Problem-Solving to Develop the Right Equipment for a Specialized Need in Material Handling

January 29, 2020 Fork Truck Free Info , Product Highlights 2509 Views

Originally published in Workplace Material Handling & Safety, February 2020. CLICK HERE. Pages 12-15.

By Jillian Burrow

When a company takes on the task of analyzing their day to day operations to create better material handling processes to provide better material flow, they are inevitably looking for the correct equipment to do just that. Although most companies deal with similar material handling needs, no two companies process material the same. Sometimes even more important to note is that another division of the same parent company can be making the exact same product but will not follow the same material handling policies and processes. This is a key component in realizing that material handling equipment cannot and is not always an easy, off the shelf standard item for specialized needs.

Every day, millions upon millions of different products are made across the world. All these products have pieces and parts that come together to create an end product. From virtually weightless feathers to the extreme weight of jet engine compressor, all these components must be handled and moved within their own manufacturing or construction. Each item has to be considered for its uniqueness and cannot be treated the same as a different item. With that said, material handling equipment such as tuggers, carts and casters are needed to keep it all moving.

Material Flow

With regards to supply chain, material flow can be defined as the movement of raw materials, pre-fab components, finished parts or any integrated objects and final products as they become part of the flow of all entities. Material handling is the transportation and treatment of material as it is moved, protected, stored, prepared and controlled throughout the manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, consumption and/or disposal process.

Take the time to consider how one piece of material comes into the plant, where it goes from there. Consider what steps are taken to move, assemble, change and eventually move it out of the plant as a part of a final product. Now, think about the second piece to that same configuration, and so on. There is a significant material handling planning process in creating a safe, flexible and fluid material flow for each companies’ needs.

Assessing Variables

There are many ways to go about problem solving when a company is eager to transform its material handling processes and find what equipment is best suited to move its material. Initially, though it is necessary to conduct a thorough evaluation of the material handling variables. It is important to identify any and all material handling issues up front. Some of the things that can be considered are:

  • Available space;
  • Aisle size;
  • Type of materials;
  • Material size and weight;
  • Material variables;
  • Load size and load size variables
  • Load weight;
  • Picking applications and heights
  • Assembly steps;
  • When and where picked; and
  • When and where delivered.

Additionally, current processes must be taken into consideration. Moreover, what is already working and what is not working well. For instance, is there too much downtime? Are there safety concerns that need to be addressed? How is material being managed? And, is it a good method that needs improvement or is it needing to be completely re-vamped?

After issues are identified it is important to understand how those issues affect everyone involved in the process. This is a critical step that is sometimes overlooked but is essential in creating the best solution for a particular operation. How does the current process affect a handler or even truck driver that brings material to the line? How would an equipment change add improvement to their day to day?

The next general step would be to list possible solutions and try to envision how the incorporation of new equipment would play out. Often a material handling cart is used in this process to carry specific materials. There are various types of industrial carts and features to choose from in this process, each with its own benefits. For example:

  • A basic static cart can be towed in multiples and be used as a single push cart. This allows for more flexibility along a specified route.
  • Quad steer carts have four-wheel steering. They are designed to track well and handle tight radiuses. This is beneficial for smaller aisle sizes and tight cornering if needed.
  • A tilt carts or tilt frame is equipped with a closed loop hydraulic cylinder that controls the energy of the load as it is tilted. The control speed is a unique safety feature.
  • Rotate carts or rotate frames are able to rotate 360 degrees to work with various workstations. The detents automatically lock out every 90 or 180 degrees. The rotation is often designed with ergonomics in mind.
  • Working in conjunction with a conveyor system, transfer carts top frame are a roller deck. This is a essential feature if a company is already using conveyor systems to move material from one point to another.
  • Mother carts are gaining popularity because they eliminate restrictive delivery and pick up. Mother daughter cart systems consist of one large mother cart and two or more, smaller daughter carts that are designed to fit within the mother cart’s frame work.  The incorporation of mother daughter carts can prove to be very versatile to the efficiency of material flow.

Finally, with the inclusion of the customer, the different scenarios of equipment solutions will be evaluated as each option will have its own benefits. Collectively, an agreement will be made. Problem solving can take time. It is important to understand its value upfront when deciding to insight a change. Working through the process does not always follow a linear path so through brainstorming and consideration, it may be necessary to circle back to all things already taken into consideration.

About Topper Industrial

For more than twenty years, Topper Industrial ( has been and continues to be a leading manufacturer of material handling equipment. Topper provides lean material handling solutions to the supply chain.

Topper Industrial is able to engineer and design Industrial Carts (Mother / Daughter Cart Systems, Quad Steer Carts or Tracking Carts, Specialized Delivery Carts, Transfer Carts with Roller Deck, Static Carts, Rotation Carts, Tilt Carts or Kitting Carts), Industrial Car tComponents (Parts Department), Industrial Containers(Corrugated Containers), Pallets, Lift/Tilt Systems, and Racking. Topper Industrial designs all products with ergonomics in mind, focusing on ease of use and best positioning of material to get the job done. Topper Industrial is a proud member of MHI. Follow on Twitter @TopperInd. Call 800-529-0909. Contact

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