When looking to increase the efficiency of warehouse operations, material handling equipment can play an important role due to its variety of benefits to improve productivity, accuracy and cost savings. The main aim of a fully functioning warehouse is to move, store and transport goods within the facility, therefore tools, vehicles and storage equipment can help streamline day-to-day business through a number of different means. From trucks to jacks, stackers and AGVs, they provide an opportunity for faster and more accurate operations, can assist with utilising space, reduce labour, improve safety, adapt to demand and help to save costs. They deliver a solution to revolutionise a warehouse by making distances shorter, administration easier and tasks quicker whilst reducing errors and improving customer satisfaction. This not only enhances operation for the workforce within the warehouse, but it also gives you an edge over your competition in the market because customers know that you’re reliable and deliver the job on time.
Within the material handling equipment umbrella comes ten fantastic choices that can help streamline daily operations.
1. Industrial Truck
Essential for the transportation of goods, industrial trucks help to enable the load and unloading of items large and small. From small trucks to hand-operated vehicles and regular lifts, they come in a variety of types to assist with the plethora of tasks that need to be carried out within the warehouse environment. Two-wheel hand trucks and trolleys with metallic frames and toe-plates come under this category too, whilst providing adaptability to the layout of the area, flexible handling and reduced labour intensity for those heavy loads. Designed to transport goods from different storage areas, loading docks and assembly lines, they’re a great solution for the efficient movement of items.
2. Pallet Jack
Also referred to as pallet trucks or pump trucks, a pallet jack is designed to streamline the handling processes of materials. Another option to speed up operations is that they help to load and unload goods on pallets from trucks, storage racks and containers by lowering waiting times with their swift movement abilities. Able to fit through narrow aisles and corners, their flexible nature means that they can work amongst different sizes of warehouses whilst handling a range of pallet weights and sizes. Perfect for short-distance journeys, they reduce the need for larger warehouse material handling equipment and can precisely position the pallets with their twin forks where you need them stored.
3. Walkie Stackers
An upgrade from the pallet jack but with a similar design is the walkie stacker which features a motor along with the fork alignment. Able to be shifted via hand, it allows the pallets to be lifted towards the second shelf or other varying heights of any stacking setup within indoor environments and on concrete floors where vertical storage capacity can be maximised. A cheaper alternative to forklift trucks they are low maintenance, environmentally friendly and easy to operate. Their ability to adapt to various spaces and lift, stack and retrieve varying loads make them a great option for warehouse use.
4. Platform Trucks
Ideal for small and medium-sized warehouses, platform trucks feature a simple frame on wheels that can be hand-stacked if you’re in need of moving multiple large items ready to transport. Its ergonomic handling makes it easier to manoeuvre heavy items thanks to its handles, smooth-rolling wheels and steering mechanisms which lower the risk of fatigue and physical strain. Able to handle heavy loads in bulk they can move a significant amount of goods within one single trip to help save time and effort and increase efficiency by its ability to cover large distances swiftly for optimum results.
5. Order Pickers
Bigger than walkie stackers but smaller than forklift trucks, order pickers can handle a significant amount of weight and help with the replacement and retrieval of stacked items ranging from 10 to 30 feet in height. Particular handy for selecting items for customer orders they are equipped with lifting mechanisms that enable the operator to reach up and pick items at differing heights within the warehouse, presenting an opportunity to optimise on storage space and the need for different types of material handling equipment. This multi-level and efficient batch-picking benefit of the order picker means that the operator can stand or sit while moving the truck without the need to ascend and descend repeatedly.
Best used when loading and unloading from the side of machines and vehicles, they are best placed in narrow doorways and aisles. Also known as side-loading forklifts they are designed to take on loads that are longer than the forks on a traditional forklift which is ideal for items such as steel, lumber, pipes and other elongated materials. Whilst reducing travel distances and time, their ability to move sideways means that they can get to hard-to-reach areas and deliver precise placement whilst reducing the risk of damage and lowering any potential errors. Usually equipped with ergonomic operator compartments with comfortable seating and good visibility, they are easy and pleasant to use in the warehouse.
Used for shifting materials around the warehouse and enabling operators to move large items in a streamlined fashion in wide-scale industrial environments, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) have many benefits. In a nutshell think of them as mobile robots that follow wires, markers and other indicators to navigate them to where they need to be. Guided vehicle AGV equipment can also use cameras to guide them along with magnets and lasers for precise locations. One highlight is that they provide real-time data when connected to the warehouse management systems which display inventory levels and order status to assist with planning and decision making.
8. Conveyor Belts
Driven by motors, just like in a supermarket that uses a conveyor system at check out, items are transported from their starting point to their end destination with ease. It allows for a continuous flow of goods reducing the need for manual loading and unloading which can sometimes cause a delay in the operation as well as human error. Its capability of moving multiple tables of contents and goods not only reduces the number of trips needed to transport the items, they can also be installed in vertical spaces to utilise space and increase storage capacity. They can be programmed to transport items to different destinations within the warehouse and can be integrated with other automated systems.
Hand-operated with small motors, stackers are useful when lifting items from the ground and onto shelves within medium and small environments whilst remaining a cost-effective option. Carrying out multiple tasks such as retrieval, stacking and order picking, they can be integrated within an existing workflow without the need to disrupt the overall operation. With features such as collision sensors, stability mechanisms and obstacle detection, the built-in safety features help to protect staff and goods whilst preventing accidents. Customisable to take on different load weights, sizes and types, its speedy yet consistent movements pick up the pace during the task at hand.
Featuring a rotating scoop at the end of a conveyor system, reclaimers help to pick up loose materials that have been stacked up and put back onto the belt before reaching their final destination. Found in power plants, mines and ports, they are optimised to handle bulk volumes of goods to stockpile in the warehouse or outside in a storage area. Able to be integrated with other storage equipment materials they can also present real-time data to help with stock administration. Designed with a minimal footprint they can be placed in small spaces and can be scaled up or down depending on the requirements needed for the job.