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The History Of The Forklift

The History Of The Forklift

Modern forklifts, the mainstays of industry, can have their origins traced back to the middle nineteenth century through the early 20th century when they were nothing more than counterweight and pulley systems. This frequently overlooked yet incredibly vital aspect of manufacturing is so important that more than 150,000 forklifts are delivered to material handling buyers annually. Before the forklift that we know today was used workers worked with manually powered hoists to lift substantial loads. 1906 saw the arrival of the first battery powered platform trucks. The Pennsylvania Railroad was the company that used these first at their Altoona train station. Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies, a company established in the United Kingdom developed different types of big equipment handling machines during World War I because there was a labor shortage. Around the same time in 1917, Clark Material Handling Company in Kentucky invented seated counterbalanced forklifts. Yale & Towne, a well-known forklift company today, joined the lift truck market shortly after in 1920. With the introduction of hydraulic power and electric power in the 1920s and 1930s forklifts became more powerful and grew in popularity in the swiftly industrializing Western world.

World War II amplified the use of forklifts to help in manufacturing and production for the war effort. This led to standard pallet sizes and more efficient approaches for product storage in warehouses. Greater heights had to be reached in warehouses and forklifts had to be more navigable in tighter spaces. For example, the British business, Lansing Bagnall, developed the first ‘narrow aisle’ electric reach truck. Often time’s improvements in technology lead to alterations in the working world. As such, after the development of the ‘narrow aisle’ truck warehouses changed their design and were built with slimmer aisles and higher ceilings. This significant innovation led to increased storage size.

In the post-war 1950s and 1960s, the main concentration of forklift manufacturers and operators became the safety. The increased heights and weights of loads led to a foreseeable increase in accidents. This was the era that saw modern advances such as operator cages also known as overhead guards that protected workers. Safety remains one of the main worries of forklift operations today. In the 1980s we saw the development and regulation of operator restraint systems. Load balancing technology was also developed to aid from vehicles tipping over.

As well as safety the other chief concern of forklifts is environmental most importantly the number of emissions that forklifts discharge. Improvement of electric forklifts is the main way that manufacturers have established they can lower emissions levels. There is still an obstacle with electric forklifts and that is that they are not as powerful as their diesel or gas powered equivalents. As we move forward with technology so too will the forklift. This often underappreciated device has been and will continue to be, one of our most used assets moving forward.

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With our expertise in the forklift industry dating back to the very beginning, who better to cater to all your lift truck needs. Enquire online now!

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