How to Choose a Forklift for a Small Warehouse Space

Forklift for a Small Warehouse Space
Forklift for a Small Warehouse Space

Even though there is a lot of information appertaining to huge warehouse spaces and businesses, it is important to note that small warehouses greatly outnumber the much larger ones.

In fact, the 20 largest companies in the public warehousing and storage industry only control about 30% of the entire market. That leaves a whopping 70% to the small guys.

In light of that kind of statistic, it is imperative to share some information about managing small warehouses. We are talking about day to day activities such as warehouse management systems, how to find and hire the right warehouse employees and just as importantly, how to choose a forklift for a small warehouse space.

Why Do Small Warehouses Need Forklifts?

Forklifts, in general, are a wonderful investment for any company that tends to use machinery to deliver on important projects. For example, construction companies often use forklifts to easily and safely move materials from one section of the construction site to another.

Another excellent example would be with recycling companies. In that industry, forklifts are typically used when dealing with waste management on the various associated sites.

As machines, forklifts are heavy and robust. One forklift can easily do a job that would typically take many days in just a few hours. They can be used to transport wood, piping, construction materials among other things that are both heavy and bulky.

In a warehouse, for example, the right kind of forklift is not only used in moving huge crates and boxes from receiving to processing and then to storage or transportation. Without these forklifts, the logistical requirements faced by warehouse operators on a daily basis would be nothing short of a nightmare.

Not only would you need to hire dozens of men, but it would take those employees’ ages of man-hours to do what it typically takes one guy operating a forklift to do in a very short period of time.

While you could very easily choose to hire a forklift instead of buying one, the advantages that come with owning one as a warehouse operator are quite considerable. Here are some benefits of owning your own forklift as a small warehouse owner:

  • You have a piece of machinery that makes your day to day operations faster and more seamless
  • You save money since you only need to hire one forklift operator as opposed to dozens of men to do the same job
  • You can deliver on projects or storage requirements quicker since you do not have to waste time waiting for your turn at an available forklift
  • Your company will own that forklift which adds to your assets portfolio
  • You do not have to worry about contacting a hiring company and praying that they have a forklift available for you when you need it

As a business owner, it is your job to ensure that your business runs as smoothly as possible so you can maximize efficiency. Owning your own forklift for small warehouses should be a necessity and a priority. The question now remains, how do you choose the right forklift for a small warehouse space?

Choosing the Best Forklift for Your Small Warehouse Space

Forklift for a Small Warehouse Space

Before we dive into which forklifts are best for your small warehouse space, we need to look at a few factors to consider when choosing a forklift. Getting the right forklift will make a huge difference between having an efficiently managed warehouse that operates like a well-oiled machine and having one that is inefficient and that presents a cumbersome and dangerous working environment.

The main factors that should be at the top of your mind when choosing a forklift for your business include:

  • The size of the warehouse in which the forklift will be operated (how much room does the forklift have to maneuver?)
  • The forklift's lift capacity
  • The forklift's power requirement
  • Who will be operating the forklift?

These are just a few things to consider when trying to find the right forklift for your small warehouse space.

Determining Whether You Need a Forklift in the First Place

Let's face it, as much as owning a forklift will add to your assets portfolio as a warehouse owner, the truth is you do not have to buy one just for the sake of owning one. Do you really need a forklift in your small warehouse? More often than not the answer to that question is yes. But let's look at the one determining factor that will send in you in a definitive direction.

How much weight do you need to move around, how often, and within what kind of distance?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself. If your warehouse only handles materials weighing about 2,500lbs and these materials do not have to be moved or lifted over a long distance, then maybe you just need a pallet jack or a powered hand truck. These machines can easily move anything below 3,000lbs moved over a short distance.

If, however, you handle heavy materials that need to be stored in high placed shelves, then you will need a forklift. But since you own a small warehouse space, you cannot just buy any forklift; you have to find one that is perfectly suited for small warehouse spaces.

The Type of Environment in Which the Forklift Will Operate

As much as we are talking about small warehouse spaces, you need to know exactly the kind of environment in which the forklift will be working. This will determine whether you need to buy an electric or a gas-powered forklift. It will also determine the kind of tires that the machine will need.

  • If you own an indoor warehouse that has smooth surfaces, then you might want to consider buying an electric forklift that has cushion tires.
  • If, on the other hand, you own an outdoor warehouse with rough terrain, then getting a gas powered machine with pneumatic tires would be best.

