All You Should Know About Material Handling Equipment: Types and Applications

Industrial material handling equipment includes a diversity of vehicles, appliances, tools, accessories, and storing units used for controlling, transporting, establishing the amount of, storing, and protecting products during manufacture, distribution, disposal, and consumption.

Material handling equipment is grouped into four major categories:

  • Storage
  • Industrial trucks
  • Engineered systems
  • Bulk material handling


This category has non-automated equipment used to buffer or hold materials when they are not transported. The periods when storage equipment is used are when long-term transportation is paused or long-term storage is required.

Storage equipment includes:

  • Racks: These are to keep items accessible while saving floor space. Some examples are pallet racks, sliding racks, and drive-in or drive-through racks.
  • Low-level floor: Used for saving space and creating storage. They are available in different versions, such as modular, rack-supported, and free-standing.
  • Shelves, drawers, and bins: Are typically used for storing and organizing difficult-to-manage or small items.

Engineered Systems

Diverse units for transportation and storage. Engineered systems are usually automated.

Types of engineered systems include:

  • Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS): Automated organizational structures made up of aisles, shelves, and racks, as well as an established system of retrieval.
  • Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV): They are computer-operated trucks that work independently to transport items, using detectors and sensors, along an established path.
  • Conveyor systems: They are available in different types, according to the type of materials to be moved. The types of conveyor systems include vibrating, chain, and overhead.

Industrial Material Handling Trucks

Trucks typically have a wide range of features adapted for different operations. They could have forklifts, a flat surface to lift items, and separate loading items. The trucks are operated manually and could be power lifted too.

Some of the trucks are pushed, while users have to ride others to operate them.

Here are the types of industrial material handling trucks:

  • Hand trucks: Has a platform where the edge of the object to be carried is placed and a handle against which the object is tilted. Objects are carried at a tilt.
  • Sideloaders: They are also called Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) trucks and are used for moving long items. The trucks are especially suited for narrow spaces.
  • Pallet trucks: Can be manual or automatic pallet trucks used for moving pallets. They move pallets by sliding into them and lifting them. These trucks are also called pallet jacks.

Bulk Material Handling Equipment

Equipment under this category is for handling bulk items in a loose form. They store, move, and control items in both their loose and packaged form.

Examples of equipment in this category include:

  • Conveyors: Are available in different types and adapted for different kinds of materials.
  • Bucket elevators: Carry items vertically using buckets attached to a rotating belt or chain.
  • Silos: Large structures used for storing bulk materials. They do not have components for transporting items to the top.

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