Modern warehouses contain all kinds of materials and goods. They also have different racking systems, aisle widths, and packing requirements. Forklifts keep materials moving efficiently under a wide range of conditions. Specialized warehouse forklift types help business owners and managers meet the ever-changing demands of today's storage and shipping facilities.
Warehouses themselves have changed to meet the growing demand for products shipped directly from storage facilities to retail customers. Forklifts, the traditional workhorses of every warehouse, have also been redesigned to improve the efficiency of handling materials.
The counterbalance forklift is probably the most common of all the popular warehouse forklift types. This is what people generally imagine when they think of a forklift. These squat little trucks are found in just about every warehouse in the country.
With three or four wheels, they are powered by electricity, liquid propane, or diesel fuel. They can turn on a dime. The counterbalance design allows them great maneuverability in tight spaces and is useful for moving pallets or slip sheets of goods around the warehouse.
This traditional design is also key on a loading dock. The low profile of these trucks allows them to clear overhead obstacles, such as doorways, with ease. A counterbalance forklift will typically have a lift capacity between 2,000 and 7,000 pounds.
Because the base of the truck has such a small footprint, lift height is somewhat limited by the weight of the load. The higher the racking and the further the reach from the base of the forklift, the lower the maximum lift capacity. This formula is true of all forklifts, but other forklift types handle very high racking better than most standard counterbalance vehicles.
One other limitation of the counterbalance forklift is width. An increase in the cost of warehouse space has led to two major changes in warehouse design: Racking is taller to take advantage of vertical space, and warehouse aisles are narrower to allow maximum use of the floor area.
Sit-down forklifts can do a lot of the heavy lifting, but when it comes to working in the aisles, other warehouse forklift types are more efficient.
The narrow aisle reach truck is ideal for working in these space-efficient aisles with high racking. These forklifts are true to their name: They are slim and built to work in tight spaces less than 10.5 feet wide. The base of these vehicles easily drives up and down these narrow aisles.
The reach truck design allows for complete maneuverability in the modern warehouse along with an exceptionally high reach. Generally, this type of forklift has two wheels directly under the operator for extremely tight turning of the narrow truck body and heavy arms to balance and stabilize the load.
Masts on this type of warehouse forklift are fitted with multi-stage lift channels, designed to lift loads up to 60 feet safely. As with all warehouse forklift types, the maximum height of the reach is limited by the weight of the materials, but a reach truck handles high lifting better than the other designs.
The order picker is another narrow-aisle forklift design. It's similar in style to a reach truck, but it serves a different purpose. An order picker forklift doesn't just raise and lower loads to be placed on racking or retrieved from storage. This type of forklift carries the operator up to the materials on the racking, allowing an order to be put together one item at a time.
These forklifts have either an open platform or a safety cage for the operator, with space to allow the worker to collect and assemble items for orders.
The main advantage of an order picker is that the driver doesn't have to lower an entire pallet of product to the floor in order to retrieve items. Products can be selected and added to the order right from the racking. This method of collecting items greatly improves efficiency for putting together small or mixed orders.
With the shift in popularity from brick-and-mortar stores to online shopping, more sellers are shipping goods directly from warehouses to retail customers. Order picker forklifts make it cost-effective to direct ship products this way.
Forklifts come in various designs to suit the needs of various applications. Regardless of which style will fit your business best, you will also need to decide how you want to power your lift truck. All the popular warehouse forklift options can be electric or combustion-engine powered.
The advantages of electric-powered forklifts include lower maintenance costs over the years, quieter vehicles, and cleaner air in the warehouse. Electric motors don't create exhaust, which can be a big help, especially if your warehouse is short on ventilation.
Electric models cost more to purchase than combustion-engine-powered vehicles, which is the main downside to these clean-running forklifts.
One major advantage of diesel or liquid propane gas models is that your forklift will cost less upfront. These gas-powered trucks can also work back-to-back shifts because they don't require charging time in between.
Liquid propane or diesel forklifts generally require more maintenance than electric vehicles. They also generate exhaust fumes and can be noisy in the workplace.
Choosing the right warehouse forklift all comes down to your specific needs. When you're shopping for your next lift truck, consider the layout of your facility and what products you'll be handling. To select the vehicle that provides the best performance for your business, you'll also want to decide what you need in the way of height and lift capacity.
Once you've decided on the style, capabilities, and fuel type that will suit you best Industrial Forklift Truck is here to help you compare a wide range of both new and used lift trucks. We have warehouse forklift types of all kinds and will help you find an excellent price on the right machine for your needs.