Materials Handling - Buy cheap UK Materials Handling online

Health and Safety legislation requires the proper Materials Handling equipment to be used whenever goods are being manually moved or lifted. Our ever expanding range of products including sack trucks, folding trucks, pallet trucks, shelf trolleys, roll pallets, scissor lift tables, waste and bulk containers will suit most applications and budgets. For guidance on choosing your materials handling products, please call our sales team on 08444 999 222 or use our live chat for instant advice.

Materials Handling

Materials Handling Buying Guide

Contents

Introduction

Before we begin

Understanding health and safety of materials handling

Buying your material handling equipment

General best practices when buying work equipment

Further information

Introduction to Materials Handling

Materials handling is concentr­­ed with the protection, movement, control and storage of a wide range of products in the manufacturing industry. It takes place during production, manufacturing, storage, warehousing, distribution and even disposal. Throughout the process, material handling equipment is used to make everything just that little bit easier, safer and more efficient.

Materials handling equipment includes everything from storage bins and baskets to forklift trucks and conveyors. Some of these items are controlled manually, others are semi or even fully automatic, but all are designed to support the logistics of the manufacturing process, and to make the supply chain as effective and efficient as possible.

Using materials handling equipment can help with:

  • Forecasting and production planning: Being able to see at a glance what stock is running low and which items are moving faster than others helps to inform the manufacturing side to keep products coming as needed.
  • Efficiency improvements: Through the production system, good materials handling equipment can help ensure the right quantity of materials are delivered to the right place at the right time, boosting efficiency and improving productivity.
  • Reduction in damage and accidents: Good materials handling processes help to keep the items safe during their transportation from one area to another. This also helps to minimise the likelihood of an accident during handling, which could result in injury to employees.
  • Cost reduction: Better organisation through better material handling can mean storage of materials is conducted in a more space efficient, logical way. Not only will this cut down on indirect labour costs, but will also reduce wasted space, making every square metre of storage space work harder for your business.
  • Improved customer service: By employing excellent materials handling solutions, you can fulfil orders faster, reduce mistakes and improve your shipping processes. This will make for happier customers and a more profitable production line.
  • Recruitment and retention: Recruiting and keeping talented staff can be easier with better materials handling equipment. Investments in equipment will help you attract a higher calibre of employee, and staff with specific skills in using this type of equipment will be interested in coming to work for you.

Having a good materials handling process and suitable equipment in place is essential to any modern business. However, materials handling equipment can be expensive to purchase, and once bought and in place can be difficult to change later on, making it crucial to make good decisions right from the outset.

This buying guide is designed to introduce the types of materials handling equipment available to your business, and to help you make the right choice of equipment for your needs.

Before we begin

Before we dive into the nitty gritty of buying your materials handling equipment, let’s make sure we understand precisely what we’re talking about in terms of materials, equipment and the handling process itself.

What do we mean by ‘materials’?

If you’re looking for materials handling equipment, you could come from pretty much any type of business, industry or enterprise, because ‘materials’ can be pretty much anything you can think of. Whether you produce finished widgets for sale to the consumer, widget components for other businesses to make widgets from, or you refine the raw materials to make into widget components, you handle materials.

Materials could be liquid, food, chemicals, minerals, plastics, finished products, grain, salt, paper… anything that is produced and subsequently needs to be moved around is classed as a material in this context.

What is materials handling?

Material handling does not mean when a product is transported from the warehouse to the retailer for sale. It is generally more concerned with the short distance movement of materials within a building or between the building and the vehicle being used for distribution. The term ‘materials handling equipment’ encompasses a huge range of items, from small trolleys and containers to pallet trucks and scissor lift tables.

Materials handling is an important component of the manufacturing and logistics industry, which here in the UK contributes significantly to the nation’s economy. Almost every item you have in your home will have been through a material handling process at one time or another, whether on a conveyor or a pallet truck or something else.

Of the 2.6 million people employed in the UK’s manufacturing industry, all will have come into contact with material handling in some shape or form. Some, such as forklift drivers, will have a job that is 100 per cent concerned with material handling. All of these employees will tell you that having the right tools for the job is essential, and crucial to keeping the workplace safe and healthy for everyone.

