Everything You Need To Know About Material Handling Equipment

Material handling equipment encompasses an array of tools, vehicles, storage units, appliances, and accessories that aid in transporting, storing, controlling, identifying, and protecting goods during any stage of manufacturing, distribution, consumption, or disposal. In general, there are four main categories of material handling equipment, those of which include storage, engineered systems, industrial trucks, and bulk material handling equipment. In this blog, we will outline each of the various categories in more detail, allowing you to better understand their differences.


Storage equipment consists of non-automated examples that are grouped with engineered systems. Such equipment is utilized to hold or buffer materials during operational “downtimes,” or periods of time where they are not being transported. These downtimes can be temporary pauses during long-term transportation or long-term storage for the means of building up stock. Usually, storage equipment refers to pallets, shelves, or racks wherein materials can be stacked in an organized manner to await transportation or consumption. Below, we will cover some of the most common examples of storage equipment.

  • Racks include pallet racks, drive-through or drive-in racks, push-back racks, and sliding racks, and they serve as a basic method of storage that saves floor space while keeping goods accessible. 
  • Stacking frames are stackable blocks that organize inventory in a compact fashion without damaging it.
  • Shelves, bins, and drawers are basic storage methods. Shelves are less open than racks and can hold bins and drawers full of smaller, more difficult to manage materials and products that need to be stored and organized. Popular shelving types include boltless, cantilever, revolving, and tie-down shelf variations.

Other Common Types:

  • Mezzanines
  • Work-assisted Tooling
  • Pallet Inverters

Engineered Systems

Engineered systems cover a wide range of units that work in conjunction to enable storage and transportation, with the most common versions being automated. Serving as just one example, the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) is a large automated organizational structure involving racks, aisles, and shelves that are accessible by a “shuttle” system of retrieval. This system is a mechanized cherry picker that can be manually-operated or automated.

  • Conveyor systems are available in many different types, depending on the material being transported. Some key players are vibrating, overhead, chain, vertical, and apron conveyors.
  • Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are independent computer-operated trucks that move loads along a predetermined path. They are also equipped with sensors and detectors to avoid bumping into anything.

Industrial Material Handling Trucks

Industrial trucks, or material handling trucks, are used to move materials and products in material handling facilities. They include small hand-operated trucks, pallet jacks, and a variety of forklift types, and they can either be manually pushed or users can ride along on them.

  • Hand trucks serve as the most basic form of material handling equipment, featuring a compact platform for the heavy objects to rest on, and a long handle for leverage. Whatever is being transported must be tipped so that it lays over the handle and it is carried like this to its end point.
  • Pallet trucks, also called pallet jacks, are used specifically for pallets. They slide into a pallet and lift it up to move it as desired, and they come in both manual and electrical types.
  • Walkie stackers are available in powered and manual variations, and they transport and hoist pallets like a forklift. However, they do not include a place for the operator to ride on.

Other Common Types:

  • Platform Trucks
  • Order Pickers
  • Sideloaders
  • Many kinds of AGVs

Bulk Material Handling Equipment

Bulk material handling refers to storing, transporting, and controlling materials in a loose bulk manner. Generally, these materials may be food, liquid, or minerals, among other items.

  • Conveyors can move large quantities of material.
  • Stackers are normally automated, and they pile bulk material onto stockpiles and move between two points along rails in a yard.
  • Reclaimers retrieve materials from stockpiles, with some versions taking advantage of bucket wheels to carry material.

Other Common Types:

  • Bucket elevators
  • Grain elevators
  • Hoppers
  • Silos
  • Elevated lift tables


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