How to Choose The Right Material Handling Equipment for The Job

Manufacturing continues to expand, and so do the needs of their facilities. That’s why many business owners have learned to adapt to the increased demands of their customers, especially after the e-commerce boom during the pandemic.

Thankfully, that means there are more options than ever for industrial manipulators. The material handling equipment market now includes a wide variety of tools, units, appliances, vehicles and accessories used in the transportation, storage, control and protection of products at different manufacturing and distribution stages.

While this evolution means that you have more options than ever as a buyer, it also means that you may have more vetting to do.

So, as you’re considering different devices for your facilities, how do you know that you’re choosing the right one?

To help make your selection process quick, painless and successful, we’ve rounded up the major factors you should consider when purchasing an industrial manipulator.

Materials

Material handling equipment is typically categorized by what type of materials are being handled. To narrow down your search, make a note of the following:

  • What type(s) of materials are you dealing with? Choosing a suitable device depends on your industry and what materials and products you’ll be working with.
  • What unique requirements does your inventory have? Are they perishable, or do they contain chemicals? Do they have specific hygienic requirements? For example, if you need your handling equipment for food or pharmaceuticals, you’ll want to look specifically at hygienic stainless steel
  • What are your products’ defining features? You should have details on hand about the weight, size and shape of your items that will need to be moved.
  • What is the trajectory of the movement you need the machine to perform? This can help you decide if you need a static or portable manipulator.
  • How are they packaged, processed or stored? Will you need to move spools? Pallets? Drums?

As you’re speaking to material handler manufacturers, having this information on product types and requirements upfront will help you decide on the right device sooner.

Facility and Space Considerations

With your material needs defined, take some time to think through and plan around the space in which your team will be operating the handling equipment. It’s not worth settling for a device that doesn’t fit your space when you could find a customized solution that’s made for your needs.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is your facility’s ceiling height, aisle width and rack type?
  • Will your equipment be operated manually, or do you require automation?
  • Are there any particular warehouse safety, environmental or regulatory standards your space must meet?

Given your space requirements, material size and trajectory needed, this can make it easier to decipher if you need a customized device.

Cost Considerations

Finally, knowing your budget is crucial as you decide between your industrial manipulator options. Beyond looking at how much you’re ready to invest in your new device, consider the other areas you may need to spend on outside of the machine itself. This could include:

  • Initial upfront investments needed to get the equipment up and running
  • Additional accessories needed for the new device or its space
  • Projected operating and maintenance costs
  • Remember to consider the estimated cost-savings the equipment may deliver due to gained efficiency and productivity.

Matching Your Needs with the Right Type of Material Handling Equipment

Once you’ve gone through and noted all your materials, space requirements and budget, you’ll have what you need to determine which type of handling equipment is best suited for the job.

Let’s break down the different needs of your material handlers and what type of products your manipulator will need to transport.

Retrieval and Removal 

Several material handlers are designed explicitly for the retrieval and movement needs of large items.

Two major equipment types can accommodate these requirements – industrial manipulators and cable balancers. They can be used for conveyor systems, robotic delivery and more.

Industrial manipulators are frequently used when

  • A product must be moved to a location that is not easily or quickly accessible for a person to reach, like a very tall shelf
  • A product is too heavy for a person to move manually
  • A person will quickly fatigue from moving products manually
  • A person will be put at risk for injury if they move a product manually
  • A high volume of product must be moved quickly
  • Cable balancers are best suited for moving lighter objects in standard shapes. Rather than relying solely on a rigid, arm-like machine without cables, cable balancers use steel or nylon cables to transport products up or down.

Bulk Materials

If you’ll be storing, transporting or controlling materials in loose bulk form, a bulk material handler is likely the right type of equipment for you. These handlers are built for materials such as liquid, food and minerals. Examples of bulk material handlers include:

  • Stackers
  • Conveyor belts
  • Reclaimers
  • Grain elevators
  • Bucket elevators
  • Silos
  • Hoppers

Long-Term Storage and Stock

For production environments where space is at a premium, having optimal storage equipment boosts company productivity and cost efficiency. If you have a large amount of inventory being transported infrequently, you’re likely using storage options like pallets, racks and shelves.

Industrial manipulators are designed to move and reach items like these, including:

  • Pallet racks
  • Drive-in and drive-through racks
  • Sliding racks
  • Push-back racks
  • Drawers, bins and shelves
  • Mezzanines
  • Stacking frames

Materials Requiring Frequent Transportation

For products requiring frequent transportation, facility managers often rely on industrial trucks. This category encompasses several solutions- from manual to powered and flat surfaced to forklift — but all provide transportation.

Examples of industrial trucks include:

  • Pallet jacks
  • Hand trucks
  • Platform trucks
  • Pallet trucks
  • Walkie stackers
  • Sideloader
  • Order picker
  • Some types of Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs)

Ready to Find Your Perfect Device?

If an industrial manipulator or cable balancer looks like the best fit for your needs, we’d be happy to serve as a resource to help you find the perfect equipment. Our custom material handling products are built to ensure safe, effective and efficient operation, regardless of how big or complex the job.

Learn more here or contact us to discuss how industrial manipulators could optimize your warehouse.

 

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