SME Special: The right equipment at the right price

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When it comes to choosing materials handling equipment for your business, size really doesn’t matter. The same considerations need to be made whether you have one pallet truck or a fleet of reach trucks and forklifts. Lisa Townshend looks at the issues.

This article appears in the January 2016 issue of Logistics Manager

This article appears in the January 2016 issue of Logistics Manager

Choosing the materials handling equipment that best fits the needs of your business really is a matter of scale. You may only need one forklift truck, but you need it to be as efficient and robust as a company running fifty trucks. There are many things to consider before getting any equipment; safety, financing, maintenance and service, new or used equipment and what type of truck best fits the needs of your business.

Consideration of safety is paramount whether you have one or one hundred forklift trucks at your business. There is a need to ensure that all operating staff are trained by certified instructors.

The RTITB has long campaigned for safer use of forklift trucks. According to the Health and Safety Executive HSE, some businesses allow lift truck ‘training’ to be carried out by a forklift operator, who may or may not be correctly trained themselves, rather than using professional lift truck instructors. RTITB warns of the dangers of ‘casual’ training.

“Forklift training should be delivered by an instructor who is trained and qualified, as clearly outlined in the Approved Code of Practice for Rider Operated lift truck guidance (L117) from HSE,” says Laura Nelson, managing director of the RTITB, explaining that good quality training is crucial in helping to prevent accidents in the workplace.

The HSE has warned that improperly trained “instructors” are an on-going problem that must be tackled. To encourage safe work environments, comply with HSE guidance and reduce the possibility of accidents, businesses are urged to ensure that they employ or contract properly qualified instructors to train their operators. By not doing so, business owners and warehouse managers risk prosecution, particularly in the event of an accident.

A quick search on the HSE’s web site lists more than 500 news articles describing incidents where staff have been killed or seriously injured by the use of a forklift truck. For example:

  • An Essex haulage firm was fined £18,000 after an employee was struck by a forklift truck driven by an untrained operative.
  • A Liverpool recycling company was fined £180,000 after a worker was killed on his first day at work when the forklift truck he was driving overturned.
  • An aluminium fabricator firm in Leicestershire was fined £140k and ordered to pay £32,250 in costs after a worker was crushed under a lifting truck which tipped over while lifting extruder dies from storage racks.
  • An East Yorkshire produce company has been ordered to pay more than £46,000 after two workers were seriously injured by reversing forklift trucks in separate incidents at its vegetable processing factory in Bedfordshire.
  • A logistics company in Staines, Middlesex was fined £20,000 after a worker was hit by a forklift truck in a busy yard and suffered head injuries.

The RTITB promotes certified lift truck operator training, highlighting the flexibility of training that can be carried out in-house or at a training centre. Benefits of the training include heightened safety, improved efficiency, increased margins due to reduced equipment and product damage, and confidence among operators.

As well as knowing how to operate the equipment, a qualified instructor knows how to plan and prepare courses, give practical instruction, assess and test an operator’s skills, and has a solid and up-to-date understanding of any relevant legislative frameworks. A skilled instructor also understands whether a struggling trainee requires a boost in confidence or motivation. All these additional skills are taught via proper accredited instructor courses.

Specific operator training is fundamental, but a general awareness of forklift safety among all of your workforce can vastly reduce the number of accidents and injuries, an issue that all SMEs could do without. The Forklift Truck Association offers a free safety programme that will benefit any company that operates forklift trucks, be it one or a hundred.

The Safer Site Programme is a free, online, step-by-step programme that anyone can implement. It was developed in response to the high number of injuries caused by forklift trucks. The idea of the programme is simple: at regular intervals the FLTA publishes a new step in the programme on its web site. Each step contains advice, guidance, resources and a series of practical tasks that need to be completed as a company moves through the process.

One of the benefits to the programme is its back-to-basics, practical approach. It is peer-led, meaning guidance on best practice comes straight from those with everyday experience of forklift trucks – companies who have faced the same issues regarding safety and have implemented innovative and effective ways to solve them.

