As you may have noticed, one of the few things in the material handling world that DAK Equipment doesn’t sell are forklifts. Instead, we decided to focus on the design and installation of customized material handling systems.
That said, just because we don’t sell lift equipment doesn’t mean we don’t understand it. After all, to do an expert job in a warehouse or distribution center, we need to be able to design to the lift truck’s capabilities or help you select a model that will meet your business needs alongside the storage system.
Today I’ll be talking about what you need to know to select your lift equipment.
Seven Things to Understand about Lift Trucks
- Load Capacity. This is simply the maximum weight a forklift can lift and move. After all, if it can’t pick up your product and move it, it’s useless. Note that the rated load capacity is for a load centered on the forks. Off center loads reduce the capacity. Unusually shaped loads can affect capacity as well so be sure to work closely with your dealer if you need to move anything that’s awkwardly shaped.
- Lift Height. This is the highest point at which the forklift can safely lift its load capacity. This is important because you’ll want to take advantage of all the vertical space in your facility. If the forklift can’t get high enough, you’re wasting valuable storage space. Bear in mind that typically, the higher up the forklift goes, the less it can lift.
- Power Source. Forklifts can be powered by either internal combustion (propane, gas or diesel) or electric. While we’re fans of propane trucks in our own distribution center because of the ease of refueling and low cost of propane, electric trucks can last 20 to 30 percent longer than internal combustion forklifts.
- Environment. Where your lift truck functions is an important part of the selection process. Will it go outdoors? If so, how’s the terrain? If it’s rough, you’ll want tires and suspension that can handle it. If it needs to enter a docked truck to load or unload, it needs to fit.
- Turning Radius. The amount of rack (and as a result, products) you can store in your facility is at least partially based on the forklift turning radius. The aisle size between rows of racking must be wide enough for the lift truck to turn and place or remove pallets. The smaller the truck’s turning radius, the narrower the aisles can be, allowing for more storage. For example, a stand-up reach truck can operate in a narrower aisle than a four wheel sit-down counter balanced truck but cannot manage rough terrain and the lifting capacity is generally lower. A very narrow aisle (VNA) rack design combined with order picker forklifts can eliminate the turning radius entirely.
- Price. While ensuring that the lift truck meets your needs is important, we both know that the cost is always part of the decision making process. For lift equipment the initial purchase price is actually the smallest of your expenses. Ongoing maintenance and repair costs are much larger, so be sure to research that aspect before purchasing. Also bear in mind that by carefully selecting your lift equipment and storage system you can reduce your labor expense, which is by far the largest cost in operating a facility.
- Service and Support. If your facility operates 24-7, you’ll want a forklift dealer that offers around-the-clock service as well. Be sure to check any available reviews and look for award-winning support as well.
I mentioned price above and the fact that the greatest expense isn’t the purchase price of the lift equipment but the ongoing maintenance and repair. While that’s true, the thing that can cost you the most is a lack of sufficient operator training. Damage to the truck and other equipment, worker’s compensation (or worse!) and OSHA fines can add up to truly frightening numbers. So make sure that your operators are trained, follow their training and participate in refresher courses as needed. You’ll thank me later.
As always, if you have any questions or would like additional information, simply get in touch.