Material handling equipment encompasses a wide spectrum of devices such as conveyor systems, hoists, forklifts, dollies, rollers, magnetic beds, air beds, hand trucks, lifts, order pickers, stackers, and pallet trucks that are used to move raw material and other goods from one point to another, usually over short distances. While some larger machinery and vehicles such as excavators, cranes, and loaders may technically be considered as material handling devices, the term usually refers to smaller types of machines and vehicles that are found on the factory floor.
Material handling equipment is used in a number of industries and commercial sectors such as: mining, manufacturing, dock work, construction, petroleum works, warehouses, pharmaceutical stores, assembly, printing, shopping malls, food processing, heat treatment, harvest and lumber products, and automobile assembly lines, etc. The types of goods that are handled include items such as: dairy products, cartons, pallets, electronic items, and food grains, etc.
Material handling equipment is used to provide a quick, safe and effective way of moving various types of materials from place to place as well as being a cost-effective measure.
Special care needs to be taken while handling hazardous chemicals, medicine and health products to avoid dangerous spill and contamination. Material handling equipment in heat treatment shops needs to have fire retardant capabilities. Some types of material handling equipment such as dollies, rollers and conveyor belts don’t require any special training to use, but other motorized devices such as forklifts should only be operated by properly trained and certified people. This is necessary as many types of material handling equipment can be extremely dangerous if they aren’t handled properly
While most material handling is automated these days, there is still a lot of material handling jobs that may be done by hand. This may include loading, unloading and stacking tasks in many types of industrial and commercial environments. Of course some jobs may only be able to be done by machine. The downside of this is that if there is any downtime or equipment failure then the whole process comes to a halt until the problem is fixed or replaced.