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The Ultimate Guide to Material Handling Equipment Types

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The Ultimate Guide to Material Handling Equipment Types

If you work in a warehouse or another type of facility, you're probably dealing with a lot of products and resources. One of your most critical responsibilities is to ensure that these materials are not damaged while in storage and that they flow through your various production processes as soon as possible. 

Your organization is more likely to damage products and fall behind on productivity targets if you don't have the right equipment and methods in place.

Material handling equipment (MHE) intended to handle your materials and engineered for better speed is required to stay competitive in your sector. 

Learn more about the key categories of MHE and why they're so vital to have when you look to add material handling equipment and systems to your warehouse.

What Is Material Handling and How Does It Work?

The storage, control, protection, and movement of items and materials during warehousing, consumption, manufacture, disposal, and distribution is referred to as material handling. 

To assist with material handling, a variety of equipment and systems are available, ranging from manual to completely automated alternatives. It is critical to use material handling equipment to ensure that a supply chain operates smoothly.

Material-handling equipment for warehouses comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The four basic categories of material handling equipment (MHE) to be understood in order to comprehend what it is and how it is used:

  • Equipment for storage and handling
  • Systems that are automated
  • Forklifts and industrial trucks
  • Material handling in bulk.

You'll be better aware of the types of equipment that suit your company's demands if you understand these four key categories. Knowing your alternatives is the first step in creating an effective material handling system. 

You may learn more about four different types of MHE utilized in warehouses by reading on:

1. Equipment for Storage and Handling

Storage and handling equipment is used to keep commodities safe and secure when they are not in use. They can also be used to hold products at the start or finish of a manufacturing process. Depending on the user's needs, this equipment can be utilized for a short or lengthy period of time.

It's vital to note that much of this equipment isn't automated. Engineered systems or automated systems are terms used to describe automated storage and handling equipment.

Racking, shelves, and pallets are common types of storage equipment in material handling. These things make it possible for warehouses and other businesses to store materials in a neat and orderly manner. 

When the material is preparing to enter the production cycle or is waiting to be transported, it is frequently stored on the equipment. For a company's manufacturing cycle, storage, handling, and distribution are critical.

One of the most significant advantages of this type of equipment is that it allows a company to become more efficient. The ability of a warehouse's equipment and workers to access and transport materials swiftly is critical to its production system. 

In the production process, you don't want bottlenecks to occur. Other pieces of equipment can easily take up big quantities of commodities and carry them from one location to another thanks to storage and handling equipment.

The following are some of the most important items of storage and handling equipment:

Sliding racks, pallet racks, push-back racks, and drive-through or drive-in racks are among the several types of racks used in facilities. These racks help to keep your materials accessible while also saving room on the floor.

Shelves, bins, and drawers: Shelves are one of the most fundamental forms of storage goods, and they're frequently used. Smaller items can be stored in an organized manner with the help of drawers and bins built into the shelving.

Stacking frames: Stacking frames, as their name implies, can be layered on top of each other like blocks. Their principal benefit is that they allow fragile or crushable palletized material to be piled on top of each other. This strategy conserves space while also keeping the materials in order.

Mezzanines: If you need to free up more floor space in your facility, mezzanines are a good option. A mezzanine is an elevated platform above the floor that functions similarly to a second level. Building supported, modular, mobile, rack supported, and free-standing mezzanines are some of the most common varieties.

2. Computerized Systems

Engineered systems, often known as automated systems, are fully automated. They're used to help in material storage and transportation. An automated system is usually made up of numerous units rather than being a single piece of equipment.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AR/RS) are one of the most prevalent types of these systems. This system will most likely be quite massive. Shelves, aisles, and racks are all present. 

Material is picked up and placed on the system using a shuttle, which looks like a cherry picker. Occasionally, an operator will manually pick up items and place them on the shuttle, but the picking operation can alternatively be completely automated and mechanized.

An AR/RS has the advantage of being able to connect to a facility's computer network. This link makes it simple for a business to keep track of its inventory. To make everything more automated, the AR/RS can be connected with various phases of a facility's process.

The following are some of the most common types of automated systems:

Conveyor systems are mechanical assemblies or devices that assist in the movement of materials around a facility with minimal manual effort. 