What sorts of materials handling equipment might you need?

Materials handling equipment covers a wide range of appliances, accessories, tools and vehicles, all involved in the movement and storage of products. Most equipment falls into one of four categories, which are:

  1. Storage

If you need to store items, whether it’s for a day or a year, you’ll need storage facilities that fit the item in question. From tiny components to massive products, you’ll find plenty of options available in this category. We’re talking about things like:

  • Little bins, drawers, cubby holes and plastic boxes
  • Larger boxes and bins, stacking containers and storage trays
  • Shelves, racking for pallets and warehouse mezzanine systems
  • Cabinets, cupboards, drawer systems and more

Getting these products right is essential to your production process. You need your items to be stored in a safe, organised and flexible manner, so that you can quickly locate them if you need them again, and so that the space you have available is maximised.

  1. Engineered systems

These systems tend to be mechanical or robotic in nature, and serve to automate all or part of a process to improve efficiencies within your business. Although often operated by a human user, some of these systems can be programmed to work completely automatically, and to work in harmony with storage systems and other materials handling equipment to store and retrieve items in the warehouse.

Types of materials handling equipment in this category include:

  • Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS)
  • Conveyor systems
  • Automatic vehicles
  • Robotic systems of delivery

Engineered systems can be a big investment, even for larger businesses, so it’s important to select a solution that not only suits your business now, but will continue to grow and deliver tangible benefits for many years to come. Be aware of maintenance and servicing implications as time goes on.

  1. Trucks, trolleys and stackers

Industrial trucks, trolleys, jacks and stackers are the transportation and lifting solutions that allow you to move products and materials around your site safely and easily. They range from small, hand pulled trucks and trolleys to motorised carts, forklift trucks and other large machinery. Many trucks will have a powered lift, using mains or battery power to provide loading ability, although some are also available with manual lifts, which are usually hydraulically assisted for ease of heavy lifting.

Choosing the right equipment for your need will depend on a variety of factors. Check the loading capacity carefully to ensure you’re using the right type of truck for the job and be aware of the moving parts which may need maintaining or renewing in years to come.

  1. Bulk handling equipment

When you’ve got a lot of materials, you need a handling solution that makes your life easier and ensures a safe workplace. These types of equipment will store, transport and control all sorts of materials in a loose form, and can be used with liquids, foodstuffs, minerals and more. These pieces of equipment include:

  • Conveyors, conveyor belts and rollers
  • Stackers
  • Elevators
  • Silos and hoppers

Because these are large pieces of equipment requiring deep integration into your onsite processes, it’s crucial to choose the right product from the outset, as changing them later on can be a difficult and expensive job.

Figuring out your materials handling equipment needs will depend on what you’re handling, how often and how far, as well as any regulations surrounding the health and safety of your employees during the handling process.

Understanding health and safety of materials handling

Incorrect handling of materials at work is one of the biggest causes of injury in the workplace. From back injuries caused by handling heavy materials to chemical burns from spilled materials, failing to put in place the correct materials handling equipment could leave your employees at risk, and your business liable.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the following advice for employers, to help them avoid injury in the workplace caused by material handling mistakes:

  • Avoid: Try to reduce the need for manual materials handling by improving processes, and by considering if the next stage of the process can be conducted in situ. Arrange for raw materials to be delivered to their point of use, and make use of automation and handling aids where appropriate.
  • Control: To effectively manage the health and safety in the workplace, the risks from material handling should be carefully controlled. Think about what could go wrong, and whether there is anything you can do to reduce the risk and make the workplace and process a safer exercise. Risk assessments shouldn’t just be paperwork exercises; you should be looking for real, genuine hazards and ways to control or eliminate them.
  • Reduce: Reducing risk is a health and safety ‘must do’. In terms of materials handling, risk reduction should be done wherever it is reasonably practicable. This means striking a balance between the risk and the measures required to control the risk, in terms of investment, hassle and time.

As an employer, this does not mean that you need to go out and buy every expensive piece of material handling equipment available, however, if you feel a piece of equipment would reduce risk, and it is within budget and a usable item, you should definitely consider investing. Often, a piece of equipment that can reduce a risk will simultaneously improve productivity, making that sack truck a really attractive investment for everyone involved.

