According to the Material Handling Industry of America, material handling equipment manufacturing is a $30 billion a year industry. Factories and warehouses across all industries utilize material handling equipment (MHE) to transport, store or monitor all types of materials in their facilities. MHE can include simple devices, such as trolleys, dollies, storage containers or even just boxes and cartons. At the other end of the spectrum, MHE also includes large machinery, such as lifts, cranes, trucks, shuttles, elevators, and slides and ramps. MHE allows users to move material more efficiently and safely, protecting workers from injury while safeguarding the materials and increasing productivity.
MHE is available to move practically any product that is manufactured. Large handling equipment, such as trucks, is used to transport materials between facilities, both short and long distances. Cranes move materials to high areas that would be impossible or dangerous to reach otherwise. Conveyor belts move materials systematically along a path. Trolleys allow people to move more goods at once with less stress on the worker. Any tool used to transport goods, whether between two different buildings or simply across a warehouse is considered handling equipment.
Handling equipment used to position materials ensures that they are passed from one location to another safely, protecting workers and the materials. This type of equipment often stacks or rotates materials that would otherwise cause awkward positioning for employees. Positioning equipment is also a means of moving dangerous materials without risking human error, preventing injury and damage to the product. MHE used for positioning can also be classified as moving or storage MHE.
Handling equipment used to hold materials during storage or movement is called a unit load. Unit loads act as stabilizers during transportation and include pallets, boxes, crates, baskets or large load containers. A practical example of this type of MHE is an egg carton. The carton holds each egg, preventing movement and protecting the product until it reaches its destination. In this case, the carton holds the product and allows more than one piece to be held in a unit load, 12 in each unit.
Storage equipment is a type of handling equipment that allows a facility to keep extra materials on site until they are needed. There are numerous examples, including shelves, racks, bins, refrigeraters or large walk-in containers. Storage is a key part of running production. It allows manufacturers to stock extra raw materials in preparation for sudden increases in damand, and it makes it possible to store a surplus of the finished product, allowing for quick shipment. Effectively using storage equipment also prevents wasted warehouse space, cutting the cost per cubic and preventing cost increases to the product.
Many large manufacturing facilities rely on control and identification equipment. Equipment such as magnetic strips and bar codes allow manufacturers to track materials between facilities and departments, ensuring that materials are effectively managed and not lost or stolen.
Materials handling is an important factor in the overall cost analysis of manufacturing. Effectively managing materials handling directly brings down the cost per unit. Consider the top five uses for material handling equipment.