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For businesses that carry stock in warehouses or yards, there are 6 main types of machines used to move goods around. You will almost certainly need at least one of them, but there may be a case for multiple machines to cover different scenarios.
Before choosing any of these machines, you will need to have a training and induction program for your team. Forklift training is essential, for example.
Manual pallet jacks
These are human-powered trolleys with a fork to go under pallets. Using a hydraulic jack they pump the forks up so that the pallet sits just off the ground. They can then be wheeled around. Pallet jacks are dangerous for use on ramps as heavy loads can overwhelm the operator. However, they are inexpensive and can lift in excess of 2000kg.
When are manual pallet jacks a good choice:
- Level, flat ground indoors
- Palletised goods
- Fit workers
- Tight spaces
- Low budget
- Light goods
- No reason to lift goods above shoulder height
Electric pallet jacks
Sometimes called walkies, jiffies or pedestrian-operated forklifts, these range from powered versions of a manual pallet jack, to walk-behind forklifts and ride-on pallet jacks where the operator stands on a platform. Typical capacities are 1000-3000kg and, if they have a mast, they will function like a small forklift.
When are electric pallet jacks a good choice?
- Level, flat ground, indoors or smooth outdoors
- Gentle ramps
- Palletised goods
- Larger distances to move objects
- Tight spaces – not enough for a forklift
- Mid-level budget
- Light and medium goods
- Low- and mid-height lifts
- Average usage levels (they can be recharged at the end of each shift)
These are ride in or ride on trucks with greater lifting capacity. The mode of power can be electric, diesel, petrol, LPG or hydrogen. Obviously, anything that gives off fumes should not be used in an enclosed space. They also come with a wider range of attachments for lifting different kinds of goods, and (with the right wheels) can be used on a variety of surfaces.
When are forklift trucks a good choice?
- Mostly level ground, indoors or outdoors
- Ramps and gradients
- Off-road use (if the forklift is designed for it)
- Lots of freight to move over long distances
- Larger spaces (unless narrow-aisle forklifts are used)
- Taller racking
- Requirements for attachments such as barrel clamps, rotators, bale clamps, carpet prongs, etc
- Heavy loads – from 1000-40000kg (depending on forklift specification)
The most common type of crane used in warehouses and yards is a gantry crane, although there are truck loader cranes, jib cranes, bridge cranes and workstation cranes. This can be fixed or mobile and can usually accommodate different lifting attachments. Dedicated mobile cranes for containers are available.
When is a gantry crane a good choice?
- Very heavy loads
- Crane can be built into the building or yard – needs space for the rails or wheels
- Loads need to be suspended (e.g. in workshops)
- Containerised loads (although, large forklifts can also accommodate standard shipping containers)
- Slung loads which are awkward in shape
- Very long loads
A telehandler is a four-wheeled mobile crane with the ability to use multiple attachments on the boom, like a forklift. They are commonly used on farms and building sites.
When is a telehandler a good choice?
- Rough or smooth ground
- Tall lifts from a distance (using an extendable boom)
- Versatility of attachments is required
- Light and medium loads
Scissor lifts lift one or two people and equipment to height. They are frequently used for maintenance rather than stock picking or movement; order pickers are the stock-picking equivalent of a scissor lift. Where more space is available and a higher lift is required, a boom lift can be used.
When is a scissor lift a good choice?
- Narrow aisles
- The person needs to be lifted with goods or tools
- Light weights