Material Handling Equipment Taxonomy

Old adage (that applies to a lack of material handling (MH) equipment knowledge): “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it’s amazing how quickly all your problems seem to look like nails.”

The different types of MH equipment listed in the following table can be classified into the following five major categories.

  1. Transport Equipment
  2. Equipment used to move material from one location to another (e.g., between workplaces, between a loading dock and a storage area, etc.). The major subcategories of transport equipment are conveyors, cranes, and industrial trucks. Material can also be transported manually using no equipment.


  3. Positioning Equipment
  4. Equipment used to handle material at a single location (e.g., to feed and/or manipulate materials so that are in the correct position for subsequent handling, machining, transport, or storage). Unlike transport equipment, positioning equipment is usually used for handling at a single workplace. Material can also be positioned manually using no equipment.


  5. Unit Load Formation Equipment
  6. Equipment used to restrict materials so that they maintain their integrity when handled a single load during transport and for storage. If materials are self-restraining (e.g., a single part or interlocking parts), then they can be formed into a unit load with no equipment.


  7. Storage Equipment
  8. Equipment used for holding or buffering materials over a period of time. Some storage equipment may include the transport of materials (e.g., the S/R machines of an AS/RS, or storage carousels). If materials are block stacked directly on the floor, then no storage equipment is required.


  9. Identification and Control Equipment
  10. Equipment used to collect and communicate the information that is used to coordinate the flow of materials within a facility and between a facility and its suppliers and customers. The identification of materials and associated control can be performed manually with no specialized equipment.

    1. Manual (no equipment)
    2. Bar Codes
    3. Radio Frequency
      Identification Tags
    4. Voice Recognition
    5. Magnetic Stripes
    6. Machine Vision
    7. Portable Data Terminals