Anyone who manages a warehouse has a lot to keep track of. For some businesses, materials flow in from all around the world, and arrive at one receiving dock. Items flow out in the other direction, from the shipping dock to anywhere in the world. Now, the warehouse itself will have maintenance issues that must be attended to.
The warehouse manager must keep track of this, as well as every other aspect of the business depending on the job description. He or she could be tasked with managing human resources, payroll and accounting, depreciation and capital improvements, and much more.
With so much going on, a good manager will also try to improve processes within the warehouse. When trying to make operations flow more smoothly, it’s easy to overlook the benefits that good material handling equipment can provide. we specialize in casters and material handling equipment, and we know that there are thousands of items we can provide to warehouse managers to help them improve their operations – but we also know that many people are simply unaware of the solutions that are available.
We will provide a brief overview of material handling equipment for warehouse operations, and along the way point out opportunities for improved solutions.
Hand-Operated Material Handling Equipment
Almost every warehouse, whether it’s large or small, will probably have at least a few pieces of material handling equipment operated by hand. Any one of these items has a specific use – but in many warehouses, an item might be employed for other tasks that it’s not well suited for. This can cause problems.
The solution however is simple: with a little bit of understanding of the basic types of hand-operated material handling equipment, better choices can be made.
Two-Wheeled Hand Truck – Also known as a two-wheeled dolly, a hand truck has a tall handle attached to two wheels, and a nose plate that normally rests on the floor. To use it, the worker slides the nose plate under the load, tilts the handle back slightly to balance the load on the two wheels, then rolls the load to its destination.
Four-Wheeled Dolly – This item is comprised of a platform that rests upon four wheels, with no handles. It’s great for loads that are bulky or large. To use it, the worker places the load on the platform, then pushes against the load itself and wheels it away.
Platform Truck (also called Platform Cart) – This consists of a platform (usually larger than the platform of a dolly), resting on wheels. It has handles to push against, so that you can move the cart. Platform carts are excellent for moving fragile loads, or long objects, such as lumber, which if properly balanced, can extend past the ends of the cart. Platform carts work well in tight spaces, because they are very maneuverable.
Pallet Truck – For loads that are stacked on pallets, the best solution is almost always a pallet truck (which is also known as a pallet jack). It has a handle and two forks mounted on wheels. The worker slides the forks under the pallet, pumps the handle up and down to lift the load a few inches from the floor, and then rolls the load away using the handle to steer the pallet truck.
As an example of how a warehouse manager can use this information, let’s look at the following two scenarios.
In the first, a manager walking through the warehouse notices a worker struggling to place a large, bulky box on a two-wheeled hand truck. The manager realizes a four-wheeled dolly would be a much better piece of equipment for the worker to use, and places an order for a new dolly,
In the second scenario, the same manager walking through the warehouse a few weeks later, sees a worker who has just placed a large, but lightweight and fragile box on the new dolly. The worker tries pushing against the box to move the dolly, but the box is too fragile – so the worker leans over at an awkward angle, and pushes against the dolly itself. The manager knows there is a better way, and places an order for one of the following platform trucks: Wood-Platform-Truck or Aluminum-Platform-Truck.
Even More Opportunities for Improvement
Once a warehouse manager begins to look into better material handling equipment, it quickly becomes obvious that there is a wealth of solutions available to improve warehouse processes.
Equipment Customized for Specific Uses – For every item of general-purpose material handling equipment, there are many more variations that have been developed to solve very specific applications.
For example, the two-wheeled hand truck described above is good for moving a variety of loads. However, for moving large appliances, appliance trucks have been developed. Their wheels are wider apart; the nose plate is wide and narrow, perfect for sliding under the front edge of an appliance; and one or more belts hold the appliance against the truck’s handles that are padded to protect appliance itself.
Power Operated Equipment – For almost every piece of material handling equipment operated by hand, there are powered versions available. The power can be used to automate just one aspect of operations, or several.
For example, the pallet truck described above can be equipped with battery-powered electric motors to elevate the load, so that the worker does not have to pump the handle. More advanced models will also use power to move the pallet truck across the floor – all the worker has to do is steer.
There are even models available that will lift the load several feet into the air, making it convenient for the worker to stack the load on a shelf.