Material Handling constitutes one of the main activities in the warehouse and therefore, considerable attention needs to be given to this subject in order to ensure that handling methods and handling equipment contribute to efficiency and economy. A few factors involved in materials handling are as follows:-
If materials are received in the right type of packaging, they are easy to handle in the warehouse. Small components can be delivered in tote boxes or other containers of specified quantities convenient for production batches. Oils can be delivered in bulk from road tankers rather than in drums when feasible. Castings, forgings, etc. can be received in box pallets of suitable sizes and these can be handled easily with forklifts.
A good layout can contribute to efficient movement of materials within the warehouse. This is an important factor in materials handling. A bad layout can similarly lead to considerable inefficiency and wasteful expenditure.
Materials handling is broadly based on three distinct actions – Lifting goods, transporting them, placing them in appropriate places.
Suitability of Material Handling Equipment
Four main purposes are served by the introduction of mechanical equipment – to cater for loads too heavy to be handled manually, to save time, to save labor and to save space.
Types of Material Handling Equipment
The handling equipment available falls into three main groups:
- Static equipment viz. bins, tanks, cupboards etc.
- Manual mobile equipment viz. Equipment to hold, lift or carry
- Powered equipment to hold, lift or transport
Some different types of equipment are described below:
- The wheelbarrow is probably the most popular & ideal for carrying sand or small quantities of loose materials, particularly in stockyards.
- Sack barrows are used of bagged goods.
- These are used where incoming/outgoing consignments consist of varied items in size & weight kept in different parts of the building-e.g. machinery or vehicle spares.
- The operator can conveniently deal with a list of items by wheeling the truck around the various bins or racks until the entire consignment has been collected.
- These consist of wheeled platforms managed by a drawbar, They are fitted with a small hydraulic unit. The drawbar raised or lowers the platform a few inches.
- The truck platform in the lowered position, is inserted between the legs of the stillage.
- The platform is then elevated, lifting the stillage clear off the floor and the truck, complete with load is wheeled away.
- These are similar to stillage trucks, except that they are fitted with forks instead of a rectangular platform and are designed to handle pallets
- A hand stacker consists of a vertical framework of angle-iron carrying a platform which can be raised or lowered for stacking or unstacking. Alternatively, the lift is hydraulically actuated
- This is a geared pulley system fixed to an overhead beam and fitted with a lifting hook at the end of a chain.
- A separate continuous chain is used to operate the mechanism.
- Pulley blocks are suitable where the need for heavy lift is only occasional.
- A monorail is a single “I” section rail fixed overhead and bearing small-wheeled trolleys which run of the rail. From the trolleys, loads can be suspended and then moved manually along the rail.
- Monorails are often used in conjunction with pulley blocks handling heavy loads fork or into vehicles in receipts or despatch bays.
- These conveyors are made of a metal framework having horizontal rollers spaced at intervals.
- The goods to be conveyed are pushed along over the rollers.
- Conveyors will transport materials between floors in the same way as chutes, and can also be used for horizontal movement at or above floor level.
- Roller conveyors are generally used for fairly heavy packaged goods.
- These are inclined wooden or metal troughs that are used for transporting stored from upper to lower floors, but they are convenient only for loose materials, robust packages or other goods not liable to damage.
- These are heavy-duty trucks with large wheels for stockyard work.
- They have usually associated pallets and are not suitable for transporting goods for long distances or for really heavy materials.
- The normal attachment is a “fork” consisting of two flattened prongs which can be pushed under a load (or into a pallet) and then raised automatically to lift the load.
- These are of two types-fixed platform and platform lift trucks.
- The lifting platform variety is based on the same principle as a “low lift” forklift truck, but instead of forks, it has a platform which can run under a suitable container or stillage and lift the load clear off the floor.
- They are usually employed in conjunction with trailers containing the materials to be moved.
- Airlines use these to transport luggage to and from aircraft.
- These are suitable for long hauls and some can be fitted with various attachments for particular jobs such as forks for handling pallets or buckets for sand and gravel.
Overhead Electric Cranes
- There are two main types – floor controlled and cab-controlled.
- In the first case there is a control panel attached to a cable leading from the crane bridge overhead operated by the operator.
- In the second case, the crane is managed by an operator sitting in a can mounted on the crane bridge.
- Overhead cranes are very satisfactory for heavy loads, when loading/unloading road vehicles or railway box wagons.
- A goliath crane is a special version of the overhead travelling crane. Instead of erecting an overhead gantry track, the crane is mounted on legs fitted with wheels, and the whole tructure moves along railway lines
Mobile Jib Cranes
- These machines are not mounted on wide-wheeled chassis which require gangways , the long jibs needing high doorways for clearance.
- They are very useful in a stockyard.
- In addition, to being self-propelled and completely mobile, they can go anywhere and by virtue of the length of the jib, can range materials in solid stacks which are both wide and high.
- These are rail-mounted, self-propelled jib cranes somewhat similar to the mobile road crane.
- They are only suitable for use in stockyards having a railway siding.
- These consist of a metal structure carrying horizontal rollers spaced at suitable intervals.
- The rollers are activated by means of a chain or belt drive from an electric motor, and the goods to be transported slide along the surface of the rollers.
- These are made of lengths of rubber, canvas, PVC or other appropriate material.
- At one end, known as the “head”, the belt passes round the outside of a drum driven by an electric motor, suitably geared.
- At the other end, known as “tail”, the belt passes round another drum, which is free to revolve and is not power driven.
- Between the head and the tail, the belt conveying material is stretched tightly and supported by idler rollers spaced at intervals along its length.
Overhead Bowline Conveyors
- These consist of a power-driven chain running on rollers or pulleys attached to some overhead structure, usually fixed to the roof of a building.
- At intervals along the chain, containers or hooks of suitable design are attached and these carry the materials, or even two selector trucks.
Sub-flow Bowline Conveyors
- These are similar to the overhead type, except that they have the chain drive under trays or receptacles carrying the goods.
Importance of Material Handling Equipment
Material handling equipment can greatly benefit companies in diverse industries. Many companies enjoy how material handling systems and equipment improve their workplace’s efficiency and safety. Additionally, material-handling equipment can reduce waste, lower costs and optimize a facility’s space. Here are some of the most significant benefits of using material handling equipment:
Greater efficiency: Outfitting your facility with relevant material handling equipment can reduce production stoppages by improving the circulation of materials around a facility. Many different types of material handling equipment can help you get your materials to key locations faster and maintain a more consistent flow, increasing efficiency as a result.
Reduced waste: When a company relies on manual labor or improper equipment to handle its materials, its materials are much more likely to be damaged during transportation and storage, leading to higher material and product waste. Deploying your facilities with material handling equipment can reduce your waste significantly. For example, stacking frames can keep crushable items safe while stacked over one another, and forklifts can securely transport pallets to various locations.
Lower costs: Another major benefit of material handling equipment is its ability to help a company lower its costs. When you use equipment designed to make your system more efficient and speed up processes, you can increase your profitability due to decreased work stoppages and errors. Additionally, material-handling equipment reduces waste, meaning you will reduce costs related to replacing damaged materials and products.
Better use of warehouse space: You can use various types of material handling equipment, particularly storage and handling equipment, to save space in your warehouse. For example, you can install mezzanines to receive a second level of storage in your warehouse and tall racks to increase your vertical storage capabilities. Additionally, side loaders allow you to place your aisles more closely together.
Increased employee safety: A major benefit of using material handling equipment is that it reduces the need for your staff to do strenuous manual labor. Since regularly lifting and hauling heavy materials by hand leads to chronic injuries, machinery designed to do these tasks for them can increase employee safety.