Since the invention of the first “forklift” (which was originally called a truck tractor) about 100 years ago, forklifts have become a nearly universal sight in most materials handling workplaces. These amazing machines harness the power of physics to lift heavy loads to impossible heights, sometimes several stories above the height of the forklift itself, and most modern lift trucks accomplish this feat with little physical effort and minimal risk to the operator.

New developments in efficient power usage, operator safety, and sophisticated stability controls allow leaner machines to accomplish meaner tasks. At this point, the cost, efficiency, and safety of most standard forklifts make them an indispensable business resource. In fact, if your business depends on heavy manual tasks like loading, unloading, and pallet lifting, your forklift investment may pay for itself several times over.

Forklift design

Almost all forklifts are designed with a few basic components: The frame, power source, mast, counterweight, forks, and load backrest. Typically powered by propane tanks or rechargeable batteries, the frame of the forklift contains a counterweight that holds the body of the truck in place as the load presses down on the forks. The forks rise up along the mast, which stabilizes the load while the backrest keeps it from falling down on top of the cabin.

While earlier forklifts simply relied on the counterweight to keep a lift truck from tipping over under the weight of a heavy load, modern lift trucks now make use of a sophisticated system of sensors that identify the location of the center of gravity when a load is placed on the forks. As the center shifts, the counterweight shifts to compensate for the change, so an advanced lift truck mast can remain stable even under a shifting load or while moving over uneven terrain.

The forklift of the future

Forklift technology has come a long way, but plenty of new innovations are still on the horizon. For example, developers are now working on lift trucks that can move in every direction without turning around (like the Sidewinder built by Vetex). This advanced design relies on a set of rollers instead of wheels, and it can navigate narrow aisles and impossible maneuvers in tight spaces. Automated and laser-guided forklifts are also in the works, which can allow lift trucks to move very quickly through the warehouse without requiring the guidance of onboard operator.

Should you consider investing in a lift truck?

A forklift can transform your materials handling operation, but before you invest, assess your needs. What type of lift truck will work best in your warehouse? Should you buy or rent? What features will help you get the most from your new asset? Our materials handling specialists can help you find answers to these questions and make the business decision that’s right for you. Contact your nearest Liftow office today!