Best Equipment & Solutions for Bulk Material Handling

If you’re wondering what bulking material handling is, you’re likely new to process manufacturing, or you’re looking to address a current need in your production process. Either way, we can help.

At Pneu-Con, we’ve been developing solutions to help customers with their bulk material handling needs for over 40 years. So, we’d like to share some helpful insights with you.

What is Bulk Material Handling?

Bulk material handling generally refers to the process of transferring, storing, and packaging bulk materials to different containers, boxes, super sacks, or rigid bins.

The bulk materials being transferred may be in the form of powders, granules, pellets, flakes, etc. Therefore, bulk material handling equipment is a type of equipment designed to facilitate the transfer, storage, and packaging of bulk material. 

Bulk material handling equipment is a crucial part of all dry bulk material applications. The equipment is handy for industries that are involved in the production of food, beverages, animal feeds, polymers, plastics, metal, and rubber, among others.

How Bulk Material Handling Systems Work

In a typical bulk material handling system, the raw materials are received from trains, ships, or trucks.

They are then offloaded to a storage facility and stored in stockpiles, often using a conveyor system. The raw materials can be reclaimed from the stockpile using a gravity-reclaim arrangement or an automatic reclaimer that consists of reclaiming tunnel hoppers and feeders.

bulk bag of coffee

4 Types of Bulk Material Handling Systems

The equipment used to aid the movement, processing, storage, and control of bulk material can be broken down into four main categories, which are:

1.  Storage Equipment

This is the type of equipment that is used to hold or store bulk materials. There are a number of reasons why manufacturers may need storage and handling equipment, including:

  • To store materials during downtimes,
  • To hold materials to allow the buildup of stock,
  • To hold materials while they wait to be transported from the manufacturer, distributor, or wholesaler to their final destination.

Having the right storage and handling equipment can boost the efficiency on your production floor and maximize space utilization, which are two crucial aspects of any production environment.

Examples of storage and handling equipment include hoppers, silos, racks, shelves, drawers, bins, mezzanines, and stacking frames.

2.  Engineered Systems

These types of bulk material handling equipment cover a variety of systems that work cohesively to enable the transportation and storage of bulk material.

There are several types of engineered systems, including”

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

These are large automated organizational systems that include racks, shelves, and aisles accessible by a shuttle system of retrieval. The shuttle system can execute fully automated functions, or it can be manually operated to speedily find a stored item’s location and swiftly retrieve it for other uses.

Conveyor systems

These types of engineered systems are available in different varieties, depending on what they are intended to transport. There are different types of bulk material handling conveyors, which include chain, vertical, apron, overhead, and vibrating conveyors.

conveyor system

Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV)

These are autonomous computer-operated robots that transport bulk materials along a predetermined path. They follow specific wires or marketers on the floor to transport bulk materials around a manufacturing facility.

AGVs can also use vision, lasers, or magnets for navigation. They are also fitted with detectors and sensors that prevent them from colliding with anything that gets in their path.

Robotic delivery systems

These are automated systems that are used to transport goods throughout a warehouse or plant or to move products on an assembly line. These types of engineered systems work pretty much like Automatic Guided Vehicles.

3.  Packing Equipment

For those manufacturers or producers that provide their products in bulk, they often need bulk packing or filling equipment at the end of the production process. The equipment helps to fill bulk bags, totes, drums, or boxes with the end product.

One of the advantages of using automated bulk filling equipment is increased safety and efficiency within the packing process.

Another advantage is that they help manufacturers and producers save on time and labor costs as the systems can fill multiple types of bulk containers simultaneously. Filling systems also present a controllable and dust-free method of filling.

4.  Powered Industrial Trucks

Forklifts are a good example of powered industrial trucks. They come in handy when the need to move bulk material around the manufacturing or processing floor arises. They are also used to load and unload heavy loads onto delivery trucks efficiently. Examples of powered industrial trucks include:

  • Pallet trucks: These can be either automatic or manually-operated industrial forklifts.
  • Hand trucks: Also called dolly or box cart, hand trucks are I-shaped box-moving handcarts with wheels at the base, handles at one end, and a ledge to set objects on.
  • Platform trucks: These are similar to hand trucks, except that they come with an extended deck.
  • Side loaders: These are automated systems that are similar to a forklift. Just like their name suggests, side loaders are used to load and unload huge loads from the side of the machine rather than from the front.

Advantages of Using Bulk Material Handling

There are several noteworthy advantages of using bulk material handling equipment. They include:

  • Reduces manual labor and costs: Bulk material handling equipment makes work easier, thus reduces the number of workers needed to execute tasks. The lower number of workers at your processing plant translates to reduced labor costs.
  • Doubles productivity: Besides minimizing manpower, bulk material handling equipment also maximizes productivity. Unlike humans that are vulnerable to fatigue, automated systems can work nonstop at incredible speeds.
  • Eases inventory management: Bulk material handling assures control and accuracy. As such, there is no chance of damages, misplaced items, or unnecessary hassles.
  • Reduces shipping costs: By minimizing the number of workers needed to receive, sort, store, and transport items, you are also minimizing the time and costs that are normally associated with shipping packages.
  • Improves safety: Automated systems reduce manual handling machines, which minimizes the risk of back and hand injuries that workers experience on a routine basis. The reduction in workers’ injuries helps to increase workers’ safety in the workplace.

Pneu-Con offers an array of bulk material handling equipment and solutions to ensure that our clients have a holistic solution for bulk materials storage, transport, lifting, picking, and filling. You can simply count on us for everything.

Contact us today to talk to our experts or to request a quote.

BV Sarma

Director of Technical Services
BV Sarma is the Director of Technical Services at Pneumatic Conveying and has over 25 years of experience in the industry. BV's expertise lies within the product lifecycle and engineering custom solutions that meet organizational goals from vision to launch.