Selecting the Right Forklift for your Business
Forklifts are indispensable pieces of machinery at manufacturing, lumber, distribution and warehouse locations. They are used indoors and outdoors to lift and move heavy shipments, drums, spools and specific kinds of loads. A variety of lift trucks and accessories are available in the market to suit the different requirements.
Characteristics of forklifts
Forklifts are characterized by features such as:
Forklifts can lift weights from 3000 pounds (lbs) to 35000 lbs. Lifting capacity is an important factor to avoid the forklift's breakage due to misuse, and for your own safety. The dimensions of the load should also be within the forklift's capacity to lift comfortably.
Reach of the forklift
The forklift should be able to reach the shelves at your warehouse or distribution store. Extendable forks allow "double deep" loading - stacking loads in a series.
Width of the forklift truck
The forklift should be narrow enough to operate and turn around freely in the aisles at warehouses. Standard forklifts allow for 11 inch or wider aisles. Many warehouses have narrow aisles to increase the warehouse capacity. Narrow aisle forklifts can operate in 8-10 inch wide aisles while very narrow aisle forklifts can operate in aisles that are only 6 inch wide. This is managed by allowing the forklift to turn at right angles towards the shelves, without turning the truck.
Types of tires
Forklifts can have three kinds of tires - pneumatic, cushion and solid pneumatic tires. Pneumatic tires are filled with compressed air, have good traction and are ideal for outdoors. Cushion tires are made of solid rubber, are non-marking, and used in electrical forklifts that work indoors. Solid pneumatic tires are a combination of both. They are suitable for rough terrain as they do not get flats. Pneumatic tires are costlier than cushion tires, while solid pneumatic cushion tires are the most expensive.
Forklifts can be powered electrically or by internal combustion engines fueled by gasoline, diesel, liquid propane gas or compressed natural gas. Electric forklifts are costlier than internal combustion forklifts, but offer these advantages over them - longer life, no fuel storage requirement, quiet operation, lower hourly cost of operation, and no emissions. Internal combustion engines have the advantages of better speed and acceleration and high load capacity. Long battery charging periods can be avoided.
Some forklifts allow the operator platform to be raised along with the forklift. This allows the operator better control and visibility over the task.
Forklifts are equipped with safety features such as headlights, reverse beepers, backrest extensions, overhead guard, etc.
Attachments for specific loads
Forklifts can be accessorized with the right tools to allow handling of specific types of loads such as tongs for drums, flat panels, etc.
The forklift operator can place the load precisely by moving the load right or left without moving the truck.
Moving and tilting the mast forward and backward allows better control on loads if they are not level and while the truck is moving.
The operator's seat should be comfortable and adjustable. The controls should be reached easily. As operators work long hours, this prevents stress injuries.
Forklift dealer services
If the forklift is not going to be used for more than 4 hours per day, you should consider purchasing a used forklift rather than a new one. You should work with a dealer who has insurance, has been in the business a while, and has sufficient skilled technicians. Services offered by dealers may include:
- lease and financing options
- preventive maintenance plans
- on-site service and other service plans
- guaranteed response time in case of breakdowns
- inventory and spare parts stock
- on-site trial periods
- operator trainings and licensing as per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
A forklift is a worthwhile investment as it can improve the efficiency of your operations many times over. Make sure the forklift has all the features to satisfy your needs. Purchase the forklift from a dealer who offers quality services along with a good price.