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When you're equipping your business premises to maximize productivity, it's all too easy to waste money on gear you don't really need. One of the most common mistakes business owners make is buying specialized machines, whilst overlooking the humble forklift's ability to do the same jobs.
Aside from lifting palleted loads, forklift attachments can facilitate scooping up loose materials, pouring liquids, handling suspended loads, towing trailers, and even sweeping up the premises at the end of the day.
Read on to discover all the new ways you could be making the best use of your fork truck in 2021, before you throw away good money on unnecessary extra vehicles.
Even before we leave our comfort zone of forklifts with "forks" for material handling, there is a surprising amount of variation. The standard ITA class-system forks are simple enough, you just choose the ones which most closely match the load capacity of your forklift, and off you go. However, there are several specialized fork types better suited for particular applications, including:
These have tines that fold up against the carriage for increased maneuverability.
They are particularly useful for small warehousing operations handling a lot of stock, where space is at a premium.
However, they aren't rated for handling as heavy a load as fixed-tine ITA forks as a result of their construction.
Tapered fork blades for lifting wood and other stacked sheet materials. There are quite a few different variations depending on the exact shape and characteristics of the material to be transported.
These have narrower tines specifically designed to fit the holes in common building materials.
This allows construction blocks to be picked up and moved quickly and easily with minimal risk of damage.
These feature a single, elongated pole, and are available in specific designs for handling rolls of carpet or other fabric, coils of wire, etc. Caution is advised when using these, as lifting heavy products with a load center so far from the chassis can cause balance issues.
There are four main types of forklift attachments for carrying material in drums. The most suitable within these depends on storage conditions and whether the drums just need to be moved around or if further manipulation e.g. pouring is required.
These fit over the forks and generally comprise a bracket and an eagle-beak locking mechanism. A drum lifter is a simple but effective solution for securely carrying drums in an upright position.
As the name suggests, these are able to carry drums in a horizontal position and are particularly useful for situations where drums are stored horizontally in racks and need to be collected from that position without employees having to drag them out and tip up to vertical.
This refers to a mechanism attached to a forklift crane attachment to allow drums to be suspended from the hook and raised and lowered accordingly. A very useful tool if you need to lower the drums below the level on which the forklift is operating e.g. off a loading dock
Another solution for transporting vertical drums, these use a clamp mechanism that allows the operator to quickly grab and release drums as needed.
There are several variations on the drum clamp system, including multiple-drum clamps and tipping clamps, which allow liquids to be poured out of the drum in a controlled manner.
A new boom/jib attachment easily transforms your forklift into a mobile crane. Some companies try to cut corners on this by free-rigging (attaching ropes/chains directly around the fork tines) but this practice is both dangerous and illegal. A proper crane rig attachment is a must if you wish to use your forklift any form of suspended-load handling.
Depending on the desired application and how heavy the material/products you need to shift are, there are some very different options to consider:
The simplest way to convert your forklift for crane operations, featuring a clamp that slides over and is fixed onto the forks, and a fixed or swivel hook from which the load can be suspended. The two main types are single hooks (attached to one fork), or boom hooks (with a central bar allowing one hook to be clamped over both forks). The main limitation of forklift hook attachments is in lifting height, as the hook sits below the fork height and can only be raised as far as the mast allows.
Telescoping booms employ a similar slip-on clamping mechanism to boom hooks, but with a central bar that can be extended to increase the reach of the hooking mechanism. This allows the forklift crane to operate in a broader range of situations but does come with one significant drawback. The extra leverage exerted by the load due to the distance from the truck body significantly reduces carrying capacity, heavy loads can easily cause the forklift to overbalance. This may not be an issue if your forklift uses a stack counterweight, whereby more mass can be added to the counterbalance at the rear of the forklift (within the specified limits as shown on the data plate).
A further variation on the telescopic crane boom, the pivoting boom can be angled upwards from the base of the arm as well as adjusting its length. This raises the hook, significantly increasing the maximum height to which a load can be raised.
These rigs are available in manual adjustment or hydraulic options, depending on your budget and how regularly you need to adjust the boom angle to accommodate differently shaped products.
Aside from the drum/barrel clamps mentioned earlier, there are equally specific forklift clamp attachments for handling other types of stock items. As with the drum clamps, many of these are also available in tipping versions, which are more expensive but add an extra dimension of maneuverability.
These look at first glance like standard pairs of forks. The key difference is an extra control that allows the width between the forks to be adjusted. Advantages include the ability to lift palleted goods regardless of the pallet type (particularly useful in the warehousing and distribution of products originating in different countries), and the option to lift items such as tires by grasping the sides of the product directly.
These wide, flat-faced lateral clamps are designed for handling large, boxed products such as white goods. By spreading the clamp's force across a significant area, these designs hold boxes of stock securely without damaging the contents within.
Generally wider than carton clamps and with narrower gripping plates, these are designed to lift and carry large quantities of baled material including hay, wood pulp, textiles, or recyclable waste products.
These large c-sectioned clamps are used primarily for transporting large rolls of paper or textiles for the publishing and garment/soft furnishing sectors respectively. The design balances secure holding with minimizing the risk of product damage, as these products can be a combination of heavy, delicate, and expensive.
There are many different types of buckets/scoops available for fork trucks in 2021.
Depending on the type and manufacturer, these can either be mounted over the forks, making them quick and easy to swap in and out, or attached directly to the carriage.
Regardless of fitment type, the other operational variation regards static buckets, moved solely using the lifting and tipping motion of the forks/carriage, vs hydraulic buckets, which are significantly more expensive but allow much finer control.
Variations on the actual scoop itself tend to center around whether the material stock is to be shoveled from ground level or scooped out from a pile. There are also "skeleton" versions that are designed to hold larger rocks etc while allowing fine material to drop through.
It goes without saying that forklifts are generally more maneuverable than mixer trucks, but they can also help keep down the cost of transporting cement/concrete to those tricky areas of a construction site instead of using a crane or cement pump.
Forklift hoppers generally consist of a bucket that can be filled directly from the main mixer, a delivery chute that can be angled as desired, and a manual or automatic discharge gate providing a controlled flow.
This setup results in the easy delivery of poured materials to even the most hard-to-reach parts of your construction project, improving productivity and making these some of the most useful forklift attachments available.
For sweeping applications, the available attachments range from a simple broom head that slips on over the standard forks, right up to electric all-in-one rotary sweeping, vacuuming, and polishing machines.
There are even street sweeper models with the raised secondary brushes to sweep debris from the sidewalk onto the road surface where it can be swept up and collected by the main unit.
The variations are practically endless. Whatever the amount and type of debris you need to shift, the flooring surface, and the level of end-result cleanliness required, there's an attachment to get the job done.
Since a forklift truck is designed for heavy lifting and bulk material handling, they are also well suited to towing with the help of a suitable hitch attachment. For example, a forklift lifting capacity of 3000lbs results in a towing capacity of up to 16000lbs given a sufficiently robust hitch assembly.
Forklift attachments for towing generally comprise two parts, although single-piece units can be preferable for heavy-duty operations. The hitch receiver is attached securely to the forks, whilst the trailer to be towed is joined to the receiver by either a ball, pintle, or combination hitch. It's important to check the attachment on the trailer closely, both for the fitment and positioning of the towbar.
Aside from the hitch fitment, fork truck hitch attachments come in versions designed either to fit over one of the forks for quick and easy fitment and lightweight usage or with a more robust mount that attaches to both forks for towing heavier loads.
Go to our main page to see all of the parts of a forklift.