Using the right forklift attachments can make the job of moving inventory around the warehouse or the job site safer, more efficient, and cost-effective. The right accessories can save time and prevent damage to goods and packaging while increasing operator safety.
Forklift accessories take advantage of the features of these vehicles to convert a standard lift truck into a specialized machine that can perform an impressive variety of tasks:
All of these are possible with a traditional forklift and the right accessories. Some attachments are fixed or stationary, while others take advantage of hydraulics to move or extend. The basic idea of all of these forklift accessories is to leverage the power of your lift truck to solve the issues inherent in moving and manipulating materials on a job site.
Each forklift attachment has been designed to solve a particular problem and offers specific advantages in handling heavy and sometimes awkward loads. Every industry has different challenges and requirements for moving the materials they use.
There are accessories to suit the needs of virtually any business, and they are employed in every industry where forklifts can be found. These are some of the most useful and common attachments available.
Sideshifters allow you to move a load laterally, or right to left, so you can line up the placement of the pallet without moving the entire forklift. Being able to make sideways adjustments means you can maneuver in tight spaces and still place your pallet exactly where it belongs.
One of the most popular forklift attachments, sideshifters are generally used in warehouses where every inch of space is utilized and placement needs to be exact. They are also commonly employed in agricultural industries and on construction sites.
Sideshifter attachments are heavy; the weight of the accessory should be considered part of the load, reducing the lift capacity for the materials that the truck can raise.
Like many forklift accessories, the sideshifter improves accuracy and increases efficiency by reducing loading time. It takes much less effort and time to adjust a sideshifter than it does to reposition the truck.
Hydraulic fork positioner attachments allow the operator to adjust the distance between the forks without having to manually move them. This makes it possible to adapt to varying pallet sizes very efficiently and easily, right from the driver's seat.
A fork positioner is useful in a variety of industrial settings. This accessory improves loading time significantly whenever you're moving an assortment of pallet sizes and increases operator safety by eliminating the need for the driver to exit the truck to adjust the forks.
Fork positioners come in different sizes for various applications. Some of these popular accessories include a sideshifter option, which allows the same attachment to perform both functions.
Also known as a slip sheet push-pull attachment, this accessory is designed to handle loads using a slip sheet instead of a pallet. In place of the standard forks, this attachment has a flat, horizontal surface similar to a small platform. Above the platform is a scissor-like mechanism that pulls the load onto the truck and then pushes the load off.
Under the stacked goods, there is a slip sheet, either on top of a pallet or in lieu of one. The push-pull clamps onto the edge of the slip sheet and the "pull" mechanism smoothly contracts, sliding the entire load onto the truck's platform without the need for a pallet.
A push-pull attachment can save storage space and reduce shipping weight, due to the lack of wooden pallets. This accessory is available as a fork-mounted unit, not requiring the user to disconnect the forks from the truck. The assembly is easy to install and remove, so a forklift can return to transporting standard pallets within minutes.
Slip sheets are commonly used with bagged materials such as pet food, but they can be employed with a variety of goods. Slip sheets are gaining in popularity because they cost less and last longer than wooden pallets. They also reduce the storage space required and discourage rats and mice from nesting under stacks of goods.
Clamps come in a multitude of shapes for a variety of uses. Each type is designed to tightly grip a load of a specific object or material. Forklift clamps give the operator control over awkward or difficult-to-handle items.
Paper clamps are designed for holding huge rolls of paper. These rolls are often used by printers or paper manufacturers, although other industries also use rolled paper for wrapping goods and other purposes. A paper clamp has curved arms that close around the roll, holding it firmly and allowing the paper to be moved securely and without damage.
Some paper clamps are combined with rotators for changing the orientation of the roll.
A bale clamp is designed to grip loads of soft baled materials, such as cotton, hay, and shredded paper or plastic. Bale clamps typically have vertical sides that are pulled together by hydraulic pistons, squeezing the load from either side to secure it. These side walls have teeth or ribs for gripping the soft material.
Bale clamps are commonly used in agriculture, manufacturing, and recycling facilities.
As the name suggests, a carton clamp handles large cartons. The design is very similar to a bale clamp. The main difference is that the side walls that come together to hold the carton are smooth and sometimes padded, to prevent damage to the carton and the product inside.
Carton clamps are commonly used for items such as appliances or cases of packaged products.
Barrel clamps come in many designs. Some lift one barrel; others can handle two or four barrels simultaneously.
