. It includes provisioning, cataloging, requirements determination, acquisition, distribution, maintenance, and disposal. The terms "materiel management", "materiel control", "inventory control", "inventory management", and "supply management" are synonymous.
Military materiel is often shipped to and used in severe climates without controlled warehouses and material handling equipment. Packaging and labeling often needs to meet stringent technical specifications to help ensure proper delivery and final use.
Materiel in the commercial distribution context comprises the items being moved by the services of or as the products of the business, as distinct from those involved in operating the business itself.