Nearly every business has some type of material handling need involved in their work — whether it's moving boxes through an office or transporting buckets of minerals across a yard. Manufacturers have developed a massive array of equipment options to address these different industry needs. If you need equipment or you're looking to increase efficiency, speed or safety, reviewing your approach to material handling is a great way to do so. With the right equipment, you may be able to do all three.
With such a vast selection of tools, it can be a little daunting to know which is which. That's why we've compiled a guide to material handling to help you find the right piece of equipment for your operation.
Before you delve into the expansive world of material handling equipment, it's important to identify your requirements. Use these tips for choosing material handling equipment to find out what you need from your machinery and what kinds of specifications you'll need to address.
The first thing to consider is the items you'll be moving. Between boxes, food products, loose powders, liquids and more, material handling needs can vary widely. Understand what you're working with and how it may interact with machines by asking the following questions:
Before bringing a new machine into your facility, you have to make sure it accommodates the building's demands. The perfect piece of equipment won't do much good if it can't fit in your aisles. You'll need to measure the width of the aisles and know what kinds of racks are in place. Identify any building features that could be a limitation, such as a low ceiling in part or all of the warehouse. You'll also want to note any safety, environmental or regulatory policies you need to abide by. For example, you may need vehicles powered by electricity instead of gas to avoid indoor fumes, or you might need ones with certain built-in safety features.
In addition, consider what movement patterns your items will follow:
Determine whether your operation is better suited for automated or manual equipment. Manual work is a classic approach for processes that are unpredictable or not repetitive and doesn't require particularly expensive or complicated implementation procedures. Automated machinery, on the other hand, tends to have fewer errors and higher efficiency levels due to increased speed. Companies dealing with large handling volumes and repetitive tasks may find more use for an automated machine than small companies with more selective inventories.
If your application is particularly specialized, you may need to ask yourself if a pre-made solution will work for you. If it doesn't seem like it, you can look for custom-engineered options. Most Cat® rental locations have highly skilled engineers on-site to help you come up with the right solution.
If you set a budget, it may help you narrow down your options. But you'll still need to think about other costs that go along with the equipment:
Don't forget that even though there are other costs to consider, you will also reap benefits from the savings a more efficient machine offers. As productivity improves, your bottom line probably will too.
Price is an important factor to consider when renting material handling equipment. For many companies, rentals are much more affordable and flexible, and they can eliminate costs associated with maintenance, storage and depreciation. Plus, with The Cat Rental Store, you can trust that each piece of equipment you get is made with the care and quality you expect from Caterpillar.
Now that you've identified your requirements, let's take a look at the different types of material handling equipment. Most equipment falls under one of four categories, though they can overlap. For instance, an engineered system can include a collection of devices that belong to other categories, such as a storage device.
There are a lot of options, and it's crucial to find the right one. Here's a rundown of some common material handling equipment that may help improve productivity and efficiency across your operations.
Industrial trucks include a wide range of equipment that aids in materials handling applications. These trucks may be manually operated devices like hand trucks and pallet jacks, alongside heavier machinery like cherry pickers and sideloaders. Within these options, you may find several different configurations and styles to support various product types. Some are even versatile enough to switch between truck types, like a hand truck and a forklift. There are also different control options, like riding or walking behind a machine.
Some common industrial material handling trucks include:
When it comes to large quantities of material — especially those in loose forms — unique storage and transportation setups become necessary. Often, bulk materials include food items, liquids or minerals. Accordingly, bulk materials may require more long-term storage solutions and continuous movement setups like conveyor belts. The equipment you use should address bulk material concerns such as their lump sizes, density, flow and shape.
Examples of bulk material handling equipment include:
Storage equipment provides a place to keep items when not in transit or production. If you imagine storage in a warehouse or manufacturing environment, you probably think of tall shelves and towering aisles of products. This image is typical of storage equipment, along with more mobile options like pallets and moveable racks.
Long- and short-term storage options can be used at different points in processing. Products may be stored for a brief period before they are transported elsewhere, or they might be stored for longer so the company can amass a more substantial inventory. Many manufacturers invest a lot of time and effort into optimizing their storage situation because organization, floor space and ease of access can be big efficiency boosters.
Typical storage equipment includes:
The umbrella of engineered systems covers a collection of equipment that all works together to move, store or otherwise handle materials. Some are automated, but others require manual operation to get tasks done. In either case, engineered systems help to automate much of the industrial world. With advances in artificial intelligence and environmental sensing software, robotic systems are becoming more and more accurate and efficient. Even more traditional methods, like conveyor belts, can add speed and efficiency to handling a wide array of materials.
Common engineered systems include:
From simple hand trucks and order pickers to massive waste handlers and storage buildings, material handling requires a diverse category of machines. Some pieces of equipment are vital to the daily functioning of companies, while others make life easier for workers and improve efficiency and safety across industries.
If you're looking to get your hands on these tools, The Cat Rental Store has a variety of material handling equipment available. Renting your equipment provides several benefits, including flexible access, up-to-date technology and the elimination of maintenance and storage costs. Browse our selection of rental products today for one that meets your needs. If you need help finding the right tool, reach out to us for a quick quote. Turn to The Cat Rental Store to rent the equipment you need from the people who know what it takes.