Conveyor Solutions: Expert Insights for Your Automation Demands

Material Handling Equipment – Defined and Simplified

By Ed

November 1, 2022
material handling equipment

Material handling is simply the process of efficiently moving materials from one place to another. It covers a wide range of equipment and services, which is why it can be a little confusing. Let us explain.

Let’s get this part out of the way first. We will be using the terms “material handling” and “material handling equipment” a lot. Almost to the point that it might be annoying, so sometimes, for short, we will just say MH or MHE.

Material Handling Equipment. That sure is a mouth full. Probably never in the history of man has there ever been such a term that was intended to describe such an extensive range of equipment and services. This could be due to the fact that the term material handling itself has quite the description. Wikipedia even uses the words “wide range” to describe it. That full description is as follows:

“Material handling involves short-distance movement within the confines of a building or between a building and a transportation vehicle.[1] It uses a wide range of manual, semi-automated, and automated equipment and includes consideration of the protection, storage, and control of materials throughout their manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption, and disposal.[2] Material handling can be used to create time and place utility through the handling, storage, and control of waste, as distinct from manufacturing, which creates form utility by changing the shape, form, and makeup of the material.[3]”

Source: Wikipedia

Basically, in the definition above, we see that material handling is the process of moving materials. That’s very clear, and it could potentially be the biggest no-brainer ever, right? If that defines material handling, then the material handling equipment would obviously be the varying types of equipment used to move those materials. With those two basic descriptions, I could now start discussing my total disagreement with Merriam-Webster on their classification of the word “handling” as a noun because, in our business, this is most definitely an action word!

However, for the sake of time and not wanting to argue with anyone, including my sister, who holds two Master’s Degrees, a Doctorate in education, EdD, and is a College Professor, I will move on. (By the way, she will win the arguments on language and words. Every. Single. Time.)

“We manufacture conveyor and support equipment. If it has anything to do with loading, unloading or utilizing conveyor to move a carton or pallet from point A to point B inside a warehouse, distribution center or fulfillment center then we can do it.”

Material Handling Equipment - The Handyman Special

Have you ever been riding down the road and see the guy in the truck that has just started his new handyman or construction business? I am sure you know the guy. He usually has 47 ladders hanging off an oversized ladder rack that does not fit his truck and a generator with three layers of concrete splattered on it, sitting precariously in a dirty wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow itself looks like it could bounce out of the truck bed at any minute, causing the next 6 PM news headline. Well, 95% of the time somewhere on that truck they will have the words “Specializes In.” This is very odd to me because it is always followed by 143 bullet points of things they “Specialize In,” covering everything from cleaning out gutters and pressure washing to building decks to building brand-new houses. How can they specialize in all that? The word special itself signifies that you do something unique. In all honesty, they might as well use the phrase “Jack of All Trades and Master of None,” which is 180 degrees, completely opposite of the message that they are trying to communicate. In the MHE world, I feel like they do the same thing because it sounds very unique, but it offers a broad range of equipment types. You must look at the MHEDA (Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association) website at the member listings to see the varying types of equipment being sold.

All of the following items are considered material handling equipment or sold by companies that consider themselves MHE distributors.

  • Conveyors
  • Sortation
  • Software
  • Lift tables
  • Pallet racks
  • AS/RS systems
  • Turntables
  • Ergonomic Platforms
  • Forklifts
  • Pallet jacks
  • Dock equipment
  • Modular offices
  • Plastic totes
  • Pallets
  • Guarding

And that is to name a few. I could easily list 50 more bullet points. Do you see where I am going with this? While I am very sure that each distributor Specializes in something, the industry as a whole seems to be that jack of all trades and master of none as far as the broadness of the classifications.

Material Handling Equipment – Russell Conveyor & Equipment

Where does Russell Conveyor & Equipment fit in here? When people ask us what we do, I give them the following explanation. “We manufacture conveyor and support equipment. If it has anything to do with loading, unloading, or utilizing a conveyor to move a carton or pallet from point A to point B inside a warehouse, distribution center, or fulfillment center, then we can do it.” That simple description seems to work well for us when explaining where we fit in. Conveyors play a considerable role in the material handling equipment spectrum, and I would argue that they are the true workhorse of the industry. They can move pallets, cartons, or raw materials in almost any environment, and choosing the suitable conveyor will save you time and money.

Material Handling Equipment – Where Efficiency meets Profitability

material handling equipment efficiency

It does not matter if you are a small business or a large corporation the profitability of the company will always determine its longevity. Small businesses have no choice but to be profitable to survive, and investors and stockholders in large corporations demand that they be profitable for the same reasons. As companies grow and expand, their investment (or lack of) will impact their overall capability to be profitable. An example of “the lack of” is I recently visited a 1.5 million square foot distribution center that does not own 1 inch of conveyor or any automation. They were also using a 30-year-old DOS system for inventory management, and their forklifts were outdated. We were trying to make suggestions on adding select pieces of conveyor and automation, and they were not interested in changing their way of doing things regardless of how good the ROI was. We all know change is hard, but if the ROIs are there and you can improve efficiency and profitability, then not moving forward will eventually be detrimental to the business.

In today’s world, where time literally equals money investing in the right material handling equipment, such as a conveyor, will help you increase efficiency, reduce costs, and meet your throughput and production goals. Of course, this is assuming you have invested the time to consult an expert and design your needs based on short- and long-term business goals. The continuous and fluid movement of products through your warehouse or distribution center is imperative to your success.

Russell Conveyor & Equipment can assist you in doing all of this. We listen first and offer honest analysis of your material handling equipment needs. We offer reliable, efficient, and scalable material handling equipment solutions because your business matters to us, and quite frankly, that’s what we enjoy doing. Our focus is solving problems and meeting the challenges presented to us by our customers daily. If we couldn’t solve problems for our customers, coming to work every day would not be nearly as much fun.

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Ed Russell
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About Russell Conveyor & Equipment

Russell Conveyor and Equipment has been in business for over 20 years. We specialize in conveyor systems and material handling solutions. Russell is a family-owned business, and we take pride in our customer service and quality products.

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