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Types of Material Handling

What Are the Different Types of Material Handling Equipment?The term ‘material handling equipment’ is a pretty broad one. There’s plenty of situations where it’s critical to move large and often heavy materials in a production environment. Any piece of equipment that helps with this process could be labeled ‘material handling equipment’.

Plenty of items fall under this definition, from tools and storage units to vehicles and major appliances. Anything that deals with the transportation, storage and control at any stage of the processing of materials can be classified as material handling equipment.

4 Main Categories of Material Handling Equipment

There are 4 main categories of material handling equipment:

  • Bulk material handling
  • Engineered systems
  • Industrial trucks
  • Storage and handling equipment

Bulk Handling Material Equipment

The term ‘bulk handling equipment’ refers to the storage, control and transportation of materials by bulk, and in loose form. There are plenty of examples of this application – the handling of food, beverages, liquids, metal items (such as screws and nails) and minerals are just a few.

In general terms, these pieces of equipment primarily handle these items when they are loose. One example is a conveyor belt that is used to move items from one part of the production process to another. Drums and hoppers may be used as well, to ‘funnel’ these loose items into a stage where they can be more easily manipulated, or packaged.

Conveyor belts are used for horizontal transportation. For vertical transportation, elevators are most commonly used.

Types of bulk handling material equipment

  • Bucket and grain elevators
  • Conveyor belts
  • Hoppers and silos
  • Reclaimers
  • Stackers

Engineered Systems

An engineered system is one that is typically automated. Such systems are also usually created from a variety of units. When combined, they work to enable both storage and transportation.

An ‘Automated Storage and Retrieval System’ (or a AS/RS for short) is one example of a system that is engineered. This is a large, automated device that comes complete with racks, shelves and aisles. These storage solutions are accessed by a ‘shuttle’ – a mechanized device that’s similar to a cherry picker. This device can be used by the system operator to manually select the items as needed, or the entire system can be computerized and automated.

An AS/RS can be integrated with a production facility’s existing computer network to keep on top of stock control, plus other logistical systems. It can also be integrated with other stages of the production process, so that as much automation can be offered as possible.

Types of engineered systems

  • Automated guided vehicles (AGVs)
  • Conveyor systems
  • Robotic delivery systems

Industrial Trucks

This term is another broad definition that can be applied to many different types of equipment. Such pieces of equipment do have one thing in common, though – they all provide transportation.

The scope of this term can include both small, hand-operated devices, and large-scale motorized vehicles. Some items can be driven, while others – such as pallet trucks – simply add mobility to the materials that are being handled.

Many of these types of trucks have useful characteristics such as forks or a flat surface that can be inserted under pallets or other types of storage platforms. Other trucks need a separate item of equipment to use for lifting.

Trucks have the capability to lift via powered or manual means, and can be ridden upon in a driver’s cab, or simply power-assisted when pushed. Such tucks can also be steered by human intervention, or can be completely automated, following a pre-defined track on the production floor, sunken or raised tracks, or colored strips that are laid out and sensed by optical sensors. Such automated industrial trucks also have anti-collision technology that senses when an employee or other obstacle is near.

Stacking trucks are used to stacks items, while a non-stacking truck is just used for transportation, and not for product loading.

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