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Does Manual Lift Equipment Still Have a Place in the Modern Workplace

In this post we’ve decided to go back to the basics with an article on the most basic forms of material handling equipment: manual or hand-powered lifts and equipment.  At this point, you may ask yourself: why devote an entire article to such a topic?  After all, few fundamental changes have occurred to the basic designs or operation of these units for over 50 years.

It’s true that despite a long history with roots dating back to the industrial revolution – or, maybe, because of it – manual material handling equipment is often glossed over in favour of more advanced, powered units.  But this lack of attention belies the importance of manual lift equipment in many industrial and retail work environments.  Should you have an occasion to visit a nearby warehouse, manufacturing facility or retail operation, I challenge you to find one without a manual lift in some form or another, whether it is a manual pallet truck, manual straddle stacker or otherwise.

This is because manual lifts are, and will continue to be, an essential part of warehousing and logistics for any number of reasons.  The first, and perhaps most important, is the simplistic yet effective manner in which they were designed to function.  Due, in large part, to the absence of complicated moving parts – such as those found in an electric motor – manual lifts do not require extensive training or maintenance to operate on a regular basis, which make them ideal introductory units for low volume applications and/or inexperienced operators.  Rather than manually move boxes, loads or equipment to avoid the additional costs associated with powered units, manual lift equipment provides a simple and effective material handling solution.

This brings us to the second reason that manual lift equipment refuses to gently fade into the background: the cost.  For operations or businesses early in their development, or for those with low volume needs, it makes little sense to make an investment in a powered lift that isn’t completely necessary.  Without sacrificing functionality or quality, manual equipment options provide a solution with low acquisition and operational costs for the lifetime of the equipment.  Beyond regular lubrication and inspections, these units require little attention in most applications and may last decades longer than their powered counterparts.

As you can see, there are many reasons to consider using manual lift equipment but, it should be noted, a major caveat applies to any point made regarding the cost of this equipment.  Despite the lower cost of ownership, there is an opportunity cost to be considered with these units, especially for higher volume operations, where faster and more efficient electric models offer greater throughput, productivity and efficiency, all of which are directly correlated with overall profitability.  In such instances, the added productivity of an electric unit more than justify the greater costs associated with their acquisition, operation, and maintenance.

If many of these points remind you of your business or operation, consider Kent Pallet Trucks for your next equipment purchase. Our offering of manual material handling equipment includes a range of manual pallet trucks, as well as a manual and semi electric pallet stackers.  We would also like to know how you view manual lift equipment.