Do you need material handling equipment?

Some businesses run perfectly well without any material handling equipment at all, so how can you tell if your company would benefit from this type of investment. Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for, which may suggest that procuring assistive equipment could be beneficial for you:

  • About the task… are your employees:
    • Holding loads away from their bodies?
    • Making large vertical movements?
    • Carrying items for long distances?
    • Pushing or pulling strenuously?
    • Slowing their work rate to manage a process?
  • Are the loads:
    • Bulky, heavy or difficult to get hold of?
    • Unstable, awkwardly stacked or likely to move around during transit?
    • Dangerous, for example hot, sharp or toxic?
  • Is handling:
    • Repetitive, predictable and easily automated?
    • Restricted in efficiency due to the process?
    • Ongoing, regular and likely to increase?
  • If you already have handling aids, are they:
    • Correct for the job and well maintained?
    • Suited to the environment in which they work?
    • Appropriate for the person(s) using them?

If this checklist has thrown up any issues you were not previously aware of, you might be in a good position to review your current material handling equipment, and make plans to improve in the future.

HSE strongly recommend consulting with your employees before making any changes that might affect their health or safety in the workplace. Oftentimes, the workforce has a better overview of the health and ssafety issues in the business, and are more able to offer practical solutions to deal with them. This, and lots more useful advice, is available at the HSE website.

Buying your material handling equipment

Questions to ask yourself

Once you’ve decided that you do need equipment, it’s time to start narrowing down your options. Knowing which type of equipment is going to serve your business the best will help you make a wise investment, with a good potential for high ROI over the lifetime of the equipment. Ask yourself:

  • What needs to be moved? Animal, vegetable or mineral? It sounds daft, but starting at the very beginning with figuring out precisely what you’re moving is the best place to commence your search. Is it solid, liquid or gas? Is it hazardous, fragile or corrosive? All these things will help you start to eliminate options and narrow down your choice.
  • What weights will I be moving? Almost all new equipment will have a rated weight limit published in the product information. If you’re buying from a dealer or specialist, they will be able to help you find the right products for the range of weights you plan to move. It is essential that you stay well within the limits of the equipment to avoid it becoming a safety hazard.
  • How big are the items I will move? Aside of the weight of the materials, you’ll need to ensure any equipment you consider investing in is suitable for the dimensions of products you plan to use it with. Think about not only the materials in their loose or unboxed form, but also how big they are when they are packaged, crated or palletised for distribution.
  • How far will I be moving things? If items are going short distances, just from the production environment to a storage location, and only in small quantities, manual trolleys or carts will probably be sufficient. However, if you are moving greater distances or much more frequently, you would do better to consider motorised forms of transport such as forklifts, conveyors or tow tractors.
  • How high is my storage facility? If you plan to store items in a garage-height building, a scissor lift will probably do the job just fine. But if you’re storing in a lofty warehouse building, you’ll almost certainly need a mezzanine lifter, cherry picker or crane cage to make efficient use of the space. Consider also how the access to the warehouse is arranged, and think whether you’ll need to install ramps or purchase stair climber trucks to cope.
  • How much do I want to automate? There are pitfalls to be avoided in both over-automating and not automating enough. Under automating means you’re not taking advantage of all the available solutions, and have not planned for maximum efficiency. Over automating could result in you forcing a machine to work in a solution that it’s not really designed for, which could lead to breakdowns and reduction in productivity.
  • How much do I want to spend? Investing in your facilities should be done with confidence. As long as you make informed, intelligent decisions about the equipment you procure, you shouldn’t be worried about the capital expenditure, because you’re going to get it back and more in terms of efficiency savings. Set your budget by all means, but don’t be afraid to spend money in order to make money.

By answering these initial questions, you’ll be able to start narrowing down the types of material handling equipment that will do the job, and to start developing a shortlist of products that may be suitable for your needs. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular material handling aids and how to approach purchasing them.

