Depending on their intended use, there are different types of forklifts in terms of size and power. However, no matter what kind of forklift you operate, safety should always come first. OSHA requires all operators to complete a safety training course.
Choose a forklift that matches your work environment. Consider factors such as fuel type and whether you will use it indoors or outdoors on surfaces like concrete.
If your warehouse requires picking items off the shelf rather than placing them on a pallet, an order picker is a forklift for you. Order pickers have a raised platform that lets you select items from higher shelves than standard forklifts.
An order picker can be guided with either wire or rail guidance systems. Wire guidance uses a powered guidewire buried in the ground to steer your VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) lift truck. This system helps reduce equipment damage and avoid injuries because your forklift cannot turn on the spot.
Rail guidance systems use physical rails mounted to the floor of your warehouse aisles that help guide your VNA lift truck. This method can be safer and more efficient than a wire-guided system because you do not have to worry about your forklift accidentally running into something while turning. The Jungheinrich EKS 314 high-level order picker has industry-leading run times and is guaranteed to run two shifts on one battery charge in most applications.
Often considered the ‘workhorses’ of warehouses, Counterbalance forklifts are vital to transport bulk loads around the facility. These forklifts typically have three hydraulic levers, allowing drivers to lift, lower, and tilt their load and shift it from side to side.
Their name comes from the counterweights attached to their rear, which offset the weight of the load they are carrying, utilizing the first-degree lever principle. This allows the forklift to drive up to a load, offering a solid connection and a safe lift.
Featuring either IC or battery electric engines, these forklifts can be operated indoors and outdoors. They offer consistent power that does not waver as the battery drains, meaning operators can work more efficiently and safely. Battery electric forklifts are also more environmentally friendly than their IC counterparts, as they do not produce any harmful exhaust emissions. Different types of forklifts do not require a dedicated fuel station and can be easily charged overnight. This reduces downtime and increases productivity.
To those outside the warehousing world, forklifts and reach trucks look similar. However, these specialized models are vital for handling high-capacity loads in very narrow aisles in highly innovative warehousing and material handling.
Compared to counterbalance forklifts, which can handle heavy loads in many different environments and be powered by diesel, propane, or electric, reach trucks are best suited for warehouse environments with multi-level racking systems and require a minimum aisle width of 2.4m to operate safely. They are designed to transport materials between elevated levels up to 13 meters high.
Like their sit-down forklift cousins, reach truck operators drive the machine using a steering wheel, gear selector, and pedals. However, unlike most counterbalance forklifts operated from a sitting position, most reach trucks are designed to be driven in a side-seated operator stance, reducing back strain and offering better visibility. Like their electric counterparts, reach trucks can also be powered by various power sources, including diesel, propane, or electric battery.
With growing e-commerce demands, warehouse owners must increase efficiency and reduce costs. One way to do this is by switching from gasoline or propane forklifts to electric ones. Electric forklifts are cheaper to run and require fewer maintenance parts, reducing the overall cost of ownership.
These forklifts also produce zero emissions, reducing their environmental impact. This is particularly important for facilities with indoor operations.
Electric forklifts are less costly to maintain because they do not need oil or fuel. Changing and charging batteries is more accessible, too, since you do not have to worry about spills or fire hazards. However, when changing a battery, use proper lifting equipment and follow the correct safety protocol.
Several types of electric forklifts include pallet jacks, order pickers, and walkie stackers. These forklifts can handle different loads and maneuver in tight spaces. Their compact build and maneuverability also make them safer in warehouses. With fewer controls to operate, drivers can stay focused on the job at hand and improve safety for themselves and those around them.