How to choose the right forklift for a warehousing or logistics business

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right forklift for a warehousing or logistics business

With over 100 different brands and variants of forklifts available, choosing the right forklift for a warehousing and logistics business requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness (and possibly some cynicism when it comes to evaluating manufacturers’ promotional materials). Here are 18 tips to help you make the best choice:

Assess Load Capacity Needs

Determine the maximum weight the forklift will need to lift. Choose a forklift with a capacity at least 20% above this maximum to ensure safety and flexibility, and so that your forklift is not always lifting its maximum weight (this will wear it out quickly). The capacity will be stated on the data plate. Remember that the nominal capacity is always higher than the rated capacity. For example, a Toyota 3-ton forklift does not lift 3 tons because the nominal capacity is measured before forks are installed.

Consider Lift Height Requirements

Evaluate the highest point your forklift will need to reach. Ensure the forklift can comfortably reach these heights carrying the loads you need to carry. If you need to reach these heights outside, then account for wind factors.

Ease of training

Forklift training is required for all forklift operators, plus the operator will need an induction on the specific machine. Suppose your existing machines are all 3-pedal machines with levers. It’s probably not wise to buy something with a monotrol and joysticks because everyone will need to get used to something new. Trust me, we have a Toyota with 3 pedals and a Linde with joysticks and a separate reverse pedal; people hate the Linde.

Evaluate Manoeuverability

Choose a forklift with the appropriate turning radius for your warehouse layout. Narrow aisle forklifts are ideal for tight spaces. You might also consider bendi-forklifts and VNA (very narrow aisle) forklifts. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor Use

Will you be using it both indoors and outdoors? An outdoor forklift should have adequate weather protection. Pneumatic tyres are suitable for rough outdoor surfaces, while cushion tyres are better for smooth indoor floors.

Power Source

Decide between electric, diesel/petrol, hydrogen or propane/LPG forklifts. Electric and hydrogen forklifts are quieter and emit no fumes, making them ideal for indoor use, while diesel and propane forklifts offer more power for outdoor tasks, but cannot be used in enclosed spaces.

Forklift Size

Ensure the forklift’s size matches your operational environment. A compact forklift is better for indoor use, while a larger one may be needed for outdoor tasks. Buying one that’s too large will possibly cost you too much in fuel.

Operator Comfort and Safety

Choose forklifts with ergonomic designs, comfortable seats, and easy-to-use controls. Features like adjustable seats and steering columns enhance operator comfort, and if you’re using it outside, air conditioning/heating is a must.

Battery Life and Fuel Efficiency

For electric forklifts, check the battery life to ensure it can handle a full shift. For fuel-powered forklifts, consider fuel efficiency and tank capacity.

Maintenance and Reliability

Choose a forklift brand known for reliability and ease of maintenance. Access to local service centres and spare parts availability is crucial.

Forklift Attachments

Consider any additional attachments needed, such as side shifters, clamps, etc, based on the specific tasks the forklift will perform.

Terrain Adaptability

Ensure the forklift can handle the type of terrain it will operate on, including rough outdoor surfaces or smooth indoor floors. Off-road forklifts will have more ground clearance and tyres to suit.

Visibility

Opt for forklifts with excellent visibility from the operator’s seat to reduce the risk of accidents. If you are looking for a big forklift (e.g. one that lifts containers), then your operators need to understand the blind spots, and you should enact safety measures at your workplace to accommodate this.

Speed and Performance

Evaluate the forklift’s speed and acceleration to ensure it meets the demands of your operations. This is less relevant inside as most indoors forklifts are limited to around 15km/h, but for outdoor use, greater distances may need to be covered which can be frustrating at low speed.

Telematics and Monitoring

Consider forklifts with telematics systems for real-time monitoring of performance, maintenance needs, and operator behaviour. You may need to opt for a third-party solution.

Environmental Considerations

If operating in environmentally sensitive areas, choose forklifts with low emissions and noise levels.

Cost of Ownership

Look beyond the purchase price and consider the total cost of ownership, including maintenance, fuel, and replacement parts.

Warranty and Support

Choose forklifts with comprehensive warranties and strong manufacturer support to ensure long-term reliability.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select the right forklift that enhances productivity, safety, and efficiency in your warehousing and logistics operations.