Trucks and trolleys buying guide

Sack trucks and trolleys are one of our most popular products. They are easily stored, easy to use and incredibly versatile. With the help of one of these, it’s easy to transport heavy items around the building without risking injury or accident.

You can buy sack trucks in a whole host of different colours, styles, frames and specifications. Upon first inspection, it might all seem a bit daunting, with so many options from which to choose, so here’s what you need to know about buying a sack truck or trolley for your business.

  • A platform trolley or upright truck?

Platform trolleys are long, flatbed trolleys that have a solid deck and swivelling castor wheels underneath. The large deck means they are well suited to moving bulky items, but it does mean you have to manually lift the item onto the bed of the truck, which is not good if the item is very heavy. Some platform trolleys have brakes built into the handle, making them easy to control even down hills.

Sack trucks are upright movers, with a solid toe at the bottom which can slide under boxes and other items. This gives them an advantage in that they are able to easily lift and move heavier items without your manual intervention at all. However, the construction of these means they aren’t great for moving large or bulky items, as they would overbalance or fall off the side.

So, large and bulky but not too heavy is best for a trolley, and smaller, heavier things are better with the truck. But what if you need to move a variety of things? Or don’t really know what you’re going to move? Well, thankfully you don’t always have to decide!

We sell a range of 2 in 1 and 3 in 1 trucks which perform both jobs at once, making them super versatile and pretty much ready for anything. The largest capacity ones can handle up to 400kg in weight, and are a great choice if you have a variety of moving needs but only want to purchase one truck.

  • Steel or aluminium frame?

Most sack trucks are available in either aluminium or steel construction. Each comes with its pros and cons, and the right choice will depend on what it is you need to move.

Aluminium is incredibly light. This can make it easier to store your truck, and to move it around where rolling it on its wheels is not possible, such as when it’s being lifted into the back of a van. It’s easy to manoeuvre, and with aluminium’s natural resistance to rust, you can be confident it’s going to last a long time.

Steel framed sack trucks are incredibly strong and durable. Although heavier than the aluminium versions, they are much more heavy duty, and therefore able to carry a greater weight capacity than their aluminium counterparts. If you need something that can lift up to 300kg with ease, then our heavy duty steel sack trucks are a top choice.

  • Solid or pneumatic tyres?

Trucks and trollies are available with both solid wheels and air filled pneumatic wheels, and again, the correct choice for you will depend mainly on where and when you plan to use your truck.

Pneumatic, air filled tyres are just like those tyres you would have on your bike or car. The air inside makes them lightweight and springy, making these types of tyres ideally suited to bumpy or rugged terrain. The tyres go some way to absorbing the uneven lumps and bumps in the ground, making it easier to control your load and to avoid it becoming unstable or loose.

Solid tyres have one obvious advantage, and that is that they will never get a puncture from driving over a nail. They won’t go flat over time, and this means you can always rely on them to be ready for work. These are ideal for use on the solid, flat floor of a factory or workshop, but are not well suited to rough or uneven ground.

  • What type of handles?

You wouldn’t think there would be any issue with choosing the handles of your truck or trolley, right? Well, think again, because you’ve got to choose from P handles, dual handles and standard handles, and then decide if you want skids or not. Let us enlighten your decision-making process.

Standard handles - one for the left and one for the right hand. Having two separate handles like this is excellent for stability, and will ensure your truck is being well controlled and accurately manoeuvred. These are good for heavier loads.

P handles are a popular option, because the whole truck can be controlled from the P shaped extrusion at the back. This is done with just one hand, leaving the other hand free to open doors, steady the load and generally make itself useful. With lighter loads, this option is fine.

For those who want the best of both worlds, our dual handled trucks are the perfect choice. These have the left and right standard handles at the back, but also have a loop at the top which can be used one handed if necessary. This is a great half-way version which offers both flexibility and adaptability to suit a variety of situations.

Skids are the name given to the angled runners underneath the truck. These are very much like the ‘legs’ on a wheelbarrow, making contact with the ground and making it possible to lay the sack truck down for ease of loading or unloading. Whether you need these or not is entirely up to you, but they can be incredibly useful if you want to unload the items one at a time in a safe, secure manner.

  • Folding or fixed toe?

