Forklifts Have Revolutionised Warehousing and Materials Handling in South Africa

It can be a back-breaking enough task simply to secure a couple of mountain bikes, kayaks, or surfboards to a roof rack and pack the requirements for a family weekend away into the boot of a car. Imagine then, what it might be like to find yourself faced with a delivery of 500 or more cases of baked beans or emulsion paint and tasked with stacking them securely, but with only your legs as the means to transport them and your arms and bare hands to manoeuver them into position. Should you survive the day shift, the chances are that you would still need to put in some overtime to complete the task, while other warehouse staff could be attempting to requisition the cases faster than you could place them.

Fortunately, however, the likelihood of such a scenario is a thing of the past, thanks to the introduction of forklifts. In South Africa, they are to be found in storage depots and in wholesale warehouses and wherever there may be a need for bulk handling of goods or materials, whether within a building or in the open spaces beyond.

In practice, prior to their invention in 1906, such tasks relied on the use of pulley systems with ropes or chains to serve as hoists for several millennia and right into the late 1800s. They relieved some of the strain on human handlers and also improved their productivity. Though useful for lifting items, they were not able to transport them. Today, however, with the demand for consumer goods at its highest levels ever, and the resulting need for wholesalers to carry larger stocks, yet dispense them as rapidly as possible, anything more than the bare minimum of manual handling is simply no longer a feasible option.

Often termed pallet trucks after the wooden structures whose slots accommodate the forks to simplify handling large batches, these vehicles come in all sizes and with a choice of power sources. Generally, those forklifts designed for indoor use or on smooth surfaces in South Africa and elsewhere are of the near-silent, battery-driven electric variety that can be recharged from the mains supply overnight. By contrast, the significantly tougher and visibly larger models with their larger wheels, intended for use in outdoor areas such as construction sites, where the terrain is markedly more rugged, are invariably driven by a diesel engine. These include models for use on the dockside where they are capable of transporting and stacking containers.

Whether powered by electricity or internal combustion, these vehicles are all characterised by an innovative and powerful lifting mechanism known as a mast. Hydraulically operated, their telescopic action enables the operator to raise loads weighing hundreds of kilogrammes or even several tonnes, depending upon the particular model, to heights equivalent to several stories or, alternatively, to retrieve and lower the same loads to ground level.

The uses for forklifts are manifold. In South Africa, you will encounter them in wholesale outlets where operators use them to retrieve and replenish stock throughout the working day. On construction sites, you are likely to find one of the heavy-duty models from JCB or Toyota engaged in unloading bricks or concrete blocks from delivery trucks and stacking them where they will be needed.

Given their importance in so many industrial and commercial applications, reliability is paramount. Iconic brand names like Toyota offer a guarantee of quality, but an adequate supply of spares and access to an experienced service team are equally important. The EIE Group is a global leader in the sale and rental of superior materials handling equipment. Providing expert operator training, an extensive stock of spares, and a team of skilled and experienced service engineers has positioned us as a preferred supplier of forklifts in South Africa.