Without factories, humanity would look extremely different. As much as some belch out carbon dioxide or equivalent, they build the foundations of our modern society. If those factories were not experts in handling materials, the knock-on effect would be widespread, with the price of all manufactured goods being highly variable. In short, how they handle materials is important and key if you want to understand the modern world.
Storage is fairly obvious, and there are many different ways that raw materials are stored either before or after their time on the production line. These include racks, stacking frames, simple shelves, bins, draws, and even mezzanines (which are simply semi-floors in between the production floor and the ceiling to take advantage of the quite often high verticals in factory setups).
These systems are a lot more interesting, and nowadays, the focus is on automation. There are several automated units that can save costs and increase efficiency by not relying on a couple of machinists or tech experts. Some of the most commonly used mechanized systems are:
- Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems. These systems are automated structures that are typically based on shelves or racks. They involve an automated machine or shuttle that can quickly arrive at the required item, retrieve, and move it to its destination.
- Robotic-enabled delivery. These systems are often seen in car factories, where some heavy items are lifted onto an assembly line or transported throughout a warehouse. They are perfectly suited for heavy, repetitive lifting.
- Conveyor systems – the most common machine for moving materials other than a car, conveyor systems are essential to most modern factories. They can carry difficult-to-maneuver materials like powders and rocks or carry products at a very high capacity. There are many different kinds of conveyor systems, which are outlined at fluentconveyors.com.
- AGVs or Automated Guided Vehicles. These mechanized systems would have been science fiction 50 years ago, but they are highly active in factories across the world today. They are essentially programmable robots that follow a set path to move large materials around a facility, with no need for human drivers and no human error. They have many different navigation systems.
Industrial vehicles can include heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), but there are many more involved in the day-to-day operations of a factory:
- Jacks – these are like a manual forklift and allow the user to prop up items that are stacked on its ledge. Most commonly, these are pallets (i.e., pallet jacks). They are a far cheaper piece of equipment than mechanized forklifts.
- Hand carts are another very basic industrial vehicle. They are essentially a box on wheels that can be moved around the industrial space. They’re also called dollies.
- Forklifts are industrial vehicles that can move far faster than jacks and carry greater weights. These can be automated, but that’s more under the remit of AGVs. Sideloaders are a type of forklift that load and unload from the side instead of the front.
- Order pickers – where most industrial vehicles are designed more for pallet movement, order pickers find and select individual orders before they are sent off to the customer.