Material handling equipment (MHE) refer to the different kinds of transportation vehicles used to move materials and products in warehouse from one point to another. The movement of material can be horizontal or vertical. Selection of material handling equipment depends upon type of storage structure from which material to be stored or retrieved. Basis the usage following are major types material handling equipment used in warehouse. Another important factor while selecting types of material handling equipment is productivity or the rate at which products are to be transported.
- Pallet Jack
- Battery operated pallet truck (BOPT)
- Counterbalance truck (CBT)
- Reach truck (RT)
- Turret truck
- Order picker
Most basic form of a forklift and used to lift and move pallets from one point to another within a warehouse. Forks of pallet jack are inserted under the pallet and pumping force is applied on pallet to raise the forks. This vertical movement of fork with the help of hydraulic pressure lifts the pallet. Then with either pull or push action, transportation of pallet from once place to another place is possible within warehouse.
Pallet jacks are very cost effective solution for material transportation within warehouse. However, productivity is very less as compared other types material handling equipment.
Battery Operated Pallet truck
Battery Operated Pallet truck (BOPT) is slightly modified forklift version of pallet jack. Different movement of battery operated pallet truck is powered by batteries. The movement of forks are also operated by batteries.
Battery operated pallet truck or BOPT is 10 to 15 times costly equipment than pallet jack. However, increased transportation productivity enables increased turn around time and lesser manpower requirement.
Counterbalance lift truck
Counterbalance lift truck (CBT) is the most versatile type of MHE used in warehouse. The sit-down version requires an aisle width of 3.7–4.6 meters, its lift height is limited to 6.1–6.7 meters. CBT is best suited for block storage, where vertical height is not required to reach. Counter balance truck posses higher weight carrying capacity. Therefore CBTs are suitable for transportation of automotive and industrial equipment.
Reach and double-reach lift truck is equipped with a reach mechanism that allows its forks to extend to store and retrieve a pallet in racking structure. The double-reach truck is required to access the rear positions in double deep rack storage. Reach truck requires an aisle width of 2.7–3.3 meters, their lift height is limited 9.1 meters.
Reach truck productivity is 18 to 22 pallets per hour and highly influenced by skill set of reach truck operator.
Turret Truck uses a turret that turns 90 degrees either left or right, to put-away and retrieve loads. Since the truck itself does not turn within the aisle, an aisle width of only 1.5–2.1 meters is required, its lift height is limited to 12.2–13.7 meters. It only operates within single deep rack and super flat floors are required, which adds to the expense of the facility. This type of truck is not easily maneuverable outside the rack.
Turret trucks are costlier counter part of reach truck and have lesser picking or put away productivity. The productivity impact is anywhere between 30 to 50%. However, turret trucks reduce need shorter aisle width, which reduces overall foot print of storage area. Therefore, turret trucks are popular choice of material handling equipment, where rent of space is very high. Western Europe, Singapore and parts of US are the places in the world, where rent of warehouse space is very high.
Order picker is an electric lift truck specifically designed for filling individual customer orders to be picked from racking structure. This requires piece-part picking rather than selecting full pallets or unit loads. This video beautifully explains working of order picker.
Order picker are suitable, where only racking storage structure is possible and each picking or carton picking is to be done from higher levels of racking. Whereas reach trucks are used in same aisle for pallet picks.