Forklifts

How to Choose the Right Forklift for Your Business Needs

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December 18, 2023

Running a warehouse efficiently requires the right forklift. Finding the ideal one for your business is more involved than you might think. It’s crucial to consider a number of factors to choose the forklift that will optimally serve your business’s needs. Use this guide to determine which priorities are most important to your operation when selecting a lift truck.

Assess Your Requirements

Choosing the right forklift for your business means looking at everything you need it to do. To find the right warehouse forklifts and machinery, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Warehouse layout and size: Your forklift must traverse your warehouse space easily. A narrow aisle forklift is better for your layout if there are tight spaces between shelves. Depending on your warehouse’s layout, a lift truck’s manoeuvrability is important. If goods are stored on tall shelves, your forklift must also reach your required heights. Keep all dimensions and sizes of your operating area in mind when looking at the specs of potential options.
  • Load capacity: Another necessity to remember is the weight of your average load. Do you need lift trucks to handle heavy materials, or are they mostly used for lighter items? Your equipment should be strong enough to meet these requirements.
  • Noise and emissions: Depending on where your warehouse is located, you may need to use lift trucks that make less noise. Electric motors are usually the safest bet for smaller warehouses and those in urban areas. They are quieter than their diesel counterparts and produce fewer emissions. In a smaller warehouse with lift trucks that produce a lot of emissions, the air quality can quickly decline.
  • Terrain: If your warehouse operation takes place indoors, look for cushion tires designed to improve maneuverability. Pneumatic or solid tires are best if your forklift trucks need to go outdoors or across rough terrain. Your choice of forklift needs to be able to handle the terrain comfortably.

Types of Forklifts

When it comes to how to choose the right forklift, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options available. The different types of forklifts include: 

  • Reach truck: These are the ideal choice for warehouses with tall shelves. A reach truck forklift excels at reaching and is best for loading and unloading deep pallets and high pallets. It can also easily navigate through narrow aisles. The fork is able to extend higher to reach and retrieve items on tall shelves safely.
  • Narrow aisle: Narrow aisle forklifts specialize in easy navigation, operator comfort, safety features and improved handling. They are a cost-effective and versatile option for any warehouse operation.
  • Counterbalance: The counterbalance forklift is the most commonly used type in the warehousing industry. They are incredibly reliable and designed to handle heavy loads while balancing the weight. The small turning radius makes it easy to manoeuvre and control. It can drive right up to a load rather than needing to reach out to access it.
  • Pallet jack: Designed to move pallets, this is an ideal option for loading and unloading palletized loads of various shapes, sizes and weights. With a compact size and small turning radius, pallet jacks can navigate tight spaces on your warehouse floor.
  • Articulated: Articulated or swing mast forklifts can easily handle materials in narrow spaces. The fork platform can turn left and right without moving the lift truck itself. This feature makes it a perfect fit for accessing loads in small spaces.
  • Side loader: This type of narrow aisle forklift has a side-mounted fork rather than a front-mounted one. They can rotate 90 degrees while carrying a load.
  • Order picker: As the name implies, this forklift assists with order-picking operations. Their forks are made to access and load products during the picking process. They can reach heights of 40 feet, and carry pallets for loading and picking up specific items.

The engine type is a major factor when figuring out how to choose the right lift truck for your warehouse. Electric engines are quieter, battery-operated with no refuelling required, eco-friendly and low-maintenance. Gas engines are cheaper, more powerful, faster than electric engines and better for navigating difficult terrain. When considering your options, keep the differences between electric and gas engines in mind.

Other Considerations

Outside of practicality and use, it’s important to consider safety and cost when making your decision. Safety considerations include:

  • Operator training and certifications: Your staff must be qualified and able to handle your forklifts. If you choose an option that requires extra training to safely operate, you must factor in the costs and time needed for training. 
  • Safety features: Braking systems, seat belts, lights, alarms and other safety features are vital components that must keep your workers safe and be appropriate for the spaces they will be used in. For example, good brakes and warning systems are important in busy warehouses so they can react to and warn workers in their path.
  • Maintenance and inspections: Your lift truck must be easy to maintain and keep in working order. Passing inspections is a vital part of forklift ownership and warehouse management, and must be considered when deciding which forklift to choose.

Factors affecting cost include:

  • Initial investment: Make sure you can afford the initial investment of your chosen machine. You can save money by looking for bargains or buying pre-owned or refurbished equipment. Sometimes, renting is an affordable option based on your needs.
  • Operating costs: Maintenance expenses and fuel or electricity are operational costs that must be planned for before purchasing to ensure you can afford to keep your entire fleet operational.
  • Longevity: Your equipment must be able to last enough time to be worth the investment. Look at product specifications and read about the experiences others have had with the same model.

Find the Right Forklift With YIT

When choosing the right lift truck for your business, it’s important to work with the right provider. YIT is a certified Yale distributor, and we have the expertise to help you make the right decision. Whether you are looking for a forklift for rent or want to add a new addition to your fleet, you can find the perfect option in our comprehensive product catalogue.

To learn more about our offerings and what we can do for you, call us at (905) 851-6620 or contact us online today for a quote.

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