Material Handling Equipment Guide 101

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By Mansi Aggarwal

With the growing economy the Material Handling industry is also expecting a boom. As an industry, Material Handling involves various stages like planning, organizing, application, etc. It revolves around the acts of loading, unloading and moving goods within a factory using mechanical devices that are called Material Handling Equipments.

Material handling equipment means equipment, including its supporting structures, auxiliary equipment and rigging devices, used to transport, lift, move or position persons, materials, goods or things. It also includes mobile equipment used to lift, hoist or position persons, but does not include an elevating device that is permanently installed in a building. As per a recent research report conducted in the industry, there are almost 4000 distribution outlets for the Material Handling Equipment in the US. Together they score a combined annual sales figure of $15 billion. Material Handling Equipments include lift trucks and inventory handling systems like conveyors, sorters, storage racks, shelving systems and carousels. Lift trucks account for half of these total sales figures. Basically it can be categorized under five main heads, which are, transport equipment, positioning equipment, unit load formation equipment, storage equipment and identification and control equipment.

Transport equipment is the equipment that is used to move material from one location to another, for example, conveyors, cranes and industrial trucks. Positioning equipment consists of the equipment that is used to handle material in a single location for the purpose of machining, transport or storage. Unit Load Formation Equipment is the equipment used to restrict materials so that they maintain their integrity when handled. If material is self-restraining (e.g. a single part or interlocking parts), then they can be formed into a unit load with no equipment. Storage Equipment is used for holding or buffing materials over a period of time, for example, S/R machines of an AS/RS, storage carousels etc. Identification and Control Equipment consists of those equipments, which are used to collect and communicate the information to be used for coordinating the flow or materials within a facility and between the facility and the suppliers and customers.

In the field of Material handling, ease of maintenance and uptime, both are essential. Together they have an impact on productivity and profits. Maintenance is a poor constituent of “true cost”. It can therefore, often tend to become a hole in the budget. Hence, when choosing equipment due consideration should be given to the cost of maintenance. Certain mishaps can throw the production off gear. Companies must look for a system that requires minimal maintenance. Equipments that are made of durable plastic call for low maintenance. They are non-corrosive and lightweight. At the same time such equipment are impact-resistant, hence require little need for maintenance. Apart from this other unknown mishaps that may put off production, and factors like warranty coverage must also be given due consideration. Identify and go in for equipment that can get repaired quickly and does not require specialized labor.

Plastic material handling equipment is easier to maintain and cleaner than metal ones. Water and detergents can easily clean plastic, without causing rust. Most conventional conveyors need lubrication apart from belt tensioning as against some modular systems that are maintenance free.

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