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Material Handling Equipment Guide

Published on: Tuesday 9th May 2023
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1. What is material handling equipment?

Materials handling equipment (MHE) is a set of tools and systems that are designed to move, store, control, and protect materials and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption, and disposal. Materials handling equipment can improve the efficiency, safety, and productivity of various operations that involve handling materials.

2. What is meant by material handling?

Material handling is the term used to describe the short-distance movement of materials, goods, and products within a building/warehouse or between a building/warehouse and a transportation vehicle. Material handling can involve manual, semi-automated, or fully automated equipment and systems that assist with storage and relocation of goods throughout manufacturing, production and delivery. Material handling can also create time and place utility by ensuring that the right materials are available at the right time and place for further processing or consumption.

Material handling is an important aspect of many industries, such as manufacturing, logistics, construction, mining, agriculture, food processing, etc. Material handling can improve the efficiency, safety, and productivity of various operations that involve handling materials. Material handling can also reduce the cost, waste, and damage of materials by using appropriate equipment and methods. Material handling can also affect the quality and customer satisfaction of the products and services delivered by a business.

3. What are the four material handling equipment types?

There are four main categories of material handling equipment: storage and handling equipment, industrial trucks, bulk material handling equipment and engineered systems. Here are some examples of material handling equipment in each category:

Storage and handling equipment are devices that are used to store materials and products in a fixed location. They help to optimise the use of space and facilitate the organization and retrieval of materials. Some examples of storage and handling equipment are:

  • Drawers and shelves: These are simple units that can hold small items or documents in an orderly manner. They can be made of metal, wood, plastic, or other materials.
  • Racks: These are vertical structures that can hold larger items or pallets. They can be fixed or adjustable, and can have different designs such as cantilever, drive-in, push-back, or flow-through.
  • Stacking frames: These are metal frames that can be stacked on top of each other to create temporary storage space. They can be easily assembled and disassembled, and can have casters for mobility.

Industrial trucks are vehicles that are used to transport materials and products within a facility or between facilities. They include forklifts, pallet trucks, stackers, trolleys, dollies, and other wheeled devices that can be manually or power-operated. Some examples of industrial trucks are:

  • Forklift trucks: These are powered trucks that have a fork-like attachment at the front that can lift and move pallets or other loads. They can have different types of engines, tyres, masts, and forks depending on the application.
  • Pallet trucks: These are manual, semi electric of fully electric pallet trucks that have a forks at the front that can slide under a pallet and lift it slightly off the ground. They are used to move pallets short distances within a warehouse, dock or within lorries.
  • Stackers: These are similar to pallet trucks, but they have a mast and a lifting mechanism that can raise the load to a higher level. They are used to stack pallets or other loads on racks or shelves.

Bulk material handling equipment is designed to handle large quantities of loose materials such as liquids, gases, grains, ores, coal, sand, etc. They include conveyors, elevators, hoppers, silos, pumps, valves, pipes, and other systems that can move materials from one location to another or control the flow of materials. Some examples of bulk material handling equipment are:

  • Conveyors: These are continuous belts or chains that can transport materials horizontally or vertically. They can have different speeds, widths, lengths, and configurations depending on the material and the destination.
  • Elevators: These are vertical conveyors that can lift materials to a higher level. They can have buckets, belts, chains, or platforms to carry the material.
  • Hoppers: These are funnel-shaped containers that can store and discharge materials. They can have gates, valves, or feeders to control the flow of material.

Engineered systems are integrated solutions that combine different types of material handling equipment to perform complex tasks such as sorting, picking, packing, assembling, or loading. They include automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), automated guided vehicles (AGV), robotic arms, cranes, and other devices that are controlled by software or sensors. Some examples of engineered systems are:

  • ASRS: These are computerised systems that can store and retrieve items from high-density racks using robotic shuttles or cranes. They can increase the speed and accuracy of inventory management and order fulfilment.
  • AGV: These are self-driving vehicles that can follow predefined paths or use sensors to navigate within a facility. They can transport materials or products between different locations or stations without human intervention.
  • Robotic arms: These are mechanical arms that can perform various tasks such as picking, placing, welding, painting, or assembling using grippers, suction cups, magnets, or other tools. They can have different degrees of freedom, speed, precision, and payload capacity depending on the task.

4. Why is material handling equipment important?

Material handling equipment is important because it can help to:

  1. Reduce the physical labour and fatigue of workers who handle materials manually, and prevent injuries and accidents that may occur due to improper handling techniques.
  2. Increase the speed and accuracy of moving materials from one location to another, and reduce the waiting time and idle time of workers and machines.
  3. Optimise the use of space and resources by storing materials in an organised and accessible manner, and by using equipment that can handle different types and sizes of materials.
  4. Enhance the quality and safety of materials by protecting them from damage, contamination, or theft during handling, storage, and transportation.
  5. Improve the customer satisfaction and loyalty by delivering the right materials at the right time and place, and by reducing the errors and delays in order fulfilment.

5. What is material handling safety?

Material handling safety is the practice of ensuring that the manual or mechanical handling of materials, goods, and products is moved in a way that prevents injuries, accidents, and damages to the workers, the materials, and the environment. Material handling safety involves following the appropriate guidelines, regulations, and standards for the design, operation, and maintenance of material handling equipment and systems. Material handling safety also requires the use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and tools by the workers who handle materials manually or operate material handling equipment.

Some examples of material handling safety measures are:

  • Conducting regular inspections and audits of material handling equipment and systems to check for any defects, malfunctions, or hazards.
  • Providing adequate training and supervision for workers who handle materials manually or operate material handling equipment to ensure they carry out the correct procedures and techniques.
  • Implementing ergonomic principles and practices to reduce the physical strain and fatigue of workers who handle materials manually, such as using mechanical aids, lifting devices, or team lifting when possible.
  • Ensuring that the material handling equipment and systems are compatible with the type, size, weight, and condition of the materials being handled, and that they are not overloaded or misused.
  • Keeping the work area clean, organised, and free of debris, obstructions, or spills that may cause tripping, slipping, or falling hazards for workers or material handling equipment.
  • Wearing appropriate PPE such as gloves, goggles, helmets, boots, etc. when handling materials manually or operating material handling equipment to protect against cuts, burns, impacts, or other injuries.

Material handling is essential for the supply chain and the delivery of products to consumers. Materials need to be handled with caution at every stage to avoid any damage. There are methods that can be applied to improve efficiency, and equipment that can help to move, store and safeguard products more efficiently.

LLM Handling is a material handling equipment company that offers top-quality equipment for various industries. We are always innovating to create handling solutions that will ensure the safety of your products and operators as they move around your warehouse.

We also provide solutions for the storage of goods, besides material handling equipment.

Get in touch with us today! We will be glad to work with you to provide solutions that will suit your material handling needs perfectly.

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