4 Types of Material Handling Equipment

4 Types of Material Handling Equipment

Storage and handling equipment plays a crucial role in warehousing for categorizing and storing products, which supports efficient operations. Read on to understand the four major types of storage and handling equipment.

Manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics industries rely heavily on efficient material-handling equipment to meet operational needs. Each piece of equipment is pivotal in enhancing operational efficiency and ensuring safety.

These tools are essential for transporting heavy materials and storing bulk products efficiently. Understanding the various types of material handling equipment, horizontal transportation, and storage equipment can significantly impact the success of business operations.

Material handling equipment is categorized into four primary types, each serving distinct purposes within industrial environments. As industries strive to optimize floor space and improve manual labor efficiency, selecting the right equipment becomes paramount. 

This article delves into each category, examining their applications, benefits, and limitations.

Storage and Handling Equipment

Storage and handling equipment represents a core category within the broader framework of material handling solutions. These systems improve operational workflows and enhance safety in industries where goods need organizing, storing, and retrieving efficiently.

In every warehouse or storage facility, effective management of space is paramount. Storage and handling equipment allow for the vertical and horizontal organization of products, making the most of the available floor space.

Examples of Storage and Handling Equipment:

  • Pallets: Pallets are the foundation of material handling. Pallets facilitate the easy movement and storage of goods with options like stacking frames to optimize space.
  • Racks: Enable the efficient storage of goods in vertical arrangements, maximizing warehouse space and simplifying inventory access.
  • Shelving Units: Provide adaptable storage solutions that can be customized to fit a variety of items, improving order and accessibility within facilities.
  • Drawers: Offer secure storage for smaller or high-value items, making them easily retrievable without compromising space.

Adequate storage space and using chosen material handling equipment are crucial for maintaining operational efficiency and organization in material handling settings.

Common Uses

Storage and handling equipment plays a crucial role in warehousing for categorizing and storing products, which supports efficient operations. 

In retail, these systems enhance back-of-house organization, improving customer service and management of store materials. In manufacturing, they are essential for managing materials, impacting production efficiency and safety during the production process.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Proper storage racks and handling equipment significantly improve space utilization, allowing more products to be stored and accessed efficiently, and enhancing inventory management, reducing errors and handling time. This reduces physical strain on workers, decreasing the risk of injuries.

However, these systems can be costly upfront, especially for advanced, automated systems with setups requiring ongoing maintenance. Their complexity may also require extensive staff training, adding to operational expenses.

Understanding these benefits and challenges helps businesses make informed decisions that suit their operational needs.

Industrial Trucks and Machines

Industrial trucks and machines play an essential role in enhancing the mobility and flexibility of operations in various industrial settings. 

These vehicles and mechanical devices facilitate the movement, loading, and unloading of materials, significantly easing the physical demands on workers and speeding up the process of moving goods from point A to point B.

Examples of Industrial Trucks and Machines:

  • Forklifts: Vital for lifting and transporting heavy loads across different facility sections.
  • Pallet Jacks: Ideal for moving pallets and other heavy loads within a warehouse or distribution center over shorter distances.
  • Order Pickers: Used in warehousing to retrieve items from high shelves, enhancing the efficiency of picking processes and reducing time spent on manual retrieval.

Common Uses

Storage units and handling equipment boost the warehouse operations efficiency by organizing and storing products, enhancing retail management, and maintaining material flow in manufacturing, impacting safety and productivity of warehouse employees.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This equipment optimizes production floor space, enhancing product access and inventory management, which reduces manual labor and injury risks. However, high initial costs and ongoing maintenance can be significant, and complexity may require staff training.

Understanding these factors aids businesses in making informed decisions for their operations.

Bulk Material Handling Equipment

Bulk material handling equipment is designed to efficiently transport and store large quantities of bulk materials. These systems are integral to operations in industries where large volumes of loose materials, such as minerals, grains, or chemicals, must be moved across various processing, storage, or transportation stages.

These tools are engineered to handle substantial transport heavy loads repeatedly and efficiently, making them indispensable in bulk material management.

Examples of Bulk Material Handling Equipment:

  • Conveyor Belts: Facilitate the horizontal and inclined transportation of materials, adapting to various terrain and facility layouts.
  • Hoppers: Used to receive, store, and discharge bulk materials, equipped with mechanisms to control the flow rate and volume.
  • Grain Elevators: Specifically designed to transport grain vertically, ensuring efficient loading and unloading to storage silos.

Common Uses

Bulk material transport materials handling equipment is essential in agriculture for storing and distributing grain, mining for processing raw materials, and construction for managing and moving sand and gravel, enhancing load capacity and operational efficiency.

Benefits and Drawbacks

This equipment efficiently manages large material quantities, boosting productivity and reducing costs while preserving material quality by minimizing handling damage.

However, its complexity requires significant investment, careful space planning, and ongoing maintenance, which may not be viable for all operations. Understanding these pros and cons of vertical space helps businesses make informed decisions.

Engineered Systems

Engineered systems in material handling encompass advanced equipment designed to streamline and automate facility tasks. These systems include highly sophisticated technologies that integrate seamlessly with existing operations to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Examples of Engineered Systems:

  • Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS): These systems automate the storage and retrieval of items, making inventory management highly efficient.
  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): Vehicles that operate without direct human control to transport items within a facility, reducing labor costs and enhancing safety.
  • Robotic Delivery Systems: Robots programmed to deliver materials directly to production lines or storage areas, minimizing delays.
  • Smart Conveyor Systems: Advanced conveyors equipped with sensors and controls to adjust operations dynamically based on real-time demands.

Common Uses

Engineered systems are prevalent in high-volume manufacturing environments and distribution centers where precision and efficiency are paramount. These systems automate repetitive tasks such as loading, unloading, and transporting materials, significantly reducing manual labor and streamlining production processes. 

Their integration helps maintain continuous operations, especially in facilities operating around the clock, ensuring that materials are always available.

Benefits and Drawbacks

The primary benefits of engineered systems include enhanced task precision and significant reductions in labor costs, contributing to a more efficient production environment. These systems allow faster processing times and substantially decrease human error, leading to more consistent product quality.

However, the drawbacks include the high initial investment required to implement these technologies. There is also a dependency on technology, which introduces risks such as system failures and the need for specialized maintenance staff. 

Moreover, integrating such advanced systems may lead to a steep learning curve for employees, necessitating comprehensive training and adjustment periods.

By weighing these benefits and challenges, businesses can better decide whether the high-tech solutions offered by engineered systems align with their operational goals and technological readiness.


Understanding the different types of material handling equipment is crucial for selecting the most effective solutions to meet specific operational needs. This article explored various categories and types of material handling being used, including storage containers and handling equipment, industrial trucks and machines, bulk material handling equipment, and engineered systems. 

Each category offers unique benefits tailored to enhance efficiency, safety, and productivity across multiple industries, from manufacturing to logistics.

With this knowledge, you can confidently assess the benefits and limitations of each type of material handling right storage equipment used. 

Whether your operations require the robust power of industrial trucks, the meticulous organization provided by automated storage and solutions, or the advanced automation of engineered systems, making an informed choice will help optimize your operational workflow and ensure you meet industry-specific requirements effectively.