A forklift (also called a lift truck, a fork truck, or a tow-motor) is a powered industrial truck that is used to lift and transport materials. The modern forklift was developed in the 1920s by several companies which included the transmission manufacturing company Clark and the hoist company Yale & Towne Manufacturing. Since then, the forklift has become an essential piece of equipment in manufacturing and warehousing operations.
In addition to having a control to raising and lowering the forks (also known as blades or tines), the operator has the ability to tilt the mast to make up for a load's tendency to angle the blades to the ground and risk slipping off the forks. Tilting also offers a limited ability to operate on non-level ground. Skilled forklift operators compete yearly in obstacle and timed challenges at regional forklift rodeos.
There are many types of forklift trucks and load capacities. In a normal warehouse setting most forklifts used have load capacities between 1 to 5 tons. Larger machines, up to 50 tons lift capacity are used for lifting heavier loads, which includeloaded shipping containers.
Using Forklifts in Warehouse and Distribution Centres
Forklifts are a critical element of warehouses and distribution centres. It’s absolutely essential that these structures be created to accommodate their efficient and safe movement.
In the case of Drive-In/Drive-Thru Racking, a forklift needs to travel inside a storage bay that is multiple pallet positions deep to place or retrieve a pallet. Often at times, forklift drivers are guided into the bay through guide rails on the floor & the pallet is put on cantilevered arms or rails. These maneuvers need well-trained operators. Since every pallet needs the truck to enter the storage structure, damage is more common than with other types of storage. In designing a drive-in system, dimensions of the fork truck, including overall width and mast width, have to be thought out thoroughly.
Forklifts are rated for loads at a certain maximum weight and a specified forward centre of gravity. This information is placed on a nameplate provided by the manufacturer, and loads must not go over these specifications. In many jurisdictions it is not legal to remove or change the nameplate without the permission of the forklift manufacturer.
An important aspect of forklift operation is that most have rear-wheel steering. While this increases maneuverability in tight cornering circumstances, it is different from a driver’s traditional experience with other wheeled vehicles. Whilst steering, as there is no caster action, it is not necessary to apply steering force to keep a constant rate of turn.
Another critical characteristic of the forklift is its instability. The forklift and load must be considered a unit with a frequently changing centre of gravity with every movement of the load. A forklift should never negotiate a turn at speed with a raised load, where centrifugal and gravitational forces may come together and cause a disastrous tip-over accident. Forklifts are created with a load limit for the forks which becomes less with fork elevation and undercutting of the load. A loading plate to see where to loadis usually located on the forklift. A forklift should not be used as a personnel lift without the fitting of specified safety equipment, such as a “cherry picker" or “cage".
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