What is Material Handling Equipment

What is Material Handling Equipment

Material Handling Equipment

Material Handling Equipment products help you keep your workplace efficient and productive.

Material Handling Equipment is mechanical equipment used for the movement, storage, and protection of goods throughout the life cycle of the product. The different types of material handling equipment are in four broad categories. Transport Equipment, Positioning Equipment, Unit Load Formation Equipment, and Storage Equipment.

Transportation Equipment

Transportation Equipment is used to move material from one location to another (e.g., between workplaces, between a loading dock and a storage area, etc.), while positioning equipment is used to manipulate material at a single location. The major subcategories of transport equipment are conveyors, cranes, and industrial trucks. The material is also carried manually using no equipment.


Cranes are used to transport loads over variable paths within a limited area, and when the use of a conveyor cannot be justified. They provide more flexibility in movement than conveyors because the loads handled can be more varied thanks to their shape and weight. They are less flexible in movement than industrial trucks because they can only operate within a restricted area. Most cranes utilize trolley-and-tracks for horizontal movement and hoists for vertical movement. They provide precise positioning of the load by the use of manipulators. The most common cranes include the jib, bridge, gantry, and stacker cranes.

Industrial Trucks

Industrial trucks are trucks that are not licensed to travel on public roads (commercial vehicles are permitted to travel on public roads). These are used to move materials over variable paths and when a conveyor cannot be justified. They provide more flexibility in movement than conveyors and cranes because there are no restrictions on the area covered. They also provide vertical movement if the truck has lifting capabilities. Different types of industrial trucks can be broken down by whether or not they have forks, provide powered or manual lifting and travel. These types of trucks allow the operator to ride on or walk with the truck during travel. They also provide load stacking capability, and whether or not they can operate in narrow aisles.

Positioning Equipment

Positioning equipment is used to handle material at a single location. It is used at a workplace to feed, orient, load/unload, or otherwise manipulate materials. It is also used to position for subsequent handling, machining, transport, or storage. In comparison with manual handling, the use of positioning equipment can raise the productivity of each worker.  Positioning equipment improves product quality and limits damage to materials and equipment when the item is heavy or awkward. It Reduces fatigue and injuries when the environment is hazardous or inaccessible. In many cases, ergonomic requirements of a task determine the use of positioning equipment. Examples of Positioning Equipment include:

  • lift/tilt/turntables
  • hoists
  • balancers
  • manipulators
  • and industrial robots.

Manipulators act as “muscle multipliers” by counteracting the weight of a load so that an operator lifts only a small portion (1%) of the weight. They fill the gap between hoists and industrial robots. Manipulators are for a wider range of positioning tasks making them more flexible than industrial robots due to their use of manual control. They can be powered manually, electrically, or pneumatically. The manipulator’s end-effector can use mechanical grippers, vacuum grippers, electromechanical grippers, or another tooling to help with positioning.

Unit Load Formation Equipment

Unit Load Formation Equipment is used to restrict materials so that they maintain their integrity during transport or storage. If materials are self-restraining (e.g., a single part or interlocking parts), then they can be formed into a unit load with no equipment. Examples of Unit Load Formation Equipment include:

  • pallets, skids
  • slip sheets
  • tote pans
  • bins/baskets
  • cartons
  • bags
  • and crates.

A pallet is a platform made of wood most commonly. Other materials pallets are made out of include paper, plastic, rubber, or metal. They have enough clearance beneath its top surface (or face) to enable the insertion of forks for the purpose of lifting and relocating. A slip sheet is a thick piece of paper, corrugated fiber, or plastic. It has tabs that can be grabbed by special push/pull lift truck attachments. They are used in place of a pallet to reduce weight and volume, but loading/unloading is slower when compared to a pallet.

Storage Equipment

Storage equipment is for holding or buffering materials until they are needed. The design of the storage equipment and the warehouse layout is a trade-off between lowering costs and maximizing space. No storage equipment is required when materials are stacked directly on the floor. On average, each different item in storage will have a position only half full. Storage Racks increase storage space by allowing multiple stacks of various items to occupy the same area at different levels. The use of storage racks becomes preferable to floor storage as the number of units per item requiring storage decreases.

Pallets can be stored using single- and double-deep racks when the number of units per item is small. Pallet Flow and Pushback Racks are for when the units per item are mid-range. Floor storage or Drive-In Racks are for when the number of units per item is large. Drive-In is when you don’t stack pallet loads on top of each other. Either pallet loads of Carton Flow Rack which are designed to allow First-in, First-out (FIFO) package access can store individual cartons. You can use bin shelving, storage drawers, carousels, and A-frames for individual piece storage. An automatic storage/retrieval system (AS/RS) is a unified computer-controlled storage system. This system combines storage, transport, and controls with various levels of automation for fast and accurate storage of products.

Piedmont Material Handling offers all of your Material Handling Equipment needs. Give us a Call Today!!! (336) 526-2472

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