Reach trucks or order pickers?
Which is the best logistics solution?

Reach trucks or order pickers

Reach trucks and order pickers are a popular addition to any modern materials handling equipment (MHE) fleet, but how are these trucks different to the conventional counterbalance forklift? And what are the benefits of using each in your warehouse? We’ll answer these questions plus introduce you to the order pickers and reach trucks within the STILL range.

What is a reach truck?

A reach truck is a specialist type of forklift truck designed for use in warehouses that have high multi-level storage racks. Reach trucks offer fleet managers a compact and agile truck that can lift heavy loads and reach far higher heights than standard counterbalance forklifts. Due to their "warehouse-only" operating nature, reach trucks are commonly powered by electric motors using lithium-ion batteries, STILL’s range of reach trucks have battery capacities of 930 Ah, meaning they can operate through long shifts without needing to recharge.

What is the difference between a reach truck and a counterbalance forklift?

The fundamental difference is also the source of its major benefit. When a reach truck picks up loads, the mast of the truck reaches forward beyond the truck’s wheelbase, it then pulls the load back and down to within the truck’s wheelbase. Reach trucks do this to keep the truck stable when transporting loads without needing large and heavy counterweights that increase their footprint on the warehouse floor.

To further save space and improve stability the cab of a reach truck faces sideways to the lifting arms and drive wheels. Thanks to their compact size, reach trucks are well suited to narrow warehouse spaces where the inventory is stored up high. Also, the clear vision provided (when the load is in trailing position) makes for a safer and faster internal transport unit.

How high can a reach truck ‘reach’?

FM-4W at work

The STILL range of reach trucks can lift to a height of 13 metres, allowing warehouse managers to make the most use of their warehouse’s vertical space. With a high residual load capacity, STILL reach trucks can safely lift and reach up to 1,000 kg at the maximum lifting height, again allowing warehouse managers to not make comprises when planning out inventory storage.

If your inventory includes large and long items, there are also ‘four-way’ reach trucks such as the STILL FM-4W. Four-way reach trucks can transport loads forwards, backwards and sideways thanks to their 90° rotating wheels, making them extremely versatile for warehouses with unusually large sized items. In addition, the FMX-SE soft tyre model allows the reach truck to work both indoors and outdoors.

Is an order picker a forklift?

Order pickers are different to other forklifts in a fundamental way, they are designed to fulfil and ‘pick’ individual customer orders rather than move full pallets. The conventional forklift truck is perfect at the start of the warehouse process, receiving goods from the factory in bulk. The order picker sits at the other end, retrieving individual boxes and components from storage racks, ready for packing and shipping.

How do you use an order picker in your warehouse?

Hardly any other type of material handling equipment has such a broad and diverse range as order pickers, each one optimised to a specific warehouse scenario.

To start, there are horizontal and vertical order pickers. Horizontal order pickers handle your low-level inventory. With longer storage forks behind the driver’s cab, warehouse operators can safely navigate narrow aisles and process orders efficiently. Vertical order pickers carry out the same process but allow the operator to pick items from high up with a driver cabin (that elevates to a maximum of 12 metres) and with the option of utilising either a conventional auxiliary fork arrangement or a walk out platform designed to be product specific.

For the next generation, STILL also produces the first autonomous order picker, the iGo neo OPX 20. This order picker handles the driving, the steering, and even avoiding obstacles by following the operator through the warehouse while they focus entirely on the picking process. As a result, the OPX 20 can increase picking performance by up to 30% and reduce operator fatigue by 75%.

What is the difference between an order picker and a reach truck?

While reach trucks and order pickers are both purpose-built for warehouse use, they have some key differences that will determine whether they are right for your warehouse configuration. Reach trucks are suited to lifting heavier bulk loads up to 2,500 kg which are high up on storage racks. So, if your inventory includes heavy bulky items that you can store high up, reach trucks are a great way to optimise your warehouse space.

The order picker is designed to fulfil smaller items which you would normally find in a picking warehouse. Whilst there are high level order pickers out there (such as the EK-X and the EK-X 10) which can reach up to 12 metres in height, the order picker’s specialism is within the picking and packing stage of your warehouse operation, where higher volumes of items need to be processed quickly.

As a combination solution the reach truck and the order picker can work in the same operating aisle simultaneously to provide high volume through-puts in any warehouse.

order picker at work

STILL... experts in reach trucks and ‘intralogistics’

Now we have introduced what reach trucks and order pickers can do, is it time to discover the efficiencies they can bring to your warehouse operation. At STILL we focus on delivering our customers the right solution for their individual needs. If you need advice and support on choosing the right forklift truck for your warehouse, then please get in touch with one of our consultants today!

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