An Overview Of Material Handling Equipment
When it comes to packing material and equipment, companies have diverse needs. A home business may need boxes and envelopes for shipping products; a furniture mover may need dollies and blankets; and a factory may need crates, strapping, and winches.
Although we take these labor-saving devices for granted, they increase the efficiency of businesses of all sizes and consequently increase productivity and cut costs.
It’s fair to say that material handling equipment is a study in itself since it encompasses diverse vehicles, tools, appliances, accessories, and storage systems. Manufacturing, distribution, and retailing all require efficient systems for transport, storage, and controlling inventory. Fortunately, there are many intermediary businesses like Shippers Supplies that make it easy for small to medium-sized businesses get the material handling equipment they need when they need it. As a business grows, its need for material handling equipment will grow, too.
The World of Material Handling Equipment
Material handling equipment can be broken down into four distinct categories: storage, industrial trucking, engineered systems, and bulk material handling.
Let’s take a look at each one to understand why they are so indispensable in keeping the wheels of industry turning:
Storage equipment can consist of an assortment of racks—sliding racks, push-back racks, and drive-in or drive-through racks. It can consist of mezzanines, pallets and stacking frames. And it can consist of shelves, bins, drawers.
Usually, goods are put in storage on a temporary basis. This might be stock that is being piled up until there is enough for economical distribution, stock in transition, or surplus stock.
Goods might be stored by manufacturers who plan on shipping out the stock to wholesalers; they might be stored by wholesalers who plan on shipping out the stock to retailers; or they might be stored by retailers handling their own shipping who plan on shipping out the stock to customers.
Industrial trucks should not be confused with regular trucking. These are specialized vehicles often used in warehouses like hand trucks, pallet trucks, platform trucks, order pickers, sideloaders, pallet jacks, and walkie stackers. These may be hand-operated and use forklifts; they may be pushed or ridden; and they may be manual or power-based.
This includes systems like automatic guided vehicles (AGV), robotic delivery systems, and conveyor systems. Often automated, they make the work of storing and transporting goods much easier from one part of a facility to another.
Some are quite sophisticated like the Automated Storage and Retrieval System, or AS/RS, which consists of machines that will move up or move down one or more storage aisles. They are used for storing and retrieving products. Inc Magazine describes why this system is a remarkable inventory management system: “The advantages of these systems are numerous. They provide users with increased inventory control and tracking, including greater flexibility to accommodate changing business conditions.
These AS/RS systems are comprised of modular subsystems that can be easily replaced to minimize downtime and extend the service life of the overall system. They also reduce labor costs, lowering necessary workforce requirements, increasing workplace safety, and removing personnel from difficult working conditions (such as cold food storage environments). Perhaps most significantly, however, AS/RS systems can produce major savings in inventory storage costs, as vastly improved warehouse space utilization—both vertically and horizontally—creates greater storage density.”
Bulk Material Handling
Not all materials that are stored or transported are solid. Sometimes they are loose or liquid materials like packaged foods, grains, or juices. These materials need special material handling equipment like stackers, bucket elevators, hoppers, reclaimers, grain elevators, or silos. Often packaged through hoppers or drums, these materials are moved via elevators or conveyor belts.
Material Handling Regulations
Since moving bulky stock with mechanical equipment can potentially result in accidents, the United States Department of Labor has many strict regulations about sufficient safe clearance to avoid hazards.