The ‘toe’ of your truck is the flat plate in front of the wheels, which is used to slide under the load and lift it up. These toe plates come in a range of sizes to suit your load, and are also available in either fixed or folding options.

A folding toe plate is usually larger than a fixed one, giving a larger loading area and therefore making it easier to use with a variety of load types. The plate folds away when not in use, which makes it easier to store and less of a trip hazard if it’s left hanging about.

A fixed toe plate, as the name suggests, does not fold away at all. Fixed models tend to be heavier duty, capable of lifting much heavier loads than a folding plate, although the loading area is smaller so they are best suited to small, heavy objects.

If you really can’t make your mind up, we do have a few models of truck that come with a small fixed toe and a larger, folding toe, making them more versatile and suitable for a range of situations. Talk to us if you need help locating them.

  • Do you need stair climber wheels?

If you’re lacking a lift, our stair climber trucks could be just what you need. These trucks use specialist stair climber wheels which are arranged in a triangular shape. This innovative arrangement of wheels means the truck will literally ‘climb’ any step it comes into contact with, making these a great choice for those who frequently have to move their loads up or down stairs or kerbs.

Here at Equip4Work, we have a full range of trucks, trolleys and stairclimbers, available to order from our website. Our budget sack trucks start from just £57, and we even have folding and telescopic trucks, which are great for taking to conferences, events and keeping in the back of your van. If you need more guidance on trucks, trolleys or any other material handling equipment, call us directly for friendly, professional advice.

Dollies and skates buying guide

High quality dollies and skates are an essential purchase if you plan to move heavy loads. In environments where the access is tight, where there are small doorways or awkward corners to navigate, or where height restrictions make life difficult, lifting heavy items to move them may not be an option. This is where these simple, yet useful, little products really come into their own, making even the most cumbersome load effortlessly manoeuvrable.

Here’s what you need to know about buying skates and dollies for your business, and how to use them safely.

  • How many skates?

You might think that placing a skate at each corner would be the most logical way to move a heavy item. However, this is not always a good idea. If you were to encounter any uneven ground during the moving process, the up and down would rock the machine from back to front or side to side. This will leave the weight unevenly distributed, potentially causing one of the skates to slide out from under the item, risking a major accident.

As much as you might think you’re traveling mainly on level surfaces, in reality this is not always the case. Ramps, older concrete, rough loading bays and other surfaces can often be bumpier than you think, so it’s not worth taking the risk with this loading formation.

A better way to arrange your skates is to use just three. This might sound counterproductive, but actually it makes a lot of sense. When you arrange three dollies in a triangular formation underneath a heavy weight, the weight pressing down on the dollies is more evenly distributed, even over an uneven surface. For this reason, we recommend purchasing three skates or dollies for most moving purposes.

However, some machines and objects do not have an even weight distribution themselves. This means you might need four, five or even more skates to move them safely. More dollies mean more chances of them slipping out over uneven ground, so when moving really large or awkward objects, it is recommended that you have one person monitoring each skate and take the moving task very slowly.

  • What about weight capacity?

Dollies and skates all have different load capacities, ranging from 150kg for our basket dollies up to 450kk for our heavy duty dollies. However, this weight capacity does not tell you everything.

As an example, if you were moving something of 750kg, you might think that using three x 250kg dollies would be sufficient. However, when travelling over uneven surfaces, the rocking of the object being transported can lay the weight unevenly on each skate, causing one to become overloaded and potentially to break. This risks and accident, and at best is going to cause all sorts of unwanted complications.

Consider that each dolly should be able to comfortably take the weight of their share of the load, with plenty in surplus. In the case of the object above, using three x 350kg dollies would be preferable, as it allows for some rocking of the weight and uneven distribution. Never overload your skates or dollies, as you risk them breaking, and the object you’re moving falling and hurting a member of staff.

  • Choosing your dollies or skates

Our dollies and skates come in a variety of configurations and finishes to suit your needs. Your choice of size, shape and construction will depend on what you plan to move, how far and how frequently.

