Contemporary Materials Handling Technologies

An overview


The first industrial revolution was mechanical. The second one is digital and we are on the tail end of it. Digital technology has become such an integral and inseparable part of our everyday lives and jobs, we cannot imagine the world without it. Indeed, should a hypothetical solar flare fritz all electrical devices on the planet for even a moment, we would be plunged into utter chaos and would take a lot of time to recover.

Computers handle most of what we use today and make our lives a lot easier. Modern material handling technologies are no different, and they are especially crucial for brevity and efficiency of business. They entail transport and storage of objects (products) within a warehouse and between warehouses. If you intend to establish a solid distribution system, here’s an overview of contemporary material handling technologies.


Conveyors are an old technology that has managed to stay relevant throughout the last century due to its simplicity and practicality. They’re not particularly hard to install and they are used to transport items from one end of the warehouse to another. The most evident upside is that you can have many different types of conveyors adjusted for different items in one warehouse, if organized properly.

Managing and handling the logistics of items on conveyors has become easy because the speed and direction can be adjusted immediately through the computer mainframe. Additionally, sticker applications and printers can be implemented on conveyors along with related software. Carton sealers and weigh scales are a godsend for time management.

Stacker cranes

Organizing and managing space in a busy warehouse is turning into an insurmountable challenge. Usually, in order to create additional space for products, the human presence in the warehouse as well as the accompanying railings and walking spaces, are becoming increasingly absent. In such dense environments, stacker cranes have a crucial role to play in storing items in these confined, limited spaces. It’s a goods-to-man principle with added forklift element. As such, it is more efficient than both elements combined. With a 35-meter reach, these cranes are vertically more efficient than forklifts and with built-in sensors; they can maneuver through space with surprising agility.


Satellites are modular parts of the bigger warehouse shelving structure and they are the gold standard right now. They mostly use rails and they are meant to store and retrieve heavy-duty pallet racking components tested according to the highest international standards. This is done by moving equipped pallet load in and out of storage construction. Satellite carts are positioned manually by using a forklift, and then it becomes operative via remote controls. Due to this function, the warehouse workers often call them smart racks. They are also convenient because they function in their own operating circle without getting in the way of forklift drivers. To make the matters even more manageable, satellite systems are fitted with sensors that make the whole system even more autonomous.


Even though we’re still a far cry from cyborg and AI filled future (Blade Runner takes place in 2019), the greatest advances in robotics have seen practical application in warehouses. Even though they tend to be designed to perform a basic and specific function, the introduction of robots into warehouses has raised efficiency and lowered the probability of workplace injuries.

Additionally, product damage has been minimized. Some argue the robots have taken over job position previously held by blue-collar warehouse workers. While this is true in most cases, this has also created new job positions – robot maintenance and software engineer positions that need to take care of these machines on site have seen a significant surge in employability.

Every type of business is looking for the most efficient way to turn profit in the shortest time span. On the one hand, the questions of business go beyond this mere arithmetic and we always have to remember the human factor is crucial in spite of technological advancements. On the other hand, it always boils down to the item itself. Between product line and end user, there is a possibility the product will end up damaged or completely destroyed. Contemporary materials handling technologies are becoming more refined each day to ensure this does not happen.


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