Choosing the right forklift for a particular application is a tough decision that has become even tougher with the introduction of modern battery technology that allows electric machines to go toe-to-toe with the best internal combustion engine (IC) forklifts at increasingly competitive prices.
Yet there are still areas where IC engines win the day and others where simple lead acid battery derivatives are hard to beat in terms of cost per ton moved. And while it is relatively safe to say that any of the above options will do the job perfectly well in 99% of normal operations, it is not to say they will be the optimum nor the most cost-effective solution.
With an expected lifespan that can last a decade or more it pays to make good decisions upfront and base decisions on solid technical studies and the right advice from trustworthy suppliers with a wide choice of equipment, the right infrastructure and solid reputation to uphold.
In this regard Smith Power Equipment is at the forefront of forklift technology and has a wide range of industrial equipment and advanced forklifts from Kion Group, which is the world’s second largest supplier of forklifts. Its range of Baoli forklifts share a lot in common with the group’s counterparts from Linde and other well-known brands, yet the distinctive blue machines are more focused on efficiency and cost-effective ownership.
Weighing in on the electric versus IC forklift debate, materials handling area sales manager for Smith Power Equipment, Edwarno Parenzee, says there are many factors that need to be considered. Seemingly insignificant things like the slope of a yard or distance to the loading point can play a massive role and swing the advantage in favour of a particular type of machine.
Then there are other considerations like emission requirements in certain environments that may exclude even the cleanest burning IC engines and in some instances, even disqualify lead acid batteries due to their slight gas emission.
‘Temperature can also play a part where freezer rooms and cold rooms have their own challenges, making them some of the toughest environments to operate in. Not only do lead acid (and to a much lesser extent lithium ion) batteries suffer reduced run, but icy conditions can lead to loss of traction and unforeseen mechanical issues as a result of cold and condensation. Considering these environments are most likely to require emmissionless operation it is clear to see how selecting a forklift can come with a fair share of quandaries,” says Edwarno.
He explains that hot environments, dusty conditions, corrosive chemicals, isle widths, rack heights, underfoot conditions and hundreds of other circumstances need to be weighed up before making a final decision. Even fuel storage or charging station space may be a limiting factor and needs to be considered upfront alongside any future plans for expansion.
Smith Power Equipment area sales manager, Thami Mavuso, says understanding this type of information is critical whether buying one forklift or procuring an entire solution for a large operation. He expands that there is no straight forward tick list that can be checked by a user as there are likely to be unexpected pitfalls that can upset the best laid plans.
‘Even in writing this article we set out to discuss the Top 10 benefits of each power plant from lithium to lead acid and IC motors but it soon became apparent that applying simple formulas to a complex requirement is unwise. Rather call on professionals to study and simulate operational requirements, and spend the time required to make informed decisions. A professional equipment supplier should always take the time to understand the requirements of a client and if there is room to improve the client’s plans, to make suggestions and adapt accordingly.’
He continues, ‘In the event that any uncertainty exists, companies like Smith Power Equipment are usually willing to adopt “try-before-you-buy” approaches where customers’ best laid plans can be tested with the short term rental of equipment, which can be trialled and purchased if successful; or another plan made if the selected machines do not perform as well as expected in certain environments.’
Both experts agree that dealing with professionals is critical to the successful purchase of forklifts. Experience and expertise cannot easily be learned on YouTube or from a textbook, and is the reason why Smith Power Equipment invests heavily in expertise provided by seasoned professionals like Thami and Edwarno, who are supported by a management team that have decades of experience in selling, servicing and maintaining all types of industrial machines and equipment.