While many of the solutions are ingenious; they are also ‘real world’ and entirely transferrable – regardless of the size of the company or site, there is something in this programme for everyone.

Many of the safety initiatives are focused on three key areas: traffic routes/segregation, training and engagement. Keeping forklifts separated from pedestrians is an issue faced by every single company that uses them. Training is often restricted to FLT operators but, in reality, everyone in the company benefits from a forklift operational awareness course.

Every bit as important is training for managers and supervisors. Statistics show that less than half have ever driven a forklift and less than ten per cent are aware of their legal responsibilities – yet it is they who must monitor, direct and motivate everyone who works on or around a forklift truck.

You can access the Safer Site programme at


Right finance

Another fundamental consideration is cost effectiveness. This isn’t about getting the cheapest, it is about getting the right materials handling system for your location and size with the right financing. Factors to consider could include the use of second-hand trucks instead of new; leasing the equipment instead of buying; loan options from banks or financing from the equipment companies; service options. Some examples of the services that materials handling companies provide that can offer savings to SMEs include:

  • Toyota Material Handling has launched a new forklift tyre service, making it easy for customers to replace tyres and providing a one stop shop for all forklift tyre replacement, whether it’s a one truck user or a major fleet operator.

The service provides a range of forklift tyres to suit different applications at competitive prices, a reliable national mobile tyre fitting service, and a dedicated support team who manage the process from enquiry to invoicing.

In addition to the standard tyre replacement, customers can also opt for account management with scheduled fleet checks to allow them to budget more effectively and conform to health and safety guidelines.

  • Doosan Industrial Vehicle UK has launched three ways to save – in conjunction with finance partner Investec, using a contract hire or finance package.

Offer 1: Finance – Zero per cent interest for 12 months – spread the cost of a new truck over 12 months interest free.

Offer 2: Finance – Lowers up-front costs with a £1,000 deposit contribution – paid by Doosan.

Offer 3: Contract Hire – The first three months of the contract hire deal are free of charge. This 3forfree deal saves the first quarter spend, improving cash flow.

  • Linde Material Handling has developed a new free App to give customers easy access to their database of available approved used forklifts for sale. With different types of forklift trucks on the database, customers can search by product, capacity, mast lift height and budget, making selection of the ideal truck quick and simple. This modern user-friendly approach makes selecting a Linde approved used forklift truck for virtually any application both fun and easy. The Linde App is available to download from the Google Play and Apple App stores.


Used trucks

Used trucks offer a cost effective way to get hold of materials handling equipment, however there are many pitfalls to avoid ensuring the investment is still worth it in terms of safety and value. Most materials handling companies offer a second-hand service where they have approved the trucks for safety and reliability. This should also include a Thorough Examination – the national procedure set up by Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), a joint venture between the two major industry trade associations in materials handling – the FLTA and the British Industrial Truck Association.

The Thorough Examination for forklift trucks is equivalent to the MOT for cars – a mandatory check to ensure that the mechanical parts of the forklift are in safe working order. It is not the same as regular maintenance – so you need one whether or not you’ve just had the truck serviced.

Thorough Examination is required by law, and must take place at regular intervals that depend on the type of truck. More information can be found at


Latest developments

There are a number of new products on the market that lend themselves well to the SME environment.


  • Crown has launched a range of multi-purpose lift trucks – the Crown MPC 3000 Series. Capable of travelling at up to 12.5 km/h and lifting 1,200 kg to a height of 4.3 metres, the Crown MPC 3000 Series combines all the benefits of an order picker with the advantages of a counterbalanced lift truck.

The adaptability of the trucks in the series means they are suitable for use in a wide variety of warehouse applications.

Not only is the lift-truck series capable of providing the perfect ergonomic working height for any order-picking task, it is also capable of sandwich-stacking multiple pallets that simplifies the put-away process at the receiving facility in certain applications. The high-lift mast also enables the truck to respond swiftly to demand by replenishing low-level pick slots from high-level shelves or racks.

