God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference. (Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr)

Material Handling

Material handling involves short-distance movement within the confines of a building or between a building and a transportation vehicle. 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 (Wikipedia).

A unit load is either a single unit of an item, or multiple units so arranged or restricted that they can be handled as a single unit and maintain their integrity.

Mechanized Systems

  • Lift trucks (forklifts) - limited to handling unit loads as high as 40 feet
  • Rider trucks - small general purpose trucks used in a warehouse
  • Towlines - overhead or in-floor cables that provide continuous power to four-wheel trailers
  • Tractor trailers - a driver guided unit towing a number of individual four-wheel trailers (typically 4x8 feet trailers)
  • Conveyors - power/gravity, roller/belt product movement


Semi-Automated Systems

  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) - a tow tractor that is automatically guided by lines placed in the warehouse floor
  • Automated sortation - computer- and robotics-based automated sorting equipment, commonly used with conveyors
  • Robotics - commonly used to build or break down unit loads
  • Live Racks - storage rack where product automatically flows to the desired selection position (commonly using gravity flow & rollers)


Automated Systems

  • Automated storage and retrieval systems - uses high-rise storage racks (as high as 120 feet) stacking palletized cartons in a mechanized handling system. Aisles range from 120 to 800 feet in length, with horizontal speeds of 300-400 feet per minunte and hoisting speeds of 100 feet per minute or more. Provides maximum storage density and minimizes labor cost at high capital expense.