Understanding the Classification of Material Handling Equipment for Your Business Needs

Material handling involves the safe and efficient loading, unloading and movement of materials. This process often requires the use of various tools, and equipment, collectively known as material handling equipment. In this article, we will explore the classification of types of material handling equipmentand how it can benefit your business.

But before we dive into the details, let’s understand what material handling equipment is. Material handling equipment encompasses a wide range of tools, machinery, appliances, and devices used in commercial environments to facilitate the movement, lifting, storage, and management of materials.

For example, in a large warehouse operated by a major retailer, material handling equipment is indispensable for tasks such as transporting items within the warehouse, organizing inventory, and preparing shipments. Numerous industries heavily rely on material-handling equipment to carry out their daily operations.

Now, let’s explore the various material handling equipment classifications.

Major Categories of Material Handling Equipment

Efficient material handling is vital for businesses across various industries. It not only improves productivity and operational efficiency but also ensures the safety of employees and reduces costs. To achieve effective material handling, it is essential to understand the classification of material handling equipment. By categorizing these equipment types based on their functions and capabilities, businesses can select the most suitable solutions to meet their specific needs. Material handling equipment is broadly classified into the following:

Fixed path equipment: Such equipment follows a predetermined path during operation. Examples of fixed path equipment include conveyors, monorail devices, and pulley drive equipment. These machines are designed to move along a specific route or track, ensuring consistent movement and precise control. Another example in this category is the overhead crane, which, despite its restricted mobility, can move materials in any manner within a specific area due to its unique design.

Variable path equipment: In contrast to fixed path equipment, variable path equipment has more flexibility in terms of movement and direction, although their size is a considering factor. Trucks, mobile cranes, forklifts, and industrial tractors are examples of variable path equipment. These machines can move freely in various directions, allowing for versatile use in different work environments.

Material handling equipment is further classified into the below major categories.

Storage and Handling Equipment: Storage and handling equipment play a vital role in organizing and managing inventory. It guarantees effective space utilisation, shields goods from harm, and makes access simple. Pallet racks, shelving units, mezzanines, and bins are a few examples. These solutions improve warehouse optimisation, order fulfilment, and inventory control.

a) Pallet Racks: Pallet racks are designed to store palletized loads. They provide vertical storage and easy access to materials using different lifting devices. Different types of pallet racks include selective racks, drive-in racks, push-back racks, and pallet flow racks.

b) Shelving Systems: Shelving systems are ideal for storing smaller items or non-palletized goods. They are available in various configurations such as open shelves, closed cabinets, and adjustable shelving units, allowing for efficient organization and accessibility.

c) Mezzanines: Mezzanines provide additional storage space by utilizing the vertical height of a facility. These elevated platforms can be customized to meet specific storage requirements and are commonly used in warehouses and distribution centres.

d) Drawers and bins: These storage solutions are commonly utilized by companies seeking to efficiently organize and secure smaller materials that might otherwise be prone to loss. By using drawers and bins, companies can easily categorize and locate these items, ensuring better inventory management.

e) Stacking frames: Designed by manufacturers specifically for efficient stacking, enable the safe and space-saving arrangement of crushable pallets and fragile equipment. These frames allow the stacking of containers filled with liquids or delicate inventory, reducing the risk of damage while optimizing storage capacity. As a result, valuable warehouse space is maximized, and inventory is stored securely.

Material Transport Equipment: Transport equipment is designed to move materials within a facility or between different locations. It helps streamline the flow of goods, saving time and effort. Examples include stackers, cranes, hoists, forklifts, and tow trucks. Transport equipment is versatile, enabling the movement of heavy or bulky items efficiently. Some of them are as explained:

a) Cranes: Cranes are powerful mechanical devices widely used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and logistics. They are designed to lift and transport heavy objects with precision and efficiency. With various configurations available, including tower cranes, mobile cranes, overhead cranes, and truck-mounted cranes, these versatile machines offer substantial lifting capacity. Their ability to operate in both vertical and horizontal directions makes them indispensable for handling diverse loads and optimizing productivity.

b) Hoists: Hoists are essential tools for vertical lifting tasks in various settings, including warehouses, factories, and construction sites. These compact devices consist of motorized drums or chains along with lifting attachments such as hooks. These are ideal for applications that require accurate load handling and when space constraints make it challenging to manoeuvre larger lifting equipment.

c) Conveyor Systems: Conveyor systems, such as belt conveyors, roller conveyors, and overhead conveyors, are used for the automated movement of goods. They enable efficient and continuous transportation of materials within a facility, reducing labour costs and enhancing productivity.

d) Forklifts: Forklifts are versatile machines used to lift, move, and stack materials. They come in various configurations, such as counterbalance forklifts, reach trucks, and order pickers, to handle different loads and navigate various environments.

e) Hand Trucks: Among the essential tools for material handling, hand trucks stand out as a basic yet crucial piece of equipment. They feature a small platform designed to support the edge of heavy objects, and a long handle that provides leverage. When using a hand truck, the load is tipped onto the handle and carried in a tilted manner to its destination, ensuring efficient transportation.

Industrial Trucks: Industrial trucks are specialized equipment designed for specific material handling tasks. They include:

a) Reach Trucks: Reach trucks are designed for narrow-aisle operations and can extend their forks to access high-level storage areas. They are commonly used in warehouses with high-density storage requirements.

b) Order Pickers: Order pickers are used for retrieving items from elevated storage locations. They are equipped with a platform that allows the operator to reach the desired height and pick items directly.

c) Pallet Jacks: Pallet jacks, also known as pallet trucks, are manual or electric devices used for moving palletized loads horizontally. They are ideal for short-distance transportation within a facility.

Automated Material Handling Equipment: With advancements in technology, automated material handling equipment is becoming increasingly popular. These systems include:

a) Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs are autonomous vehicles programmed to transport materials within a facility. They navigate using sensors, lasers, or magnets and can operate flexibly and efficiently, reducing manual labour and increasing productivity.

b) Robots: Robots are programmable machines capable of performing various material handling tasks. They can sort, pick, pack, and transport items with speed and precision, leading to improved efficiency and reduced errors.

c) Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): AS/RS systems use robotic arms or cranes to automatically store and retrieve items from designated storage locations. They optimize space utilization and streamline inventory management, especially in high-volume storage environments.

To Bring it All Together:

Understanding the classification of material handling equipment is essential for businesses looking to enhance their material handling processes. By identifying the specific needs of your operations, you can select the most suitable equipment types, such as storage equipment, material transport equipment, industrial trucks, or automated systems.

Choosing the right equipment not only improves efficiency and productivity but also ensures employee safety and cost-effectiveness. Carefully evaluating your requirements and leveraging the appropriate material handling equipment will contribute to a streamlined and successful business operation.

Explore more about the different types of material handling equipment through our website that would suit your industrial requirements. Also, if you are interested in finding out more about the primary usages of the material handling equipment and how to pick the right equipment for your needs mail us at enquire@indef.com or schedule a call at +91 (22) 489-33303 from our experts.