What Is Materials Handling Equipment?

An image of materials handling equipment from Handling Concepts

Materials handling equipment facilitates the moving, storing, and organising of materials through a variety of methods. There are four primary categories used to group materials handling equipment: storage and handling equipment, industrial trucks, bulk material handling equipment, and engineered systems. 

Handling Concepts specialises in materials handling equipment that can help you raise, lower, rotate and manoeuvre your components and products. In this blog, you will find details of various types of materials handling equipment available to you, their definitions, applications, and explain the benefits this equipment can have for your business.  

3 Common Types of Materials Handling Equipment

1) Industrial Manipulators

Industrial manipulators are machines with a rigid manipulator arm designed to pick up large and heavy loads. The manipulator arm can perform complex manoeuvres whilst it has an object outside of its centre of mass, making it more manoeuvrable and far stronger ‘pound for pound’.

There are many types of industrial manipulators, including lift and rotate columns, overhead telescopic masts, pneumatic rope balancers, and balanced manipulator arms.

Industrial manipulators are established pieces of materials handling equipment for many industries. Their ability to raise and lower objects requires low effort and provides precise grip and manipulation. They are especially helpful for manufacturing and assembly lines, as they offer quick and frequent movement that can provide a solution to challenging tasks that are burdensome for the worker.

Balanced manipulator arms are the most common type of industrial manipulators and you have likely seen one of these before. With the ability to lift loads of up to 800kg and move in a wide radius, they provide an efficient and safe lifting solution.

When combined with lifting accessories like below-the-hook lifting devices, they further improve manual handling of workers by providing a full turnkey solution that removes laborious tasks.

2) Vacuum Lifters

Vacuum lifters can lift materials and components that have a flat or smooth surface. The clue is in the name: vacuum lifters use a vacuum to handle various load types. They grip, support, lift and lower a load with single operator control. This operation is fast and smooth, making them ideal for repetitive handling tasks.

The suction feet allow components to be lifted without damage to the surface or edges, a problem often caused by manual lifts or grippers. This makes them ideal for manipulating products in white goods and panel, boards, and sheets industries.

Vacuum lifting is possible from a range of different equipment, including vacuum grippers, vacuum tube lifters or vacuum lifting beams.

Vacuum tube lifters are excellent systems to use as material handling equipment, as they feel weightless and can be used by a single operator. They are given their name as the tube that supplies the vacuum also provides the lifting action.

They are often used with a jib crane which suspends the vacuum tube lifter and provides added horizontal travel, allowing the worker to extend their reach, whilst the lifting system supports the weight. Vacuum lifters are becoming the materials handling equipment of choice for applications in which single operator material handling of repetitive and heavy loads is required. They are low maintenance and regular servicing further reduces downtime and disruption, which improves production line efficiency and provides a cost-effective handling solution. Therefore, many industries are turning to vacuum handling for their lifting needs.

3) Cranes

Cranes offer many possibilities for handling loads quickly, safely, and efficiently. They can move extremely heavy loads using the overhead space in the workplace, instead of through aisles or on the floor. Moving products through stages of production is a desirable application for cranes. They are very versatile, and a variety of safe working loads can be provided.

Cranes are available in different forms, including jib cranes, overhead cranes, and light crane systems. From entry-level handling equipment to durable long-term investments, cranes are a popular choice amongst all industries.

Cranes are exceptionally versatile and can be adapted to suit any materials handling problem. Not only do they facilitate lifting of large, heavy products, they also utilise overhead space in the work environment, removing common space constraints seen on the factory floor. This makes cranes a sought-after handling solution.

As one of the most versatile cranes available on the market, jib cranes offer a low-cost, easy-to-use and reliable manual handling solution.

Industries like automotive or pick-and-packing often have manual handling problems that are not easily solved with a standard product. Bespoke lifting equipment like grippers can be devised to work with a jib crane thanks to their functional design.

Not sure which materials handling equipment solution is best for you? Contact Handling Concepts today for a detailed assessment to help you solve your material handling problem.

The Benefits of Materials Handling Equipment

Now you have a better grasp of what materials handling equipment is, it is important to understand what benefits this equipment can have for you, your business, and your workers so you can make an informed decision when you invest in a handling equipment solution. 

Health and Safety

Have you suffered from a bad back in the last year? So has 40% of the UK population according to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine. This causes over 50 million working days to be lost per year, costing £200 for each employee who was absent. Back pain is the largest cause of long-term work absence and incorrect manual handling contributes to this.

Investing in materials handling equipment reduces the risk of injuries occurring. The manipulation of your load is no longer resting on your worker’s shoulders and has the full support of specialist equipment to prevent them from getting bad backs, sore joints, and other injuries.

Health and safety also extends to the injuries to others. Heavy loads can be dropped or mishandled, putting those nearby at risk of injury. By having the right materials handling equipment available, you have a machine that can support your team in the lifting and rotation of your products.

Productivity and Efficiency

With the equipment taking control of the load, it provides a low effort lifting solution. Many refer to using materials handling equipment as ‘weightless’ or ‘floating’ and this allows the application to feel simple and easy for the operators.

This helps improve productivity and efficiency of assembly lines. As your workers’ laborious tasks are aided by equipment, they will no longer suffer from fatigue or work-related injuries, allowing them to complete their tasks. When this happens, you see an increase in productivity that will lead to an increase in efficiency. Being able to complete tasks faster than before or produce a higher volume of products creates a higher turnover for your business and more units to be sold.

Long Term Solution

Despite the initial upfront cost, materials handling equipment provides you with a long-term solution that will benefit you for many years. As products change, you can easily adapt or upgrade your equipment to suit and continue producing products at a high volume, with less impact from injury related absence. Altogether, you will always have a safe and efficient outcome when using materials handling equipment.

Your Materials Handling Equipment Solution

You can improve the safety and efficiency of your business by relying on over 25 years of experience with Handling Concepts, solving material handling problems across the globe. A wide range of solutions are available to you, including the examples mentioned in this blog. You will gain access to a team of experienced engineers who will work with you to find out the exact details of your materials handling problem and recommend a solution that will be right for your business.

If you need a handling solution and are interested in exploring how Handling Concepts’ materials handling equipment will work for you, contact us today and remove your handling headache. 

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