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Choosing the right forklift

Forklifts are used for the handling of heavy objects and warehousing, mainly in the manufacturing industry. They are counterbalanced carts, powered by battery or motor. They have a hydraulic mast at the front with several forks. Forklifts are mounted on three or four wheels and are steered by the rear wheel(s)

Choosing the right forklift is important for your company, as it affects operating costs, productivity and inventory management. There is a wide range of forklifts available, and each model is designed to carry out specific tasks.

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  • How to choose a forklift?

    When choosing a forklift, the main criteria to consider are the carrying capacity, lifting height, type of motor, tire composition and operator ergonomics.

    There are several types of motor available:

     

    The specificity of your work site is a determining factor in choosing the right equipment:

    • indoor or outdoor operation
    • height constraints
    • the accessibility of the elements to be transported
  • Why use an electric forklift?

    Electric forklifts are mainly used indoors:

    Advantages: 

    • Emissions: they are more environmentally friendly because they don’t give off any fumes. This is why they are preferred for indoor use as it is not necessary to have a ventilation system.
    • Size: as they don’t require a fuel tank, they are more compact and therefore easier to handle and store.
    • Service life: they don’t require much maintenance. The battery is easily replaceable so the the forklift’s lifespan is longer.
    • Inexpensive maintenance.
    • Noise level: as there is no combustion, they are not as noisy as other types of forklift.

     

    Disadvantages: 

    • Operation can be influenced by the environment, for example by humidity or cold.
    • The initial investment is higher than for models with combustion engines.
  • Why use a diesel forklift?

     Diesel forklifts have higher operating costs and should be favored for outdoor use.

    Advantages: 

    • Carrying capacity: they have a higher carrying capacity than electric forklifts (120,000 lbs for a diesel engine versus 12,000 lbs for an electric motor).
    • Autonomy

     

    Disadvantages: 

    • Use fossil fuels
    • Emissions: not suitable for indoor work.
    • Higher purchase price than gasoline forklifts and fluctuating operating costs (depending on the cost of diesel).
    • More cumbersome than electric forklifts.
  • Why use a gas forklift?

    Gas forklifts use a combustion engine that operates on liquid propane gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG)

    Advantages: 

    • Quick to fill the tank.
    • Long lifespan.
    • Can be used both indoors and outdoors.
    • Low environmental impact.

     

    Disadvantages: 

    • The tank at the back of the forklift is bulky and can block visibility.
    • Higher maintenance cost than other types of motor.
  • Motor comparison table

     

    Load Speed Use Pollutant
    Diesel 0 to 50 tonnes 25-40 km/h Outdoor Yes
    Gas 0 to 6 tonnes <25 km/h Indoor and outdoor Limited
    Electric 0 to 3 tonnes 25-40 km/h Indoor No

    * Handling distance

  • Should you choose a reach or a counterbalance forklift?

    Counterbalance forklift

    This type of forklift is preferred for extremely heavy loads. A dense mass at the rear of the machine counterbalances the load on the front fork. Mainly used indoors and on smooth surfaces, this type of forklift is equipped with adjustable support legs. Counterbalance forklifts are most commonly used in warehouses. They are also available in a three-wheel version, useful in confined spaces.

    Reach forklift

    Reach forklifts offer maximum lifting capacity with incredible maneuverability and, for these reasons, they are best suited to recovering goods stored high in warehouses, logistics companies or distribution centres. Reach forklifts are designed to operate in narrow aisles.
    The mast stabilizes the forklift by holding the cab and driver on one side with the fork and forklift on the other.

  • How to choose from among the different types of forklift?

    The order picker: ideal for handling, lifting and stacking. Its load capacity is about 1 to 2 tonnes. This type of forklift’s advantages include good travel speed and maximum comfort of use. It is only suitable for leveled ground with a maximum slope between 5 and 10%. It is designed to optimize the picking of stock on both sides of a warehouse corridor.

    The electric three-wheel counterbalance forklift: one or two guiding wheels are mounted centrally under the counterweight. The advantage of three-wheel electric systems is that they offer a smaller turning radius than traditional four-wheel electric forklifts.

    The electric four-wheel counterbalance forklift:  a guiding wheel at each rear corner is controlled by a double-acting hydraulic cylinder. This type of forklift offers more stability when turning, it is suitable for difficult applications on construction sites and in warehouses. Its load capacity ranges from 1,000 to 3,500 kg. It is recommended for heavy lifting applications such as the installation of machines and tools. It can however also be used for retail stores, hardware stores and other light work.

    The articulated forklift: the fork rotates on a joint and can be tilted. It is recommended for use in narrow warehouses and for loading and unloading trailers.

    The side-loading forklift:  historically the first forklift specially designed for handling long loads.

    The multi-directional forklift: it has dethroned the side-loading forklift. The operator is able to maneuver long loads with increased accuracy in all directions.

    The all-terrain forklift: designed for intensive use, it can lift loads from 1 to 50 tonnes. Fast, heavy-duty and versatile, it is designed to be used in natural environments.

  • How to choose the maximum lifting capacity for your forklift?

    In order to choose the maximum lifting capacity that meets your requirements, it is essential to ask yourself the following questions:

    • What will the forklift handle?
    • What is your average load weight (in kg)?
    • What is the heaviest load you will have to lift?
    • What are the dimensions of your loads (in m)?

    The type of load is also important. Specific accessories are designed to improve the capacity of standard forklifts and help you move the load more efficiently. The dimensions of the load determine its point of application as well as the length of the forks. Be aware that the longer the forks, the lower the lifting height.

  • How to choose the number of wheels?

    Three-wheel forklifts are best suited for indoor storage, for example in garden centres or DIY stores, as well as in warehouses that have selective storage and high shelving. Four-wheel forklifts are best suited for moving heavy loads on steep slopes or moving large machines. Their durability on uneven surfaces means they can withstand high intensity work.

    • Advantages of a three-wheel forklift: turning radius and lower cost.
    • Disadvantages: maximum load of 2 ,500 kg. As it approaches 2,500 kg, the forklift becomes unstable and rotating. Difficult to use on rough terrain, gravel, etc.
    • Advantages of a four-wheel forklift: optimized for a rough and uneven surface. Loading capacity up to 8,000 kg. Stability.
    • Disadvantages: the turning radius is limited and the four-wheel forklift is more expensive than the three-wheel one.
  • What other criteria are important to consider when choosing a forklift?

    The forklift’s ergonomics for the driver

    To reduce the difficulty of the work, it is ideal is to choose a spacious cab in order to facilitate changing positions for the forklift driver, provide easy entry and exit as well as easy movement of the spine and head for better visibility. It is also recommended to avoid vibrations and therefore to drive on smooth, unobstructed ground, to reduce the speed from 9 to 6 km/h during loading/unloading operations, and to drive with wheels in good condition.

    Pneumatics

    • Soft solid tires: a radial metal carcass with a thick layer of rubber for indoor and outdoor use, long distance, comfort and good ground support.
    • Cushion tires: for indoor use, designed for heavy loads, good ground stability, three times longer service life than soft solid tires.
    • Non-marking tires: for indoor use, do not leave any marks.
    • Puncture-proof tires: recommended for surfaces that are not very homogeneous or unstable, they are puncture-proof.
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