You’re a progressive employer. You have a participatory ergonomics program. Your company’s ergonomics committee includes employees, supervisors, and other levels of management. They’ve identified manual material handling tasks as one of the primary opportunities for improvement. You want to help reduce or eliminate risk factors to keep your workforce healthy and happy, but you don’t know where to find material handling equipment at the best price.

Know Before You Go

There is a nearly endless array of materials handling equipment on the market, which almost guarantees that a tailored solution exists for your operations. But finding that solution requires analysis of the process, to identify what functions the equipment will perform.

Consider the following to help you determine equipment specifications:

  • What is being handled – raw materials, work product, or finished product? Are there any special characteristics (e.g. food or food grade, non-reactive, fragile)?
  • How big is it – both dimensions and weight? Is it in boxes, bags, buckets, on a pallet?
  • How is it being handled – Lifted, lowered, pushed, carried, re-positioned?
  • What are the workspace dimensions – how high are items lifted/lowered? How far are they carried or otherwise transported? What are the clearances around equipment, through doorways, etc.?
  • What is the work environment – indoors or outdoors? What is the temperature? What is the floor surface?

And since you are evaluating the process, also ask why materials handling is present. Are there opportunities to eliminate materials handling demands from the process? Can the material format be changed – for instance, are raw materials available in bulk packaging (rather than a pallet of 35# bags)? Can processes be automated? Engage your employees in this process, they may have already figured out a better way.

Use Your Current Connections

Your current equipment vendor or distributor should be your first source for new equipment. Because the vendor has had years to establish a relationship with you and probably wants to keep your business, they may often give you a better price on new equipment than you could find on your own. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop for yourself to get the best price. There are many excellent resources on the internet for locating and purchasing material handling equipment.

Don’t Buy More Machine Than You Need

Manufacturers often make multiple versions of the same equipment. Weight capacity is at a premium; higher capacity equipment is more expensive. For example, if you are purchasing a lift-and-tilt machine for a bin of parts that never weighs more than 1,500 pounds, save money by buying a 2,000 pound capacity machine, rather than a 4,000 pound capacity model.

Consider Buying Used

Purchasing any second-hand items poses risk, but the reward is the opportunity for savings, which will allow your purchasing budget to go further. Be as diligent evaluating the equipment vendor as you were in evaluating the work. Only buy from trusted vendors, and be certain to get a warranty.