Different Types and Uses for Material Handling Equipment
Category: Equipment and Solutions
Material handling equipment and systems are crucial to many companies that need to handle and store bulk material. Generally, material handling equipment refers to equipment designed to move, control, protect or store material through various processes at warehouses and facilities. You can find this equipment used across many different industries, making it very versatile. By knowing more about material handling equipment, you can better outfit your facility with the right equipment and systems for your company’s needs.
Learn more about the different types of material handling equipment and how they can be used in various industries. You might also be interested in finding out more about the primary advantages of using material handling equipment and how to pick the right equipment for your needs.
Types of Materials Handling Equipment
Material handling equipment usually falls under four main categories: bulk handling material equipment, engineered systems, storage and handling equipment and industrial trucks.
1. Bulk Handling Material Equipment
Bulk handling material handling equipment covers equipment that transports, stores and controls bulk materials. Generally, manufacturers design bulk handling material equipment to move and store materials in a loose form. You can find these pieces of equipment handling food, liquid, metal items and minerals.
If you want a clear idea of what bulk material equipment is, review some of the main types below:
- Hoppers: Hoppers are large funnel-shaped objects with openings that close. Companies use hoppers to pour loose materials into containers.
- Reclaimers: Reclaimers are large machines designed to pick up loose materials from a company’s stockpile.
- Conveyor belts: Conveyor belts are an essential part of a conveyor system. They use drums or pulleys to rotate their belts and move materials in bulk from one location to another.
- Stackers: Stackers are key to bulk material handling. This automated equipment can move loose materials to stockpiles on their own.
- Bucket and grain elevators: Sometimes referred to as grain legs, bucket elevators vertically move bulk materials. They’ll transport these materials on a production pathway and sometimes store them.
2. Engineered Systems
Otherwise known as automated systems, engineered systems refer to automated bulk material handling equipment made to help transport and store materials. Usually, automated systems feature several pieces of equipment. They’re very popular since they remove the need for manual labor to complete various tasks. Here are some of the primary kinds of engineered systems:
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): An AS/RS is a very popular type of engineered system, as it can handle lots of work. It utilizes a shuttle to pick up loose materials and then place them on needed parts of the system, and the picking process can be manually operated or automated. These systems also feature racks, shelves and aisles for easy processing. They can also be connected to a company’s network, making it easy for managers to monitor their stock.
- Automated guided vehicles (AGVs): AGVs are computer-operated trucks featuring sensors and detectors. These vehicles can be entirely autonomous, moving materials safely around your facility on preset pathways.
- Robotic delivery systems: Many facilities utilize automated robotic delivery systems to transport materials. Companies typically use these systems to transport materials on an assembly line.
- Conveyor systems: Conveyor systems feature several devices and mechanical assemblies that automatically transport materials throughout a facility. These conveyor systems come in multiple varieties, like apron, cleated, chain, overhead and vehicle conveyor systems.
3. Industrial Trucks
Industrial trucks cover a wide swath of equipment, and they’re all designed to assist with material transportation. These industrial trucks can range from small, hand-operated equipment to large, driveable equipment. Generally, you can break industrial trucks down into two main categories: non-stacking and stacking trucks. Non-stacking trucks are solely designed for transportation while stacking trucks can also load materials and stack them.
Here are some of the primary kinds of industrial trucks:
- Hand trucks: Hand trucks are commonly called dollies, and they’re a simple piece of equipment designed to give operators the leverage they need to roll heavy materials to new locations.
- Sideloaders: Manufacturers craft sideloaders to fit between narrow aisles, easily picking up items on either side of them.
- Pallet trucks: Otherwise known as forklifts, pallet trucks are machines operators can use to lift heavy pallets. They feature forks designed to slip under the pallet, lift it up and then secure it as the operator takes it to a new location. You can find manual and electrical forklifts in various warehouses around the country.
- Order pickers: When operators need to access materials stored up high, they use order pickers. These machines safely lift operators, allowing them to access hard-to-reach materials.
4. Storage and Handling Equipment
Storage and handling equipment helps safely store and organize materials while they await another stage in the production or distribution process. Depending on a company’s needs, they may use this storage equipment to hold materials for short or long periods. Generally, storage and handling equipment is stationary, not automated, but companies often use it with automated systems and equipment.
Here are some of the most common storage and handling equipment:
- Drawers, bins and shelves: You can find shelving used to store and organize basic materials. Bins and drawers are more popular when a company needs to organize smaller materials that could be easily lost otherwise.
- Mezzanines: A mezzanine refers to a raised indoor platform that creates another storage area above the ground. These mezzanines help companies store items vertically and free up space on their warehouse floor. They come in modular, rack supported, movable, free-standing and building supported forms.
- Racks: Racks help companies store their materials in accessible locations and save floor space. You can find racks designed for various uses, such as sliding racks, drive-in or drive-through racks, pallet tracks and push-back racks.
- Stacking frames: Manufacturers design stacking frames to easily stack on top of one another. They’re one of the main types of storage equipment in material handling, as they safely store pallets filled with fragile equipment, saving space as a result.
Different Uses for Material Handling Equipment
Given the broad range of machinery and equipment that material handling equipment covers, many companies in various industries use it. Here are some common uses of material handling equipment in different industries:
- Agriculture: When you work in agriculture, you have to move lots of loose materials, like crops, fertilizer, seed and feed. Several kinds of agricultural material handling equipment are available, like telehandlers, aerial lifts and forklifts designed to haul and load materials. Additionally, hoppers and grain elevators are popular.
