Materials-handling technology includes hardware and systems which can be categorized as follows:
● Containerization
● Fixed-path handling
● Mobile handling
● Warehousing

Containerization. This classification covers the broad spectrum of confinement methods that are used for storage through all phases of the manufacturing, or process, cycle.

The materials-handling engineer employs the unit-size principle to optimize the quantity, size, and weight of the load to be handled or moved and is able to specify the best container after considering material and other production-system parameters.

Pallets, skids, tote boxes, and wire mesh containers, covering a wide range of sizes and materials, are included within the category.

Fixed-Path Handling. This classification applies to movement and storage of unit loads of material with an intermittent or a continuous flow over a fixed path from one point to another. Fixed-path-handling equipment is secured to, and is considered part of, the facility.

Once installed it is more difficult to modify or replace; therefore, a considerable amount of planning and interfacing with other functions has to be considered. This equipment, if installed above the floor surface, can effectively utilize what would otherwise be dead space.

Chutes, conveyors, elevators, bridge cranes, palletizing equipment, and robots are examples of fixed-path-handling equipment.

Mobile Handling. This classification includes all handling systems that move material over various paths within a manufacturing or processing cycle. Handling equipment allows a considerable degree of flexibility in moving material in an intermittent flow but requires special facility requirements, such as aisle sizes, clearances, door openings, and running and maneuvering surfaces.

Equipment in this category consumes more energy per unit load moved than most other systems and generally requires trained personnel for operation. Equipment in this category ranges from simple two wheeled hand trucks to specially designed over-the-road vehicles and also includes skid trucks, floor trucks, powered walkie lift trucks, powered lift trucks, and mobile hydraulic cranes.

Warehousing. This classification of materials handling considers the systems, equipment practices, and requirements dedicated to the following operations within the manufacturing, processing, or distribution cycle:

● Receiving
● Storage of raw, in-process, and finished materials
● Movement in and out of storage
● Order picking and accumulation
● Containerization for shipping
● Loading and shipping

This area of materials handling involves a wider range of planning and analysis. Consider some of the following factors:

1. Shipment volumes
2. Location of activity
3. Sizing and physical characteristics relating to product size, type, and volume
4. Number of stockkeeping units
5. Storage equipment
6. Selection of materials-movement methods
7. Packaging methods for shipping
8. Labeling and carrier selection

 he range of solutions covers the full spectrum, from a single warehouse that shares movement equipment with other parts of the operation to a self-contained, specially equipped, fully automated warehouse.

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