The evolution of manual material handling equipment

The movement of goods from storage to the end user is a process that has been going on for thousands of years, but has evolved to meet modern expectations.

At one time simple carts and wheelbarrows were used to transport single units. These were mainly manufactured from wood, and compared to modern trolleys made from tubular steel, they were heavy and not very efficient. A wheelbarrow may be fine for transporting soil and plants around the garden but is not designed for carrying heavy loads every day.

Plastic vs metal

Plastic is used extensively for many everyday items such as bags, toys, fences, and trolleys. Lightweight and inexpensive, plastic and wood used to be the main materials used in manufacturing material handling equipment. Plastic trolleys are fine for lightweight tasks, but for businesses that want robust equipment that will last, steel trolleys are the better choice.

Compared to steel, plastic is not strong and can easily crack. Plastic is not suitable for heavy loads that require good structural strength.

Metal has heat resistance, improved strength and is cost-effective. Tubular steel is lightweight, and when welded, has strong joints.

Trolley design

One of the basic forms of equipment used to manually handle materials is the trolley. Two-wheel sack trolleys can carry large boxes easily, and flat trolleys can hold several items. Modern caster designs make them easy to pull and steer.

The best trolleys are made from tubular steel and are strong and well designed. Though are basic trolleys that you can buy today that are similar to those manufactured 50 years ago, but manufacturers have designed specialist trolleys that are made to carry specific objects. These include trolleys that carry chairs, sofas, cylinders, and sheets of glass.

Ergonomic design

Businesses that require workers to manually handle heavy goods are aware of health and safety issues. Lifting heavy objects or reaching up to remove high objects can cause back strain. Pushing or pulling heavy loads can also result in strain injuries.

To reduce the risk of injury, businesses make sure that employees are trained in safe manufacturing techniques. They design the warehouse layout so that those goods are not stored in places that are awkward to reach.

Material handling equipment such as pick and pack tables can be ergonomically designed. Ergonomic design is the process of designing objects for human use in such a way that they minimise the risk of injury. Material handling equipment examples of ergonomic design are handles placed at the correct height for the average worker, casters designed to easily pull or push trolleys, and handling equipment that is not too heavy or too light.

Trolleys can be made with attached steps so that high objects can be lifted onto the trolley without strain.

Large companies such as Amazon are using robots to move goods, but most small to medium businesses rely on workers manually handling goods. Manufacturers of material handling equipment are continuously developing their equipment to make it easier and more efficient for workers to move goods around the workplace.

Posted by Mark
12th June 2018
Manufacturing

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