Material handling equipment is crucial in a wide range of industries for the manufacturing, production, storing and delivery of products. It includes a diverse range of tools, storage units and vehicles for transporting, storing, enumerating, protecting and controlling products at any stage of the manufacturing process, distribution, consumption or disposal. The 4 categories of material handling equipment include industrial trucks, engineered systems, storage and bulk material handling. Understanding the roles and the different types of products these categories include will help you put together an efficient material handling system for your storage facility.
Material Handling Trucks
Industrial material handling trucks refer to the wide range of transportation vehicles and equipment used to move materials and products. These devices include small, collapsible hand truck models, pallet jacks and different types of forklifts. They feature a variety of characteristics that make them suitable for different applications. Some trucks feature forks, such as forklifts, or flat surfaces with which they lift items. They can be either manual or powered, and the method of operation can either involve riding or walking, requiring an operator to push them around manually or riding along on them. Stack trucks are used for stacking items, whereas non-stack trucks are usually used for transportation. There are various different types of industrial trucks and trolleys including:
- Collapsible hand truck – the most basic piece of material handling trucks which features a small platform to place the edge of a heavy object on, and a long handle that the operator uses for leverage. The products being moved with hand trucks need to be tipped so that they rest on the handle, and they’re carried at a tilt to their destination;
- Pallet trucks – also called pallet jacks, these are a special type of trucks meant for transporting pallets;
- Platform trucks – these are hand trucks featuring a wide platform which lays low to the ground;
- Walkie stackers – these are used for transporting and lifting pallets similarly to a forklift, although they don’t offer a place for the operator to ride in. Walkie stackers can be either manual or powered.
Bulk Material Handling Equipment
This category refers to the transportation, control and storing of materials in loose bulk form. These materials can be either liquid, food, or boxes. Typically, these pieces of equipment deal with materials in loose forms, such as elevators or conveyor belts designed to move large amounts of material, or in packaged forms through the use of hoppers and drums. Some other pieces of bulk material handling equipment include bucket elevators, reclaimers, grain elevators, hoppers and silos.
These systems cover a range of units that work together to enable the storage and transportation of goods. They’re mostly automated, and a good example of such a system would be the Automated Storage and Retrieval System, also known as AS/RS, which is a huge automated organisation structure that involves aisles, racks and shelves that are accessible by a shuttle system of retrieving. The so-called shuttle system is a mechanised cherry picker that can be used by staff or can be automated to quickly find an item’s location and quickly retrieve it for other use. Some other popular types of engineered systems include conveyor systems that come in a variety of types, depending on what they’re meant for, including overhead, chair, vibrating, vertical and apron conveyors, and automatic guided vehicle systems that are independent computer-run trucks that transport loads on a predetermined path with the help of detectors and sensors to help them avoid bumping into things.
Storage systems are limited to non-automated examples that are grouped together with engineered systems. Storage systems are used to buffer or hold materials during downtime, or when they aren’t in transit. These periods can refer to long-term storage for building up stock, or during temporary pauses during transportation. Most storage systems refer to shelves, racks or pallets onto which products may be stacked in an orderly fashion to await transportation or consumption. Many businesses have noticed an increased efficiency when using storage equipment designed for proprietary packaging, as it allows products or materials to conserve space while in inventory. Some examples of storage systems include:
- Shelves, drawers and bins are a basic storage method that is less open than racks and it’s made to keep smaller and difficult-to-manage products and materials properly stored and tidily organised. Shelving types can include revolving, boltless, tie-down and cantilever;
- Racks, like pallet racks, drive-in or drive-through racks, sliding and push-back racks are another basic, yet important method of storage that help save floor space and keep products accessible;
- Stacking frames are like stackable life blocks – they allow for crushable pallets of inventory, like liquid containers, for instance, to be stacked in order to save space without damaging them;
- Mezzanines are a type of indoor platform that helps create more floor space in any storage facility. The most common types are movable, modular, building-supported, rack-supported and free-standing mezzanines.