A conveyor system typically consists of a frame with wheels, belts, and rollers to assist in the movement of materials in a warehouse. Conveyors come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including chain, vertical, overhead, apron, and cleated.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are used by companies that seek to eliminate the need for their employees to deliver materials (AGVs). 

These are computer-controlled trucks that can operate on their own. Using detectors and sensors, AVGs can be programmed to follow specified paths. They'll transfer materials across the facility without colliding with anything or deviating from established routes.

Robotic delivery systems are machines that transfer items and commodities throughout a facility. They're mechanized to make things easier for the employees. These systems are typically used to assist in the movement of items down a production line.

3. Forklifts and Industrial Trucks

Forklifts and industrial trucks are two types of equipment that span a wide range of applications. All of the pieces of equipment have one thing in common: they all aid in transporting. 

There are a variety of sizes available for industrial trucks and forklifts. You can get equipment that is tiny enough to be used by hand as well as equipment that is large enough to be driven.

Stacking and non-stacking trucks are the two primary types of industrial vehicles. The sole purpose of a non-stacking vehicle is transportation. A stacking truck may load and stack products.

To make the transfer process easier, industrial vehicles usually incorporate attachments such as insertable flat surfaces or forks. These attachments are designed to go under pallets for easier pickup.

Material is lifted by industrial vehicles using either manual or powered methods. Powered industrial trucks typically have a cab, allowing the operator to easily pick up big materials. 

Although certain power-assisted industrial cabs must be pushed into place, they may nevertheless raise materials with the help of controls. Additionally, certain more complex industrial trucks can be automated by moving along the warehouse floor utilizing optical sensors and predetermined pathways.

The following are some of the most common types of industrial trucks:

Hand trucks: Also known as dolly trucks, hand platform trucks are among the most basic types of industrial trucks. They usually have a handle for leverage and a little platform on which to place heavy goods that are difficult to carry. The operator places the equipment on the handle and rolls it to the location where it is needed.

Platform and pallet trucks: Platform trucks have bigger platforms and sit lower to the ground than other hand trucks. Pallet trucks, often known as forklifts, are used to transport pallets. 

They'll slide under a pallet and steer it where it needs to go with the help of an operator. These trucks are available in both manual and electric versions.

Sideloaders: Sideloaders are designed to fit into tight aisles. They pick up things from a variety of angles, making them perfect for warehouses that want to maximize space by putting lanes close together.

Walking stackers are similar to forklifts in that they lift and move goods. Although they do not have a cab for the operator, electric versions are available to help with transporting.

Pallet jacks: Pallet jacks are a very simple kind of a forklift and are one of the most prevalent types of warehouse equipment. They're used to move materials throughout a warehouse and are typically pushed manually, however powered options are available.

Order pickers: An order picker is a machine that elevates workers off the ground and allows them to access products on high shelves that are difficult to reach.

4. Bulk Material Handling 

Bulk material handling equipment is defined as machinery that stores, controls, and transports bulk materials. The materials are usually in a loose state. Beverages, metals, minerals, food, and liquid are commonly handled by this equipment.

The usage of a conveyor belt to carry goods from one part of the manufacturing floor to another is an example of a bulk material handling system. Loose goods are funneled into locations where they can be packaged or controlled in some fashion, using hoppers and drums.

The following are some examples of material handling equipment:

Stackers: These large material handling parts transport goods from one location to another. Stackers are automated machines that stack commodities and products into stockpiles.

Conveyer belts: Conveyor belts are one of the most important components of a conveyor system. To rotate the belt and transfer the material on it throughout a facility, they commonly use pulleys or drums.

Reclaimers: A reclaimer is a big machine that picks stuff out of your stockpile.

Bucket and grain elevators: Grain legs are another name for bucket elevators. They aid with the vertical transportation of bulk commodities. Grain elevators transport and store materials along a production line.


Hoppers are used to dump or pour goods into containers and are designed like funnels. They can seal their gap and keep the stuff until it's time to release it.

Silos: A silo is a tower that holds resources. They're common on farms, although they're helpful in a number of settings. Grain, woodchips, coal, sawdust, and food are all common items stored in silos.

What Role Does Material Handling Equipment Play?

The Ultimate Guide to Material Handling Equipment Types

When it comes to efficiently handling materials, MHE is critical for a company's success. Improper storage and handling can result in product loss, material damage, and supply chain inefficiency. To avoid these problems, invest in material handling equipment that is tailored to your company's demands and the materials you handle.

