History of the Forklift

DAK Equipment & Engineering is the top warehouse design and layout consulting firm in the nation. We’ve leveraged our experience in order to bring you the best warehouse solutions to whatever you are struggling with, be it implementing automation systems or figuring out how to maximize your warehouse space. When you partner with DAK Equipment & Engineering, you’ll gain the strategy and the tools you’ll need to take your warehouse to the next level.

In our desire to build better warehouses of the future, we need to focus on what we’ve learned in the past. In our last blog post, we looked at the history of the pallet and discuss our K3 Werks Selective Pallet Racking systems, where we help you maximize your warehouse space through our Double Deep Pallet Racking system and our Cantilever Racking system. Furthermore, we can customize a warehouse mezzanine system in order to utilize the space above your head to its fullest potential. Today, we’ll take a look at another key invention that transformed the functionality and the efficiency of warehouses almost as much as the pallet: the forklift. Contact us today to get started!

What is a forklift?

The forklift is a machine that is designed to lift and move heavy items from one place to another. The forklift has two prongs in front that resemble a fork (hence the name) and they move up and down, similar to a fork.


Before the invention of the forklift, if humans wanted to move anything, it was usually by hand. Simple machines such as hoists, chains, and wenches were all that were available, which could basically only move items up and down. If you wanted to move items, you’d have to use an elementary conveyor line that still required human force and was extremely labor intensive.

In the late 1800s, humans began to think that there had to be a better way to lift things rather than with your back all the time. If some machine could be invented that had a platform with wheels, life would be great. When the advent of cars and trucks began to take hold, the idea of adding a platform to a truck was tried.

When World War I began, the need for such heavy lifting began to be accelerated. Here, platforms began to be able to be lifted and lowered. Lift trucks were invented as well and forks were added, and by 1920, the forklift truck that could lift loads off the ground and above the level of the truck was invented. Hydraulics and electronics soon began to be added, making the forklift easier to use and more powerful as well.

Forklifts skittered along, being seen as useful, yet at the same time inefficient with no new major innovations. Some warehouses embraced them; some didn’t. In 1923, an electric truck that could lift forks and the load up was considered to be the first true forklift and allowed items to be stored higher. However, at this point, pallets became the problem as they were usually either too small or too big to pick up. When standardization of pallets slowly began to take place in the 1930s and throughout the 1940s, the standardization of the forklift design began to take place as well. DAK Equipment & Engineering recognizes that it’s really hard to not have a forklift without pallets and vice versa. You really can’t get much done with just one.

Again, it was a world war, World War II, that spurned the forklift to the forefront of necessity and transformed the warehouse to what it is today. The demand to move large amounts of goods and services easily took center stage, and the modern forklift and its counterpart and partner in crime, the pallets, were born.


As you can imagine, the beginnings of forklifts were much like the Wild West — anything went. However, safety prevailed and cages were added and backrest for driver safety. The forklift is now better balanced to prevent tip overs. DAK Equipment & Engineering notes that the infamous beeping technology was added to warn others when a forklift was in operation.

Batteries were one of the first innovations in forklift; however, the shelflife of batteries were improved due to the constant use of forklifts in some industries and warehouses. Gasoline is a fuel source as well for the forklift, but increasingly, manufacturers are using electric technology in conjunction with batteries. There is no carbon emissions with battery-operated forklifts, which is great not only for workers who don’t have to worry about breathing in gas fumes, but also for reducing companies’ carbon footprint.

Computer technology has found its way into forklifts as well. Many of these systems are linked to the warehouse’s central inventory control system, making it easy for forklift operators to scan barcodes or read RFID chips. This is just one implementation that DAK Equipment & Engineering helps companies to implement in their warehouse design and logistics. This forklift innovation has made inventory much easier to manage and has allowed for real time data updates as to what is and what is not in a particular warehouse at any given moment. Fewer pallets are lost or misplaced in warehouses as well.


As our cell phones and tablets have shrunk, so have our machines with the goal or getting the same use but taking up less space, such as the Mini Cooper car. Forklifts themselves have followed this trend with smaller body designs. This enables them to turn with less space needed, and less space is needed between aisles, effectively increasing the size of your warehouse storage space just by decreasing the size of forklifts. This innovation has allowed for more pallet storage, which is more goods stored, which translates to higher profits — another great forklift innovation that is pushing warehouse technology into the future.

With more ergonomic seats and arrangements of the driving controls, forklift operators can sit for longer periods of time comfortably and without tiring. Forklifts can now be ordered customized to the hilt, much like cars and trucks, so warehouse operators can get exactly what they want and need out of a forklift.


Safety continues to improve with forklifts as well. Have beeping forklift machines is great, but what if your warehouse is playing music, or your employees have headphones on while they do their jobs? Talking on the phone or even just staring at the ground, lost in thought are common ways that people and forklifts collide in warehouses. Now, there are blue lights that shine out in front of forklifts to warn people that a forklift is coming.


As a warehouse business, you have to be constantly innovating if you are to keep up with your competitors. You have to be better than them and one step ahead in this cut-throat world dominated by the internet, social media, and strong platforms.

DAK Equipment & Engineering has taken warehouse logistics and design services to the next level. When you partner with us, we’ll first do a warehouse needs analysis and assessment, focusing on your operations, we collect performance information to create a baseline in order to develop a strategic plan to take your warehouse where it wants to be in the future. Our mission is to not only maximize the areas that are glaring examples of inefficiencies, such as lacking a mezzanine floor, but also to take the areas that are operating “good enough” and turn those into exemplary operations.

DAK Equipment & Engineering also offers space planning services, where we analyze your warehouse workflow and implement a warehouse layout optimization plan in order to use every single square foot to its ultimate potential, even corners. Our K3 Werks custom pallet racking system can take your warehouse to new heights.

In essence, DAK Equipment & Engineering has years of experience in warehouse design and layout consulting services to help your warehouse meet the needs of the future. Contact us today to get started!

Built by Clique Studios