Our carpeted dollies are a great choice for moving heavy items now and then. Available in three sizes, the carpeted surface means the exterior of the item being moved won’t be scratched or marked during the loading and moving process. The strong hardwood construction is high quality, and yet price competitively against some of our other plastic models.

For more frequent moves, our heavy duty plastic dolly has been designed to stand the test of time. It’s strong construction and robust finish makes it suitable to move up to 350kg per dolly. Alternatively our roller platforms are a great value choice, built from welded sheet steel for the ultimate in durability and strength. These are topped with ribbed rubber matting, keeping the load safely secured on the non-slip surface.

To make a good choice, think about what it is you’re planning to move. How heavy is it? How large is it? What surface will you move it over? Is it a one-off activity, or something you’ll need to do often? There are lots more options available in our dollies and skates section on our website, and if you need any further advice and guidance, please do get in touch.

Lifting tables buying guide

Lifting tables are an essential tool in many warehouses, manufacturing plants and processing facilities. They offer an affordable, easy to use alternative to expensive items like forklifts, and can be used to raise and lower boxes, pallets, machinery and other heavy items with ease. Usually they are used in storage areas, where items need to be raised into position to be logically stored.

Because of the investment required with a lifting table, it’s important to get the specifications right at the point of purchase. Buying a low-quality scissor lift table will only mean it wears out faster, and using it for a job which it was not designed for risks an accident, and is not advised. Here’s what you need to know about purchasing a lifting table for your business:

  • What is the weight capacity?

All lifting tables will have a published weight capacity. It is advisable to allow a buffer on the weight capacity, and never to load a scissor lift table to its absolute maximum. A good marker is to take the weight of your pallet and multiply it by 1.5 to give a good level of safety buffer on the capacity.

  • How high does the load need to go?

Our lifters range in maximum lift height from 740 to 1900 for the Britruck double lifter. If you need your load to go higher than this, it is advisable to consider stackers as an alternative, as these can lift much higher without becoming unbalanced. Along the same lines as our advice on not running up to the weight capacity if possible, you also should aim to not need the maximum height extension of your scissor lift either. The closer to the max the load gets, the more unstable it becomes, so try to leave a small buffer when choosing the height of your lifter.

  • Frequency of lifting

How often will you be using your lifting machinery? If it’s just a couple of times a day, then any of our products will do just fine. However, if you plan to use it several times an hour, you will need to look to a more heavy-duty model to ensure it has the capacity to cope.

  • Do you need stainless steel?

Stainless steel lifting tables are used mostly in the food processing environments where the lift regularly needs to be washed down. A stainless-steel construction means the lift is less prone to rusting and more hygienic than a painted model. Stainless steel lifts tend to be more expensive than other types, but will return your investment in longevity and their non-polluting nature. Our stainless-steel lifting table is manufactured entirely from 304 stainless steel, making it ideal for use in food prep areas. If you buy from another supplier, do make sure all components and mechanisms are also made from stainless steel, as some models feature parts that are not and will therefore rust more quickly.

  • How is the lifter controlled?

Lifting tables can be controlled manually, hydraulically assisted or can be powered by mains or battery, and can be controlled using the hands or the feet. Think about what your operators will be doing, how frequently they will use the lift, and whether they need hands free to steady the load or do other things while the lift is rising. Generally speaking, the more gadgets and technology you build in, the more expensive the lift will be, but if it improves efficiency and makes your operations work faster, it is often worth the extra investment.

  • Manufacturers details

With lifting tables and scissor lifts being so popular and expensive to buy, there are a lot of models coming in from unknown manufacturers which may be built more for price than performance. We have worked hard to secure lifting tables from brand names such as JCB and Britruck, providers well known for high quality equipment and excellent warranties to protect your investment against anything going wrong.

Investing in a scissor lift table can be a big decision for your company, particularly if you need something that’s going to be used regularly and is going to be strong enough to last. We can help you narrow down your options, and can ensure you purchase the right product for your needs. Tell us about your processes and application, and we’ll be happy to advise you on the best products for your needs.