Here are some of the most important ways that a good material handling system can benefit a company:

1. Minimize product and material waste

The lack of suitable storage systems and the existence of equipment that mishandles goods is a prevalent problem in warehouses and facilities. These difficulties might cause products to be damaged or thrown away during storage or transit. 

This waste can result in greater expenditures for the organization managing the material as well as disgruntled customers who want their products to be adequately taken care of.

Warehouse storage equipment ensures that things are stored safely in your warehouse. Stacking frames, for example, can assist a corporation in keeping crushable goods piled on top of one another without hurting the objects. 

Improved warehouse transportation equipment also aids in the efficient and safe movement of materials, minimizing the likelihood of materials being dropped or damaged.

A material handling system can also assist businesses in keeping a more precise inventory track. Proper shelving and organizational elements, for example, assist businesses in knowing where to find things and keeping track of them when they need to be moved. 

Computerized inventory management systems can keep track of your stock and guarantee that you always have the right amount of products on hand.

2. Costs of Material Handling are Reduced

One of the most pressing problems for people who employ material handling equipment in their organization is cost reduction. Material movement, procurement, and storage make up a large part of a company's production process. 

These elements of the process can be expensive, particularly if your material handling system is poor. Stoppages can develop if your material handling system is unable to handle the flow of materials efficiently, resulting in additional expenditures and poorer profitability.

The production process will function smoothly if proper material handling equipment and systems are used. Fully automated solutions eliminate the need for guesswork in product handling and limit the risk of human error. 

Even the right manual equipment can assist a corporation in better handling stuff and ensuring that it gets from point A to point B in a timely manner.

More complex equipment is well worth the higher initial expenses because it allows a company to handle more material with greater speed and efficiency. You'll save money in the long run by avoiding errors, broken equipment, and work stoppages.

3. Increased Storage Capacity

One of the most significant things you can do to boost your profitability is to increase the capacity of your warehouse to hold more goods. You may use more of your warehouse's area for improved storage capacity if you have the right storage and handling equipment.

Because sideloaders may easily fit in between aisles and take up equipment from either side, you can put your aisles closer together. 

Racks, stacking frames, and mezzanines are examples of warehouse equipment that can help you save space on your floor. You can stack pallets and products higher and safer using this storage and handling equipment.

You can store more goods without increasing your storage costs by increasing the capacity of your warehouse. Storage efficiency equals production efficiency. As a result, you'll be able to increase your entire production capacity, as well as your profitability.

4. Improved Working Conditions and Employee Safety

Lifting and moving materials by hand can be time-consuming and exhausting for workers. Working in this type of manual activity can lead to burnout and an increased risk of injury. 

With equipment, you can make their jobs considerably easier, allowing them to take on more responsibilities and making the workplace more fun. You also lessen the likelihood of mistakes, which means managers have fewer issues to deal with during the workweek.

Furthermore, automating much of the material handling process and providing staff with powerful equipment to manage big loads makes your workforce considerably safer. Lifting large goods can result in a variety of long-term injuries, particularly if workers aren't adequately trained. 

Improperly stored material may potentially fall on workers, causing serious injury. MHE in warehouses aids workers in completing these physically demanding activities, reducing their risk of harm.

5. Material Flow Improvements

Materials frequently enter a facility in a raw state and leave as finished products or merchandise. If your facility is responsible for numerous stages of a manufacturing process, the material must flow smoothly. 

Production can be halted if you don't have the right warehouse equipment. An inefficient material handling system, for example, could result in product damage or cause material to be delayed from reaching the right stage.

You can increase the circulation of your materials around the plant by upgrading your system and equipment. The material will arrive at the required stations and places faster, guaranteeing a steady flow. 

Improved material flow has the benefit of causing materials to stay in your plant for shorter periods of time and getting to customers faster.

6. A Better Distribution System

The capacity to deliver finished items to wholesalers and retailers is critical to the pleasure of these customers. If you don't have MHE and other warehouse equipment, you'll have to wait significantly longer to get your products to your customers. 

Damaged products might occur as a result of insufficient storage and packing equipment and processes. Customers will be displeased if things are damaged and deliveries are delayed.

You can ensure that your items are stored safely and delivered appropriately if you have the best material handling equipment on your side. A conveyor system, for example, can transfer products through various phases of the manufacturing process and into distribution positions.

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