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What Is Material Handling?

January 19, 2023

The supply chain is a complex operation, and at its heart lies material handling. As a process that involves the manufacturing, distribution, consumption, warehousing and disposal of goods, material handling refers to the movement, protection, storage and control of materials. 

When it comes to what ‘materials’ can refer to, this can be anything from commercial goods in a warehouse to industrial materials such as iron and steel. Essentially, any item that requires handling by manual, semi-automatic or automatic processes. 

The reason material handling equipment is used varies depending on the material in question and indeed the type of handling equipment needed to relocate it. However, material handling equipment is commonly utilised to increase both safety and efficiency, especially versus manual material handling methods.

Material Handling Products

Metreel is a leading UK stockist of a wide range of material handling equipment. Here is an overview of some of our top product types to shed light on their use within the wider supply chain. 

Not sure which product is right for your needs? Skip to the end of this post to find our contact information where our friendly team will be able to help you. 


what is a gantry crane? gantry cranes for sale uk metreel

A gantry is a bridge-like structure that is used for heavy applications. Gantries can be used indoors or outdoors, with a famous example of an outdoor gantry being the yellow The Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes in Belfast, which are also known as The Samson & Goliath Cranes. 

As well as shipbuilding, gantries are frequently used within the rail and scrap metal industries. This makes gantries incredibly versatile, as they can be capable of lifting some of the heaviest loads in the world, just as they can be found as portable models that can be used in smaller warehouses or workshops.

Hoists, Balancers & Winches

Beam Trolley Mounted Electric Chain Hoist 1T.H03.2k from Metreel

There are some clear differences between a hoist, a balancer and a winch. Not least when it comes to the types of applications they are suited for. However, all three relate to the manual lifting or pulling of loads.

Each can be tailored to the available headroom, whether the site has electricity and the amount of energy consumption required. Therefore, this category of material handling is versatile, especially for smaller or niche operation requirements. 


02 Monorail V1 1 from Metreel

Monorails can either be ceiling or floor mounted, depending on the constraints of your building. The advantage of a ceiling mounted monorail is that it makes excellent use of what is normally redundant space overhead, giving the ability for the required tools to drop down and be manoeuvred around a track.

Installed within interior environments such as manufacturing plants, monorails also benefit from requiring minimal maintenance due to their robust construction. This makes monorails ideal for applications that involve repetitive work. 

Track Systems

16 Track System V1 1 from Metreel

Any number of applications can run on a track including gates, playground equipment, sliding doors, mobility systems and tv studio lighting. Tracks can be installed either overhead (including in environments where space is limited) or on the ground, as would be the case with the likes of gates. 

With any track system that runs overhead, a mechanism will be needed to support the load that will move along the track. As an example within personal mobility devices, a hoist is used to move the person from one location within the room to another in a safe manner. 

With any type of track system, the key is that the start and end point is fixed. So although the track can be stopped halfway through (i.e with overhead playground equipment), the track isn’t designed to extend beyond the start or end point. This is an element that can be beneficial for both safety as well as practical purposes, depending on the usage type of the track. 

Workstation Cranes

01 WorkstationCrane PostV2 from Metreel

Workstation cranes are used for the purpose of moving heavy loads across set distances within a specific workspace. Some of the most common industries that use workstation cranes include manufacturing, aviation, automotive and agriculture. 

Essentially, a workstation crane will facilitate the process taking place by moving the material to another part of the area so the next stage can be completed.

Key aspects of a workstation crane are the ease of movement, accurate load positioning and the reduction in worker fatigue. 

Workstation Jibs

Jib crane

Comprising two main sections that sit at a right angle, workstation jib cranes are a perfect handling solution for supporting tool balancers, air balancers, hoists, vacuum lifters and welding equipment that are used in a close work area.

Crucially, workstation jib cranes can rotate up to 360° which is where they differ from most other material handling product types. The range of movement allows for maximum flexibility and precision. 

Material Handling UK – Shop Metreel Material Handling Equipment

Interested in purchasing some material handling equipment? Or perhaps you’re in search of some further information on how to make your business operations safer and more efficient? You’re in the right place! Here at Metreel, material handling is what we do as one of the UK’s leading stockists for a wide range of products and equipment. 

Be sure to check out our online store, where you can find further details of each of our products which have been brought to you by partnering with some of the best names in the industry. 

If you would like to find out more about our material handling equipment, or if you’re interested in any other of the services we provide, please give us a call on 0115 932 7010, or drop us an email

Alternatively, check out the Metreel Brochure to discover our full range of products and services. 

Download our material handling brochure

Take a look at our brochure today and find out more about our products