Oliver Kingham, founder and MD at LLM Handling, explains the factors that need to be considered when choosing warehouse machinery.
Whether you’re designing an entirely new warehouse, or just updating your current one, selecting the right equipment is essential if you want to move and store stock as quickly and efficiently as possible.
It’s all in the preparation
Although it can be tempting to jump straight in and start shopping for a new forklift truck, there are several questions you should ask yourself to help determine what you need.
- What racking layout do we have?
Racking, which is where the stock is stored, can have a variety of layouts. How wide are the aisles – will a counter-balance forklift fit in the area you need to move in? Are you restricted by narrow aisles? If you need to install racking too, you should investigate which options will suit your needs best.
- Point of delivery to storage routes
How exactly will the goods be moved from point of delivery to the storage (racking)? Again, make sure you’re looking at equipment that will fit in the areas you need them to move in.
- What pallets do we need to move?
The load, size and weight of pallets will all determine what machine is going to suit your needs best. It might sound obvious, but it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the fork lift truck is if it doesn’t lift the load you need.
- Does the storage area require any special equipment?
For example, are there height restrictions you should factor in? Are there any overhead obstructions that could impede work with certain handling equipment? Are there security issues that need to be considered?
- Charging/fuelling stations
It’s crucial to consider where the equipment will be charged or refuelled. Is there enough space, and are there enough charging points? If refuelling – where will the fuel be stored? How much space will this take?
Making the right choice
Armed with the information about what you need, you can then start looking for your warehouse solutions. There is a whole range of materials handling equipment, designed to suit a specific set of requirements. Some of the most popular options include:
Pallet trucks are the backbone of any warehouse – they are used to move loads around warehouses. There are three main types of pallet truck: manual, electric and high lift pallet trucks.
Pallet trucks are a pair of forks that help you pick up and move pallets at ground level. They can be manual or electric. Electric versions are more expensive, but far more efficient for regular use. Manual versions are a cost-effective solution to carry out the general day-to-day task of relocating pallets.
Pallet stackers are a high lifting version of a pallet truck that can also transport loads. These are more suitable for stacking and storing loads in high-level areas – but they also work at ground level too.
Forklift trucks are used to move heavy pallets of product quickly and efficiently. Typically, they will be used to load and unload deliveries, load pallets into racking and relocate pallets in warehouses. There are a number of different options, depending on your requirements:
A counter balance forklift is used to unload and transport pallets. These are especially good for loading and unloading deliveries, as well as moving goods within a warehouse. These can operate at ground, low and high levels.
Meanwhile, a reach truck is similar to a counter balance forklift but used for turning in small spaces. These trucks have a much tighter turning aisle allowing use in narrower aisles.
Narrow aisle trucks are designed to use in very narrow aisles and high-level loading. These are increasingly common in warehouses maximising storage space. Automated systems – generally operating on wire guides – are also increasing in popularity, due to high speeds and efficiency.
Other load handling equipment
As well as pallet and forklift trucks, there are many solutions available to help ensure warehouse management if as effective as possible:
Scissor lift tables: mobile and static tables that can be used to raise goods to a variety of heights
Trucks, trolleys and cages: used to transport loose goods / individual boxes in the warehouse
Ergonomic lifting aids: help reduce the physical stress on the equipment operators
Drum handlers: specifically designed to reposition and manoeuvre drums
Workbenches: there is a wide range of options, including mobile versions. These can be used as work stations and packing areas, making them a cost-efficient option
Steps, ladders and access platforms: enable operators to reach hard to access areas
Remember, assessing what you need is the most important part of this process. If in any doubt, speak to an expert – they will usually be willing to guide you through the options and advise you on what will work best for your needs. We’d also recommend considering what you’re likely to need in the future – to ensure the solution you choose today can be upgraded for the solution you’ll need tomorrow.