Forklifts are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. A single standard forklift is capable of carrying a 5,000 pound load. Imagine the length of time it would take for a single person to lift, move, and store the same 5,000 pounds of merchandise, equipment, or materials. Every warehouse, every large company, every business that handles material goods has the need for a forklift. Amazon, the largest retailer in the world, signed a contact to buy $70 million worth of forklifts in 2017 alone.
The History of Forklifts
The predecessor of the modern forklift was first introduced during World War I, when labor shortages from the war introduced a need for a more efficient mobile machine than the manually powered hoists that were the industry standard. Companies such as Clark, Towmotor Company, and Yale & Towne Manufacturing helped develop the first forklift. Electric and hydraulic powered forklifts helped popularize the use of forklifts even after the war ended.
However, the beginning of World War II once again spurred the need for increased production, and therefore more advanced forklift technology. Lansing Bagnall, a British company, invented a narrow aisle forklift that could navigate much smaller spaces than previous forklift iterations. This technology meant the utilization of warehouse space could be drastically increased from previous configurations.
In the years that followed the war, forklift technology flourished. Safety features were added, such as operator cages and load backrests. Specialized types of forklifts such as low lift trucks, reach trucks, and articulated, very narrow aisle counterbalance trucks were invented. Because of the high demand for improved manufacturing during the world wars, we are able to have these extremely important tools at our disposal today.
The Economics of Forklifts
In 2019 alone, 1,493,271 forklifts were sold worldwide, a 2.8% increase from 2017. According to a report by Oxford Economics, the industrial truck manufacturing and dealership gross value-added impact to Florida was 917 million dollars. Forklift manufacturers create employment for over 200,000 workers in the United States and contribute $25.7 billion yearly to our economy. In addition to the jobs created by the manufacturing of forklifts, there is also an additional 600,000 forklift operators in the United States. An article by supplychain247 states “The use of industrial trucks is essential to virtually every supply chain in every industry, making them indispensable to the economy.”
Forklifts, although seemingly innocuous, affect our lives every day. Without forklifts, there’d be no two-day shipping, grocery stores wouldn’t be able to restock their shelves nearly as fast (that means toilet paper would be even harder to come by), as well as a plethora of other effects to our lives. Whether you work in the manufacturing sector or not, the invention and implementation of forklifts have completely changed your life and the trajectory of our economy.