It is also critical to consider the amount of space between shelves or workstations. Even though most warehouses are designed with either forklifts or pallet jacks in mind, sometimes there just isn't enough room for your standard forklift to efficient maneuver the aisles especially when carrying a heavy load. If you have a warehouse with particularly small aisles, then you will need a specially designed narrow aisle forklift.

Which Type of Forklift Is Suitable for a Small Warehouse Space?

Forklift for a Small Warehouse Space

The simple answer to this question is either:

  • Narrow aisle forklifts
  • Swivel reach trucks

But as we have already discussed, there are several factors to be considered before deciding on which one to buy. Let's take a quick look at each type to get a better understanding of the machines in question.

Narrow Aisle Forklifts

Narrow aisle forklifts are particularly useful in small warehouse spaces where shelves are lined up very close to one another to create more room for more inventory. In these sorts of cases, you need a forklift that can easily navigate through the narrow aisles while carrying heavy loads and still capable of reaching high shelves for inventory purposes.

The Aisle-Master VNA is a very narrow aisle forklift that is considered to be one of the best in this category. It is an articulated machine that is designed to be a specialist in narrow aisle navigation. This forklift allows the operator to comfortably work in aisles that are as narrow as 1.6 meters. By buying this forklift and tailoring your aisle spaces to that distance, you can easily increase your storage space by up to 50%.

Swivel Reach Trucks

Swivel Reach Trucks are typically used in warehouses that have a high-volumes of inventory intake. These kinds of facilities often try to maximize the amount of space available for inventory and as such have narrower aisles with higher shelves.

Swivel Reach Trucks are designed to be versatile and can either be used to move the inventory from one place to another or to stack the shelves. They are perfect for navigating through a warehouse with narrow aisles.

Three Things a Small Warehouse Owner Should Know about Forklifts

As a business owner thinking about buying or at the very least, leasing a forklift for your small warehouse space, there are several things you need to know about this venture. These factors apply whether you buy the forklift or just lease it:

Factor 1: You Will Need Forklift Insurance

Every state and every country has its own set of requirements when operating heavy machinery. You will need forklift insurance for your small warehouse. This will keep you covered in case of any accidents that may occur. The kind of accidents associated with forklifts almost always result in:

  • Forklift damage
  • Employee injury
  • Inventory loss

Or all of the above three in the most severe of cases. For example, if your forklift tips over and either injures the operator or causes damage to customer inventory and your own warehouse property, you will need insurance to ensure that you do not pay for the damages out of pocket. No matter how careful your driver is, these kinds of liabilities are bound to occur from time to time.

Getting a 'Commercial General Liability' policy (CGL) is the kind of insurance that covers mobile machinery such as forklifts. To get the best cover, you will need to speak to a trusted insurance broker. These are people who are best placed to advise you on the kind of cover you need based on your specific needs. There are ways to reduce your insurance costs. The best and most advisable way is to hire a certified forklift driver who has had extensive training and experience operating in small spaces.

Factor 2: You Will Need Certified Workers

When operating a warehouse, especially a small warehouse with small spaces where accidents can easily occur, you need to hire certified employees. These are people who have gone through Forklift Training Certification and know what it takes to operate one safely.

Many of these courses are available online, but you need to hire someone who has hands-on experience to minimize the chances of any accidents occurring during work hours.

You will also need to insist on periodic on-site training. These are the best types of refreshed courses because they are specifically tailor-made for your warehouse. The trainer will show your employees how to remain safe while operating the kind of forklift you have within the space that you own.

Factor 3: You Will Have to Either Buy or Lease a Forklift

We have already covered why you need to buy your own forklift as opposed to leasing one. But let's face it, sometimes, buying a forklift might not be financially viable for you and your business at this stage and time. In this case, you should opt to lease one instead.

Leasing a forklift does have its own advantages:

  • It will ensure that you have a smoother cash flow if your business is cash-strapped and you would rather not get credit to buy a forklift
  • It allows you to try out different brands until you find one that fits your needs perfectly. Buying one right off the bat might leave you with something that is just not right for your needs or requires way too much maintenance

However, it also has its disadvantages. Mainly the fact that you have to work within someone else’s terms and conditions and you might have to wait your turn if your supplier is overbooked.

From all that we have discussed above, you can clearly see why it is important to own or at least lease the right forklift for your small warehouse space. It makes your business life more efficient, easier and safer. Perhaps the more important factor is to hire a certified forklift operator who will ensure that he/she works in a safe environment and operates this heavy machinery with the utmost care both for their sake and for that of their fellow employees. Finding the right forklift, getting the right kind of insurance and hiring the right people should be a priority for you as a small warehouse owner.

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