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Types of Material Handling Systems

Material handling system comprises mechanical equipment used for the movement, storage, control and protection of materials, goods and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Clearly, there are different kinds of material handling systems for different purposes. These can be classified into four major categories:

  • Transport systems
  • Positioning systems
  • Unit load formation systems
  • Storage systems

Transport System

Transport system refers to the different kinds of transportation equipment and vehicles used to move materials and products in materials handling. There can be various different kinds of industrial trucks. It includes small as well as large-scale motorized devices. One example of such equipment is the conveyor belt. It is used to move items from one part of the production process to another. Such appliances can be steered by human intervention, or can be completely automated, following a pre-defined track on the production floor. Some examples of equipment under this category are jib cranes, articulated jibs cranes, pallet trucks, automated guided vehicles (AGV’s), pallet jacks, forklifts, bucket elevators, grain elevators, electric tugs, etc.

Positioning system

This is the kind of equipment that is used to position and handle material at a single location. Such equipment is used mainly in manufacturing facilities to feed, orient, load/unload, and manipulate materials so that they are in the right position for subsequent handling, manipulation, transport, or storage. This also enables workers to work on the material while they are held in the desired position. Positioning equipment make it easier to work with heavy material loads, relieving workers of the muscle task and helping them focus on their human-oriented tasks. Some of the pieces of equipment that come under this category are pneumatic hoists, pneumatic balancers, industrial manipulators, industrial robots, etc.

Unit Load Formation Systems

When some materials need to be handled in a single load, unit load formation equipment is used to restrict materials so that they maintain their integrity during transport and for storage. Unlike other bulk material handling systems, unit load formation systems are used solely for single load material handling.  A classic example of this is the pallet, which is a platform made of wood, paper, plastic, rubber, or metal with enough clearance beneath its top surface to enable the insertion of forks for subsequent lifting purposes. Other examples of unit load formation equipment include pallets, skids, slipsheets, tote pans, bins/baskets, cartons, bags, and crates.

Storage Systems

Storage equipment is used to hold or buffer materials when they are not being used, or before they are transported to their next destination. These periods could be long-term or short-term in order to allow a suitable build-up of stock or finished items. They are usually non-automated pieces of equipment. Proper storage equipment is important for any production facility as it can increase efficiency on the production floor and maximize space utilization. The different types of storage and handling equipment include drive-in racks, pallet racks, push-back racks, shelving, sliding racks, shelves, bins, drawers, stacking frames and mezzanines.

To find out more about different types of material handling equipment, contact Conco on (712) 841-4548.