The MPC 3000 Series is available with a non-telescopic mast (1780 mm lift height), a simplex mast (4200 mm) or a duplex mast (4300 mm).


  • Toyota has launched a new Traigo 48 electric forklift truck range, which it says is nine per cent more energy efficient than its next competitor in class.

The truck has improved electric power steering for. It has a compact chassis and ergonomic upgrades. The 3-wheel models are available from 1.5 to 2.0 tonnes and are designed for manoeuvring in confined areas. The 4-wheel models, available from 1.6 to 2.0 tonnes, are designed for intensive operations in both indoor and outdoor environments and now have an improved turning circle.

They are also equipped with the Toyota System of Active Stability (SAS) and Toyota AC motors. These trucks are available with the optional Lithium-ion battery technology that allows for fast opportunity charging at any time.

  • Yale has introduced the MPT series rider pallet truck, offering sit, lean and stand functionality.

Combining the benefits of platform and seated models, the Yale MPT series rider pallet truck gives operators the freedom to stand or lean, and the comfort of sitting for long transfers.

Yale reckons the design is a major contribution to increasing operator productivity in applications involving a combination of, for example, lorry or trailer loading and unloading, cross-docking, transport over longer distances and extended or multi-shift work cycles.


  • Doosan has launched its new range of 1.5 to 2.0 tonne electric forklifts, which it says brings a step change in performance and value to the UK market.

The four-wheel B18X-7 now turns to 86 degrees, reducing the forklift’s turning radius by 160mm to just 1795mm. Such manoeuvrability will improve productivity and reduce damage allowing operation in much narrower confines than before.

A boost for on-site productivity also comes in the form of the new side lift-in lift-out battery change system.

Allowing batteries to be switched quickly and safely using only a simple hand pallet truck, this is suited to extended double or triple shift operations and decreases downtime when changing batteries. As well as increasing the speed of the battery change operation, it also increases the safety levels and one that takes the manual handling issues of roller-based systems out of the equation.


  • TCM has launched the SRD 200 double stacker forklift, which has the ability to transport two pallets in every cycle, improving the turnover rate for cross-docking or load/unloading. It has a driving speed of up to 10 kmph loaded and is powered by an AC motor with an integrated anti-rollback feature.

The user can ride on the fold-up operator platform or operate it on foot as a pedestrian stacker. Depending on the mast, the SRD 200 has a maximum lifting height of 1,675 mm or 2,090 mm plus initial lift and can transport loads with a total weight of 1000 kg + 1000 kg on forks and straddle lift.


  • Baoli Material Handling Europe has extended its portfolio of warehouse equipment with a range of electric pallet trucks and stackers. The different models are designed for a variety of applications, ranging from loading and unloading lorries up to intensive logistic operations.

Several pallet trucks and stackers feature optional foldable ride-on platform and protection guards for safe and comfortable operation.

The warehouse trucks are equipped with different battery capacities from 85 Ah to 375 Ah. Also maintenance free batteries are available. The battery life is increased by a discharge indicator with automatic cut-out facility. The lateral battery exchange of the pallet truck EP25-N01 results in a quick battery replacement between working shifts.

The electric stackers are available with load capacities from 1 to 1.6 tons. Different masts versions including a wide view mast enable a variety of applications with lift heights up to 6 metres.


  • Nexen has launched a range of warehouse trucks – the “Aufero” range. The range includes more than 25 different A/C products including mini mains charged pallet trucks, industrial battery pallet trucks – both stand on and walk behind. There are also stackers with either mono or standard mast configurations. Tow tractors, order pickers and reach trucks complete the line up.


  • Midland Pallet Trucks has a range of economical pallet trucks and other lifting equipment. There are weighing scale pallet trucks from £199.00, manual stacker trucks starting at £299.95, and scissor lift trucks from £415.00 – all including VAT.
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