Material handling equipment is machinery that stores, moves, or lifts items from one place to another. Primarily, this equipment relocates large loads and aids the in-house storage and handling of raw materials. The equipment may be either manual or automated, and while automated material handling can cost more up front, it boosts safety and efficiency by reducing accidents, waste, and error. For a long time, material handling has had an integral role in nearly any industry, but it’s currently on the rise due to globalization and the growth of online shopping.
“Material handling equipment” is a broad term, and anything that helps move or store materials within the production process can be technically included. However, there are four main categories of equipment used in material handling: bulk material handling equipment, engineered systems, transport equipment, and storage and handling.
Bulk Material Handling Equipment
This equipment is used for both the vertical and horizontal transport of materials in bulk and loose form. It’s often involved in the transportation and storage of minerals, metal items such as nails and screws, liquids such as beverages, and food.
Examples of bulk material handling equipment:
- Stackers/stacker cranes
Engineered equipment is almost always automated and works in tandem with other types of equipment to store and transport materials. They can easily be integrated with a facility’s existing network and overall production process.
Examples of engineered systems:
- Robotic delivery systems
- Conveyor systems (more than one conveyor belt)
- Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS)
- Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
This is used to move items either within a facility, or in and out. Within a facility, items are transported from one part of the production process to another; conveyor belts provide horizontal transportation, while elevators provide vertical. From small devices to large-scale motorized vehicles, this equipment can be automated or controlled manually.
Examples of transport equipment:
- Industrial trucks such as forklifts
- Conveyor belts
- Lifts and elevators
Storage and Handling
This equipment, which is never automated, holds raw materials or finished goods until they can be transported. Materials are stored in an organized and systematic manner to utilize space and promote efficiency.
Examples of storage and handling:
- Racks or shelves
- Drawers and bins
- Stacking frames
Investing in material handling equipment can bring many benefits to an organization. Careful consideration should be taken, however, before adding this equipment to your facility. Factors to consider include adaptability, type of material to be moved, the layout of your site, and cost.
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