Modern storage and distribution centers can’t be imagined without material handling tech. Complex handling devices and systems are involved in transport, storage, dispatch and retrieval and they make sure that every product is stored at a right location, and sent off to the right address. These systems are usually customized for specific storage spaces, and we’ll try to present some of the most common types of material handling devices and sets that can be found in storage facilities all over the world.
Except in warehousing and distribution, conveyors are also used in various production industries. The base of every conveyor is a track with rollers, which in case of material handling systems moves objects around the warehouse or distribution center. They can be equipped with bar code readers, sticker applicators and weight scales and their work can be synchronized with stacker cranes, satellites and computer distribution systems. Conveyors can be customized for various warehouse layouts and all aspects of conveyed subjects (including: size, weight, condition etc.) need to be taken into consideration during the system design.
Sorting systems are very important in distribution centers because they make sure that each outboard order arrives at the dispatch spot. These devices can receive inputs (in any order) and use them to sort out orders in distribution channels without human intervention. Sorters use bar code readers for receiving the necessary information about the products and they deliver them at the right location through the network of conveyor tracks.
Stacker cranes work on the same principle as forklifts and they’re used for storing items in confined and limited spaces. They’re much more efficient than regular forklifts because they can reach the farthest items, without moving the ones that stand in front, and messing the warehouse order. Like the other devices from this article, stacker cranes use goods-to-man concept, where warehouse workers can simply type in the code of the item they want to retrieve on their AS/RS display, while the machinery does everything else.
Satellites are also used in confined spaces, but they are made exclusively for storing and retrieving pallets from racks. Satellites run along rails and can be guided by remote control or by RF. In more advanced AS/RS systems they are guided by sensors, which are placed along the storage channels. This makes them even more autonomous and drastically increases the efficiency of multi-deep pallet storage rack systems, allowing you to successfully handle high-density warehouses.
Warehouses with limited store space need to make their racks higher. High racks can be very tricky, especially when you need to retrieve the top items. Carousel is a perfect device for storing and retrieving items from high racks. It delivers the product to the operator and eliminates climbing and the need for forklift Most carousels are made out of several trays, inside each tower. Trays contain bins with stored items and they can move up and down the tower, reach an operator and deliver the desired items.
In recent years, robotics in storage has imposed itself as an alternative to manual operations. Different types of robots are used for picking and dropping packages. They can be particularly useful in warehouses which store hazardous materials, so workers don’t need to expose themselves to health risks. Robotic devices also minimize product damage and they can be used for palletizing process.
Automated material handling systems drastically increase the speed and efficiency of storage and distribution centers. Fully automated storage facilities only require a few operator and maintenance job posts, which means that employers who decide to install these systems can make a huge payroll savings.