The challenges and opportunities for material handling manufacturers:

As automation and material handling are increasingly used across all industries, businesses are seeking more specialist machinery to gain a competitive advantage.

Equipment for automated storage and retrieval (ASRS), bulk handling and storage helps businesses to produce, manage, distribute and dispose of goods more easily. Responsive, efficient machinery ensures businesses can keep pace with consumer demand.

Manufacturers of material handling equipment are working flexibly and creatively to develop these solutions, supporting market predictions of up to 10% growth for the global material handling market by 2028. The UK market for this equipment is already worth around £4.5bn

From standardised machinery to bespoke solutions, manufacturers are using ‘smart’ technologies and specialist components to develop new or improved equipment.

Seemingly small components can make a significant difference to the effectiveness of machinery or kit – extending their usable lifetime or improving the accuracy of functions.

To find new solutions, it is important to first understand the basics of material handling operations and equipment.

What is material handling?

Material handling supports the movement of goods for their storage, retrieval, control and protection across a range of industries.

Material handling machinery is used in production, distribution and disposal processes, supporting the retail, manufacturing, construction, waste, agriculture and logistics sectors. This encompasses a broad range of equipment, from racking and storing products for online retailers to conveyors separating waste for recyclers. These machines or systems can be manual, semi-automated or automated.

More and more businesses and industries are incorporating material handling machinery into their operations to enjoy their financial, productivity and safety benefits.

Material Handling Automation

What are the benefits of material handling machines?

Material handling machinery allows processes to take place more efficiently, consistently and reliably, improving customer service overall. It can also help businesses to overcome high labour costs turnover, or staff shortages. Vitally, it also improves safety in a facility, by reducing the risk of operator injury, fatigue or error, and decreases the risk of product damage.


What are the different types of material handling machines?

Material handling machinery and equipment is broadly split into four categories – storage and handling equipment, bulk handling equipment, engineered systems, and industrial trucks. Each of these speeds up or streamlines processes, while improving the safety and consistency of operations.

The most commonly used solutions are:

  • Conveyors & Belts – these engineered systems are usually automated, moving materials around a facility easily and securely. These support both repetitive, small goods handling and bulk material handling, able to be developed to move all sizes, weights and volumes of goods as required.
  • Racking systems – racking, shelving and stacking frames are used for the storage and handling of goods, making efficient use of space and allowing for easy access to goods when required.
  • Picking systems – Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) support the automation of repetitive tasks in the storage and retrieval of goods.
What are some of the challenges companies can face with material handling?

Businesses introducing new or updated material handling equipment have a number of key considerations influencing which machinery will suit their needs. Primarily, their material or product types, covering the volumes, weights, shapes and sizes as well as their fragility or value, will influence elements of the machinery’s configuration. Their facility’s layout and structure are also a factor, dictating the space available for equipment.

When sourcing material handling equipment, businesses must review and understand the specifications, programs and spare parts for kit; and, if second-hand, service records too. This will ensure machinery is fit for purpose and go some way to mitigating the initial challenges machinery introduction can create.

With all the above information, manufacturers of material handling machinery can develop bespoke kits or program standard equipment to suit particular specifications. Here, quality is key, with the kit requiring specialist parts and programming to run safely, efficiently and reliably.

The dynamic, fast-paced and sometimes hazardous nature of the facilities best suited to material handling machinery makes developing ‘smart’, highly intuitive equipment essential.

Previously, material handling was confined to repetitive or uniform tasks. Now sensors, data science and machine learning support ‘smart’ material handling – from using sensors in waste management processes to applying data science to optimize load consolidation.

What are the opportunities for material handling manufacturers?

As more businesses introduce or invest further in material handling solutions there are opportunities for manufacturers of this equipment to develop both bulk and bespoke equipment.

Working with reliable, knowledgeable suppliers supports manufacturers to deliver high-quality kits, in turn supporting their clients to streamline, simplify or scale up processes.