How to Choose the Right Material Handling Equipment for the Job

Thanks to a large variety of industries served, you have more options when choosing an industrial manipulator than ever before.

But how do you know that you’re choosing the right one?

Over the years, the various types of specialty material handling equipment and lift assist devices have multiplied to address the specific needs of more industries and buyers.

Today, the material handling equipment market includes a wide variety of tools, units, appliances, vehicles and accessories that are used in the transportation, storage, control and protection of products at different stages of manufacturing and distribution.

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 in order to find the best fit for your material handling needs.

To make your selection process as quick and painless as possible and to ensure you land on the right equipment for the job, it’s helpful to have all of your requirements documented from the start.

Here are the major factors to consider as you begin your search.


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

  • What type(s) of materials are you dealing with? (Wood, mechanical, textile, chemical?)
  • How are they packaged, processed or stored? (Spools, pallet, pail, drum?)
  • What is the weight of the product you need to move?
  • What is the size and shape of the product you need to move?
  • What is the trajectory of the movement you need the machine to perform?
  • How sensitive are the materials?
  • Are they perishable or chemical? Are there specific hygienic requirements?
  • How frequently will the materials need to be moved?

Documenting the material types and requirements up front will help put your search on the right path. For example, if you need your handling equipment for food or pharmaceuticals, you’ll want to look specifically at hygienic stainless steel options.

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.

Questions to consider include:

  • What is the ceiling height, aisle width and rack type in your facility?
  • Will your equipment be operated manually, or do you require automation?
  • Are there any special warehouse safety, environmental or regulatory standards your space must meet?
  • Given your space requirements, material size and trajectory needed, are there off-the-shelf options that meet your needs, or will you need a custom engineered solution?

Cost Considerations

Last but not least, if you have a set budget that you’re able to spend on your handling equipment, that can further clarify your options.

In anticipating costs, it’s important to consider not only the price of the equipment but also:

  • Any initial upfront investments needed to get the equipment up and running
  • Projected operating and maintenance costs
  • Any estimated cost-savings the equipment may deliver as a result of gained efficiency and/or productivity

Matching Your Needs with the Right Type of Material Handling Equipment

Once you’ve gone through and noted all of 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.

Items needing retrieval for assembly, storage or transportation within a facility

There are a number of equipment types that are designed for the retrieval and movement of large items in a facility. From conveyor systems, robotic delivery and other engineered systems, this category includes two equipment types that we specialize in at Dalmec: industrial manipulators and cable balancers.

  • 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 that are 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.

The chart below further illustrates the differences between industrial manipulators and cable balancers.

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. In most cases, these types of equipment are used with materials that are in loose form.

Examples of bulk material handlers include:

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

Long term storage and stock

For items that are considered in storage and are not being transported, the typical solution is a storage and handling type of equipment. This category includes pallets, racks and shelves — on which products can be stacked and stored. For production environments at which space comes at a premium, having optimal storage equipment is a boost to company productivity and cost-efficiency.

Other common examples of storage and handling equipment include:

  • Pallet racks, drive-in and drive-through racks, sliding racks and 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 a number of different solutions that range 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)

Learn More About Industrial Manipulators and Cable Balancers

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 your needs.

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