Forklifts are an essential and powerful tool for any warehouse operation. They can do work and lift objects that humans cannot. Their speed and strength make it possible to move large, heavy objects around a storage facility and onto trucks easily. To accomplish the work they do manually would take too much manpower and time. There are many factors to consider when deciding on what equipment is best for a warehouse operation. With so many kinds of forklifts in a warehouse, it’s hard to keep forklift certification training up to date, let alone finding the right one. Productivity and efficiency depend on if you have the right forklift on the floor and properly trained operators. The challenge for managers is sifting through all the available equipment to find what’s best for them. Below, we provide a breakdown of the different kinds of powered industrial trucks in a warehouse to help you decide which one is best for your operation.
Forklifts come with either an electric or an internal combustion engine. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. A large, rechargeable battery powers an electrical truck, and it also serves as a counter balance. Electric motors are best suited for a closed warehouse environment that must always keep the doors closed. The electric motor doesn’t release noxious emissions into the air like an internal combustion engine. This kind of forklift has grown in popularity because it doesn’t require fuel, oil, and coolant, and it makes less noise and has less vibration, which cuts down on driver fatigue. Multiple charging stations are set up so that at the end of a shift the truck can charge and be ready for the next shift.
Internal Combustion Motors
Internal combustion engine forklifts can be used indoors or outdoors. They’re ideal for outdoor operations because their emissions pose less of a threat to drivers. Different fuel sources power these trucks, such as propane, gasoline, and diesel fuel. Unlike an electric truck, they can operate in the rain and other inclement weather. Refueling is much faster and easier, and they will run longer than a battery. A single charge on a battery is not enough to keep a truck moving beyond an eight-hour shift. One tank of fuel will power a truck much longer. If you have an indoor operation and the infrastructure to set up recharging stations is not in place for electric trucks, gas powered equipment is a better option. Proper ventilation systems should be put in place to ensure operators do not breath harmful gasses, though.
A walkie/rider is a type of motorized pallet jack. They usually come with battery power and are rechargeable. They get their name because the operator can choose to walk with the truck or stand on it and ride it. Either way is appropriate and safe. In a large warehouse, this kind of truck will keep the driver from having to walk all the time and cut down on driver fatigue. They’re also ideal in pick and pack operations, so the operator doesn’t have to get anything from an elevated location.
Pallet jacks come either motorized or manual. Motorized pallet jacks are battery powered, and they can come with forks long enough to hold one, two, or three pallets at once. An operator will walk alongside a standard pallet jack. The operator uses hand controls to adjust the speed, so they can travel at whatever pace they want. A jack will lift a pallet off the floor high enough to move and load it on a truck but no more, so there are limits to what they can do.
If you were to compare a scissor lift to an animal, it would be an elephant. It’s a large, lumbering machine that is incredibly strong. A scissor lift raises a platform straight up and can hold one to three people. A simple joystick operates, raises, lowers, and steers the lift. They can reach areas in a warehouse that aren’t accessible with a ladder, which is mainly the ceiling. Maintenance crews will use them to replace light bulbs or make repairs to anything suspended from the ceiling. They move incredibly slow, but they’re tall enough to lift a man 30 to 60 feet in the air. Four wheels and wide a base give the scissor lift great stability, so they don’t sway and can move while the platform is elevated.
Order pickers are a versatile machine. An operator stands on a platform with forward facing controls, like a forklift, and forks on the back of the picker can carry a pallet to load parts onto. Order pickers will rise into the air so that the operator can pick parts from overhead locations up to 30 feet in the air. The operator drives the order picker with hand controls, and there is a dead man’s switch in case of an emergency. A full safety harness is worn by the operator, and it clips onto a heavy-duty bracket in case they fall off the platform.
Sit-Down or Stand-Up Trucks
Standard forklifts come in either sit-down or stand-up models. The sit-down style operates much like a car. There is a steering wheel, a gas pedal, and a brake pedal. They tend to be larger than stand-up models and are more comfortable for the driver. The heights that a sit-down truck can reach are limited, and they’re used more to load and unload trailers. A stand-up truck is better in tight environments where racking is close together because they don’t take up as much space as a sit-down. There is no steering wheel or pedals on a stand-up truck; all controls are in one hand and steering is done with the other.
Reach trucks are very versatile machines. They’re ideal for narrow isles with tall racks. A reach truck has specialized forks that will extend away from the mast, so pallets can be put in place without the truck moving forward. They usually come as stand-up and electric trucks with hand controls. Reach trucks have a compact design, which gives them a tight turn radius, so they can reach areas that a standard forklift will not. An extra tall mast can allow the driver to lift pallets up to 36 feet high. That feature makes it possible for the engineers laying out a warehouse design to make racks taller in order to maximize warehouse space.