General best practices when buying work equipment

Buying materials handling equipment is not so far removed from making any other major purchase decision for your business. The same principles apply, and by following standard best practice, you can ensure you’re getting a great product from a great supplier at a great price. Here are some top tips for purchasing work equipment in the best way possible:

Research your supplier

From well-known brands to obscure internet based suppliers, the choice is yours when it comes to materials handling equipment purchases. Don’t just buy from anyone though; do your homework to make sure they are a reputable, legitimate and trustworthy supplier before you agree to do business with them.

Red flags to watch out for when internet shopping include:

  • Security flags or warnings from your browser / anti-virus software when visiting their website
  • No reviews or feedback, or bad reviews and feedback
  • PO box addresses and no phone numbers on the site
  • Bad spelling, grammar and overall standard of English in the content
  • Prices that seem too low to be true
  • A very young, new business or website

One of the easiest ways to check a website’s authenticity is by using the ‘whois’ service to check who it belongs to and how long it has been operational. Some websites may be a mirror of an authentic website, so look for clues in the content that suggest they are not all they should be.

Even if the website is authentic, you should steer away from purchasing from very young, unproven companies. Their generous returns policy is not going to be much use if they’ve collapsed! Sticking to big brands and more established providers means you’re more likely to get the after sales support you deserve.

Look for reviews

Searching out product reviews is a great way to get a handle on the drawbacks as well as the benefits of different products. As much as it’s reassuring to read fistfuls of five star reviews singing the praises of the equipment you’re considering buying, sometimes it’s the one star reviews that tell you what you really need to know.

Don’t assume a bad review means it’s a bad product. Sometimes a product may have been bought for the wrong job, or used in the wrong way, and that’s why another user has reason to criticise. Bad reviews are an opportunity to find out what happens when things go wrong, and are a valuable asset in giving you a more balanced opinion of the product.

Compare prices

Not all suppliers are the same, so once you know which product you want to purchase, be sure to shop around for a great price. Comparing offers on like for like products has been made much easier thanks to online shopping, with price comparisons possible in just a few clicks, so there’s no excuse not to gather a few quotes before making your decision.

Sometimes it can be worth getting in touch with your prospective supplier to discuss the products and what they have available. Some suppliers will happily offer discounts to first time customers in order to secure their business, or to those who are ordering several things at once from them. Like they say, if you don’t ask…

As well as checking out headline prices, make sure you’re fully aware of all the other costs involved in the transaction. Some of the most commonly encountered unexpected charges include:

  • VAT: At 20 per cent, VAT can turn a bargain into a liability. Be aware of whether the price you see includes VAT or not before agreeing to a sale.
  • Import or export tax: Depending on where your business is based, and where your supplier is, you could be liable for import / export taxes or fees. Make sure you know the situation before ordering from overseas.
  • Delivery: At Equip4Work, we offer free delivery on most of our products to UK addresses. However, some suppliers will charge dearly for delivery, so be aware of the situation before you buy.
  • Express: If you need your materials handling equipment in a hurry, some providers will charge large amounts for express couriering items to you. Many of our products come with free next day delivery, but do check with other suppliers to avoid costly shipping.
  • Admin: Not many suppliers try to get away with an ‘admin’ fee these days, but it’s still worth checking your invoice to make sure you’re not being charged unnecessarily.

Of course, price is not everything when it comes to procurement for your business. You also need great customer care, high quality products and water tight warranties, so do evaluate your offers in terms of these other priorities too.

Buy what you need, but only what you need!

Finally, make sure you know what problems you are trying to solve before setting out, and try to stay focussed on those issues when making your selection. New technology has a seductive draw, which could mean you’re paying for features you really don’t need. Evaluate everything in terms of how much bang you’re getting for your buck, and try to look past gimmicky elements that have very little practical use.

While it’s important to invest your time and energy into planning your materials handling equipment purchases, do be aware of the endless decision making that is the plague of many warehouse improvement projects. The longer you spend stuck in the planning process, the more you’re missing out on the benefits of a more automated, more efficient business. Focus on building the best solutions for you, and don’t be afraid to invest big in order to reap the rewards.

Further information

For more advice on materials handling equipment and anything else on our website, get in touch with Equip4Work and we’ll be happy to help. Call today on 08444 999 222 or email us at sales@equip4work.co.uk