One type of barrel clamp resembles a paper clamp, with curved arms that squeeze and hold the barrel around the sides. As with paper clamps, some of these barrel clamps are capable of rotating and allowing the operator to position or even dump the barrel.
Another style of barrel clamp locks onto the lip around the top of the barrel to hold it securely, with a brace against the side to keep the barrel vertical and stable. One type of barrel clamp works like a crane, clipping onto the lip of a rigid drum and lifting the barrel from the top, suspending the load.
Barrel clamps are often specific to the type of barrel being handled. Some are appropriate for metal drums; others work better with plastic barrels. There is even a version of barrel clamp designed for dumping trash cans.
A bar arm clamp is designed for handling horizontal rolls of fabric or carpeting. These accessories are available with a single bar, which is inserted into the tube in the center of the roll, or with two parallel bars, which can be used to cradle the rolls.
The bars extend from the front of the forklift much like traditional forks, but they are round, smooth, and longer than most standard forks. Bar arm clamps can be set to different widths to accommodate varying sizes of rolls, much like traditional forklift forks.
A coil ram is similar in design to a carpet bar arm, but shorter and stouter and designed to move and store very heavy rolls of coiled materials, such as wire or steel cable. While a bar arm might be 9 to 12 feet long, a coil ram is generally only 2 to 5 feet in length.
A forklift rotator attachment allows the operator to rotate the position of the load up to 360 degrees. Often used with traditional forks, this accessory makes it possible to tilt or invert very heavy materials with ease, so the operator can adjust the position of the load at any angle required for proper placement.
Rotators can be used with many styles of clamps as well, making it possible to dump barrels, tip a bale or carton on its side, or position rolls of paper very precisely.
Lifting attachments can be extremely simple or highly specialized. These accessories are for lifting objects from an overhead position and moving them while suspended. They are useful for moving loads that need to be lowered into place from above. Lifting attachments give your forklift the ability to perform similarly to a crane.
Operators should be aware that when using these lifting attachments on a forklift truck, they are required to follow the rigorous safety standards applied to crane operators.
The simplest lifting attachments for forklifts are heavy hooks that are used with the standard forklift forks. Some hooks are on a frame that slides over only one fork; other styles are designed to fit over both forks, with the lifting hook centered between them.
This type of lifting attachment will not raise the load very high but is useful for loads that must be handled from overhead.
There are boom styles of lifting attachments as well; some are fixed booms and others have the ability to telescope. With a boom-style lifting attachment, the operator is capable of moving suspended loads over higher obstacles than with basic lifting hooks.
With a telescoping boom, the lift truck has the ability to set down the load very precisely, even at great heights.
Operators must exercise caution when using boom lift attachments and should be aware that when the load is suspended away from the body of the lift truck, the center of gravity shifts and can make the truck unstable. The further the boom is extended from the base of the truck, the lower the weight capacity of the load.
Fork extensions attach to your forks, making them longer to accommodate larger loads or to position pallets in deeper stacks. They slide on over each fork and lock into place, instantly increasing the reach of your lift truck, and often improving the operator's leverage while raising and maneuvering the load.
Forklift fork extensions come in all sizes, to suit various fork styles and pallet widths as well as different work environments.
They are easy to attach and remove, making them ideal for intermittent use. If you are regularly moving larger loads, longer forks may be a better solution than fork extensions; forks are stronger than extensions. However, for lifting the occasional large load, fork extensions are very useful.
When you think of a forklift, you probably envision the traditional warehouse workhorse: the squat, sturdy little truck with forks jutting from the front, small and smooth cushion tires, and an operator seated behind the wheel wearing a safety helmet.
When you add forklift attachments and specialized features to a lift truck, however, the uses for this ubiquitous work vehicle are almost endless. Forklift accessories turn these lift trucks into an indispensable tool found on almost every job site, from construction to agriculture. They are used in manufacturing and industrial settings, and they are more useful than ever in warehouses.
Each accessory is designed for a specific purpose, to solve a problem that once slowed down production or frustrated a lift truck operator. Forklift attachments are incredibly practical because they can expand the capabilities of common equipment very cost-effectively.
Forklift accessories work with a wide variety of lift trucks, from the small electric forklift moving pallets around a warehouse to the large rough terrain vehicles working outdoors. What sort of lift truck do you use on your job site? What attachments could make your work easier or more efficient?
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