The term ‘material handling equipment’ encompasses a diverse range of vehicles, tools and storage equipment. Typically, a warehouse is used to store items, and then move them to where they are needed. The easier it is to move items, the more efficient your warehouse can be. To increase efficiency, you need to have the right tools for the job – it will make your employee’s lives easier, and cut down on the backbreaking strain they’d otherwise be exposed to with improper equipment.
Leaving aside storage equipment such as racks, stacking frames, and engineered systems such as complex conveyors and automatic guided vehicles for a moment, we will concentrate on two important types of material handling equipment: industrial trucks and bulk material handling equipment. We’ll take a look at what each item does, so that you can then decide whether you’d consider adding it to your warehouse efficiency arsenal.
An industrial truck is a transportation device used to move items in material handling companies. These can range from small, hand-operated trucks to vehicular lifts. The most commonly found industrial trucks in warehouses are as follows:
1. Hand trucks
This is a simple, two-wheel hand-operated truck or trolley, usually with a metallic frame and a toe-plate. Hand trucks are designed to ease the transportation of small items. Some come in a folding variety that packs flat when not in use.
2. Pallet jacks
A pallet jack, truck or pump is used to transport materials that have been stacked on pallets. These jacks have twin forks, which slide under the pallet. The handle is then used to raise the forks with a pumping force, creating a hydraulic action that lifts the pallet, and enables transportation.
3. Walkie stackers
A walkie stacker is the next stage up from a pallet jack or truck. The basic design is the same, except that the stacker is motorized. The ‘truck’ aspect of the walkie stacker is similar to the fork alignment and design of a forklift truck. The whole assembly can be moved around by hand, and pallets can be lifted to the second shelf of a warehouse stacking system. They are ideal for small capacity items, indoor use and on concrete floors. Walkie stackers are also less expensive than forklift trucks.
4. Platform trucks
A platform truck is simply a frame and platform on wheels. The platform can be stacked by hand when a large number of small items require transportation, or can be loaded using another item of material handling equipment. This is ideal for small-to-medium size operations, or as a speedy logistical solution for large organizations.
5. Order Picker
The order picker is a small-sized forklift truck that’s larger than a walkie stacker and is capable of bearing more weight. Order pickers can typically retrieve and replace stacked items from heights of between 10 – 30 feet.
Sideloaders are used to load and unload from the side of the machine, as opposed to the front-positioned forks of a standard forklift. Sideloaders are best used in narrow aisles and doorways, but they are not as maneuverable as forklifts.
The AGV is a mobile ‘robot’ that follows wires, markers or other indicators in the floor. AGVs can also use lasers, magnets or cameras for guidance. They are often used in large-scale industrial applications to move materials around a warehouse.
Bulk Material Handling Equipment
If your warehouse involves the movement of a large number of items, then the key to efficiency is movement in bulk. The more items you can move at one time, the more efficiently your warehouse will run. Here are some types of equipment that will enable you to do just that.
8. Conveyor belts
A conveyor belt is a motor-driven belt that forms part of a conveyor system. Items that require transportation are simply placed on one end of the belt, and the motorized system moves them to their destination.
A small, hand-propelled or motorized truck that’s used to lift items off the ground and onto shelving. This is deal if you are making the most of your warehouse space in having a stacking system. They are cheaper to run than forklifts, and are ideal for small-to-medium applications.
A machine that has a rotating scoop at one end of a conveyor system. The scoop gathers up small, loose items and places them on the conveyor belt. The items are then transported along the belt until they reach their destination.
11. Bucket elevators
Also called a grain leg, a bucket elevator is used to transport small, loose items vertically. It is usually a motorized device, but can be hand-cranked as well. A series of small buckets are attached to a belt. The buckets scoop up the materials when at the bottom of the belt, then lift and disperse the materials at the top. Some bucket elevators may be inclined.
12. Grain elevators
Grain elevators are towers that contain a bucket elevator or a conveyor. The grain is scooped up from a lower level and safely deposited in the required storage facility. This is ideal for large-scale operations.
Another device for handling small, loose items, a hopper is basically a large funnel. The items are placed in the top of the hopper, and gravity moves them down to the bottom, which features a narrow aperture, which allows for flow control. The only disadvantage with hoppers is that they can become blocked fairly easily.
Silos are typically used in agricultural applications. They are used to safely store grain, or silage (fermented feed). They are also commonly used for the bulk storage of coal, cement, wood-chips, sawdust and even food products.
For any advice about material handling equipment – either industrial trucks or bulk material handling equipment – you can call the team at Douglas Equipment here in Miami. You can contact our customer service team toll free at 800-451-0030 or you can use our online contact form, available here.