While the first prototypes of elevators date back to the 19th century, it was after World War I that models resembling modern ones were developed, featuring hydraulic power, operator cabins, and forks. Today, a diverse array of handling equipment is available, capable of managing various product types, supporting different load capacities, and operating in confined spaces. Additionally, the choice between diesel, electric, or lithium battery power must be considered based on specific vehicle usage needs. For every warehouse and storage centre, adopting these machines is essential to efficiently, quickly, and safely handle goods, ensuring an optimized workflow. Various warehouse vehicle options exist, along with key factors to consider when choosing the most suitable ones for the company's needs. Vehicle types are also distinguished based on the processes or operational cycles they are used for.
Warehouse vehicles for loading and unloading areas
To carry out loading and unloading activities in the external areas adjacent to warehouses, where transport vehicles dock, the following means of transportation are commonly used:
Warehouse equipment for storage and picking
- Electric or manual pallet jacks: These carts equipped with two forks are used for pallet handling. Through manual or electric pumping, they allow for easy pallet insertion and movement of goods within the warehouse. Some models come with extended forks to handle multiple pallets at once.
- Forklifts: Also known as "fork trucks" or "lift trucks," their distinctive feature is the large counterbalance iron at the rear, enabling them to handle overhanging loads with the weight concentrated forward. Different from pallet jacks and reach trucks, forklifts have a counterweight at the rear, providing increased stability during handling operations. Thanks to the lever principle, this type of truck can be used both indoors and outdoors in a warehouse.
- Forklifts: With their flexible nature, these vehicles can be used for both loading/unloading goods and storing/retrieving pallets from stock, typically from bulk or cantilever areas.
- Reach trucks: Generally, these machines can lift loads to heights exceeding 10 meters. They are characterized by a system that allows the wheels to rotate 90°, enabling lateral and frontal movements, making them ideal for shelf-to-shelf handling.
- Trilateral and bilateral trucks: These vehicles can rotate on their axis and are designed to work in narrow aisles, usually between 1.5 and 1.8 meters wide, and can lift loads to heights exceeding 14 meters.
- Pallet shuttle: A fully automated handling system controlled by a Warehouse Control System (WCS), transporting and storing goods in different locations within the shelving. There are various types of pallet shuttles based on the column or forks, capable of reaching heights of over 40 meters. The trilateral version can handle pallets on three sides: frontal and two lateral, without the need for an upper guide rail.
- Miniload: Also known as container handling shuttles, these automated machines optimize container storage and retrieval within the warehouse, ensuring greater speed and safety in storage operations. This system not only improves space utilization but also follows the "product to person" principle for order picking, enabling goods to automatically reach the operator.
The wide range of warehouse machines makes an accurate choice crucial for ensuring maximum logistical efficiency. This decision depends on various factors, such as warehouse layout, required logistics flow, and the type of goods handled.
In conclusion, logistical efficiency within a warehouse largely depends on making the right choices in equipment. In addition to goods handling vehicles, there are other equally important types of equipment to optimize daily activities. For instance, specific machinery for shelf picking enables precise and rapid collection of goods, while packing systems ensure accurate and secure packaging of goods for shipment—fundamental elements to improve the efficiency of the entire logistical process. A strategic selection of these tools, combined with careful warehouse layout design and effective logistics flow
management, can lead to increased performance, reduced errors, and optimized resource utilization, contributing to the success and growth of the company.