- Construction: Many construction companies use material handling equipment designed to assist with loading and hauling materials around a project’s site. Some common equipment used in the construction industry include forklifts, aerial lifts and telehandlers.
- Distribution: Those in the distribution industry need material handling equipment to move products down their supply chain. Some of the main distribution material handling equipment include AGVs, electric forklifts and stackers.
- Landscaping: Landscaping companies rely on material handling equipment to lift heavy materials, like loose soil or pallets containing plants, and move them to needed destinations. Lift trucks and hand trucks are both popular pieces of landscaping material handling equipment.
- Manufacturing: Manufacturing is one of the industries most dependent on material handling systems and equipment. Some manufacturing material handling equipment includes pallet trucks, order pickers, forklifts and AGVs.
- Warehousing: Companies that operate warehouses regularly turn to material handling equipment to help them process materials and store them. Popular warehouse material handling equipment includes reach trucks, stackers, pallet trucks and order pickers.
Why Material Handling Equipment Is Important to Your Operation
Material handling equipment can greatly benefit companies in diverse industries. Many companies enjoy how material handling systems and equipment improve their workplace’s efficiency and safety. Additionally, material handling equipment can reduce waste, lower costs and optimize a facility’s space. Here are some of the most significant benefits of using material handling equipment:
- Greater efficiency: One of the biggest advantages of material handling equipment is its ability to process items efficiently. Outfitting your facility with relevant material handling equipment can reduce production stoppages by improving the circulation of materials around a facility. Many different types of material handling equipment can help you get your materials to key locations faster and maintain a more consistent flow, increasing efficiency as a result.
- Reduced waste: When a company relies on manual labor or improper equipment to handle its materials, its materials are much more likely to get damaged during transportation and storage, leading to higher material and product waste. Outfitting your facilities with material handling equipment can reduce your waste significantly. For example, stacking frames can keep crushable items safe while stacked over one another, and forklifts can securely transport pallets to various locations.
- Lower costs: Another major benefit of material handling equipment is its ability to help a company lower its costs. When you use equipment designed to make your system more efficient and speed up processes, you can increase your profitability due to decreased work stoppages and errors. Additionally, material handling equipment reduces waste, meaning you’ll reduce costs related to replacing damaged materials and products.
- Better use of warehouse space: You can use various types of material handling equipment, particularly storage and handling equipment, to save space in your warehouse. For example, you can install mezzanines to receive a second level of storage in your warehouse and tall racks to increase your vertical storage capabilities. Additionally, sideloaders allow you to place your aisles more closely together. Due to the better use of warehouse space, you can significantly increase your warehouse capacity.
- Increased employee safety: A major benefit of using material handling equipment is that it reduces the need for your staff to do strenuous manual labor. Since regularly lifting and hauling heavy materials by hand leads to chronic injuries, machinery designed to do these tasks for them can increase employee safety. Secure storage devices and machinery also prevent materials from falling and hurting staff.
How to Select the Right Materials Handling Equipment for Your Application
With all of the benefits of using bulk material handling equipment, you might be interested in investing in such equipment for your facility. Learn more about the main considerations you may want to take when determining the right equipment for your needs:
- Material type: Start by defining what kind of material you’ll be handling. The weight, size and shape of the material, as well as if it’s gas, solid or liquid, can all affect what kind of material handling equipment you’ll need. If a piece of equipment can’t handle your materials efficiently or safely, you can remove it from your list.
- Facility layout: The amount of space you have at your facility will affect the equipment you can use. Different types of warehouse equipment are more suited for smaller or larger spaces. Before you choose your equipment, ensure it can reach your materials, fit between aisles and safely navigate the space.
- Production flow: When your company has a consistent production flow between two fixed positions, you can likely use a full conveyor system. However, if your production flow faces a lot of change, you’ll likely want to prioritize machinery that can easily change directions and navigate new routes around the facility.
- Operation types: Besides the production flow, you may want to take into account the types of operations you regularly perform. For example, rental equipment can be better for temporary operations, while buying a piece of equipment can be better for permanent operations. Additionally, it’s important to understand if your material flow pattern is horizontal or vertical.
- Expense: As you pick equipment, you’ll likely want to consider whether you can afford it or not. If you don’t have a lot of available cash for a downpayment, you may want to select used or rental equipment. You may also want to consider the maintenance and operating costs of various pieces of equipment before you buy to ensure you’re getting the most value for your money.
- Structural factors: Before you select any equipment, ensure it’s compatible with your facility’s structural factors. For example, the material handling equipment should work with your facility’s structural strength, door and ceiling dimensions and floor conditions.
- Reliability: Any company knows the value of reliable equipment, as it keeps their production flow running smoothly and avoids expenses related to maintenance. When you need a new piece of equipment, turn to a trusted supplier like RAKA to ensure you receive the most reliable equipment possible and comprehensive after-sale support.
Turn to RAKA for Material Handling Equipment Needs
Now that you know how to pick the right kind of material handling equipment and know more about how this equipment works, you might be interested in acquiring equipment for your facilities. At RAKA, we’re proud to offer a wide selection of material handling equipment from Cat®, Mitsubishi and Jungheinrich. We regularly supply companies with new and used machines for rent or purchase, helping you get the right kind of material handling equipment for your needs.