Building a mezzanine in a warehouse, factory or workshop is a good way to make better use of space or avoid the need to extend the premises. One of the key considerations is how to handle items between the two floors. For many the question is "should I use a goods lift or lift truck?" After considering all of the options the answer may well be one of the compact and easy to use goods lifts that are becoming increasingly used in the marketplace.
At first the idea of using a lift truck makes sense, especially if there is one already on site and the requirement is intermittent, because there is little or no added expense. They can handle a variety of items to more or less any position required. Despite these potential advantages there are drawbacks. Loads are not always palletised or packed for convenient handling with a lift truck. Transferring items from boxes or cartons onto a pallet or cage simply to allow handling between two floors is uneconomic and inefficient. Even when loads are palletised the lift truck is likely to have been selected for a specific job and might not be available when required. In any case, if the handling requirement is more intense the disruption to ongoing operations would be prohibitive and a lift truck is probably not the right option. Finally, introducing a lift truck into new areas of the warehouse has the potential to increase the risk of accidents. Most companies are trying to reduce the number of truck, and other vehicle, movements as part of their wider health and safety programmes.
The choice becomes more clouded if there is no lift truck available. A basic pallet stacker can represent a cost effective option, although still involves using mobile machinery, but nobody would seriously consider a ride-on truck solely to handle items between floors. The up-front investment is likely to be prohibitive and the additional burden of operator training and licensing as well as ongoing maintenance and regulatory checks can only add costs.
So, unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, the only realistic option if no lift truck is available (and often the better solution when there is one) is a goods lift. Some initial investment is required and, depending on the choice of equipment, structural building changes might be needed during installation. But if all factors affecting whole life costs are taken into account a goods lift often represents excellent value.
The biggest advantage is that the lift will always be available when needed so there is never any disruption to ongoing operations. This means that handling can take place when needed rather than waiting for the lift truck and trained operator. The lift can be positioned where required for the most productive and efficient work. Its performance can be matched to the handling requirement, for example through the provision of platforms or cradles designed specifically for the shape and size of load. It can be equipped with appropriate cages, interlocks and other features that help ensure safety.
The precise type of goods lift chosen will depend on a variety of factors, often focused around the weight and size of the load. Heavy duty goods and scissor lifts are often preferred for handling larger or heavier loads weighing between 500kg and 2 tonnes. These are good but may involve more structural changes to the premises than some of the alternative devices available. They often require stricter certification, and more stringent inspection regimes, especially if they are designed for, or are capable of, carrying people.
Many companies are now turning to simpler goods lifts such as the Mezz Lift manufactured by Penny Hydraulics. Robust and built solely for industrial applications, this does not require a floor pit and allows easy access. Its hydraulic control equipment is typically mounted to the side of the installation without the need for a separate motor room. One of the principal limitations of other types of goods lift is therefore avoided this coupled with its fully enclosed, self supporting structure means that it can, if required, be relocated more easily.
Devices such as the Mezz Lift allow users to match the configuration to the job in hand. They can be supplied with bespoke platforms, perhaps to fit through an existing floor opening or in a purpose built self contained shaft. A wide choice of self-supporting standard designs are available for customers to meet their individual requirements. There are few restrictions on lifting height which means it can be installed, or extended, for multi-floor applications. The maximum working load is generally in the 250-500kg class which covers the majority of loads encountered in industrial applications. Mini versions are also available with load ratings as low as 50kg, offering a very simple and effective solution for lighter items. In these and other applications the platform can be set to stop at waist height for convenient handling without the need for the bending or stooping. Robust construction and simple design combine to promote reliability and ease of use. The lift can be installed indoors or outside using a standard 20A/240V supply. Training is straightforward and maintenance issues are kept to a minimum, all of which helps to control overall life time costs.
One of the biggest advantages of a lift like the Mezz Lift is that it does not require the same level of safety certification as people-carrying lifts. However, like any other piece of lifting equipment, it is covered by the normal LOLER and PUWER regulations which means it must undergo a statutory thorough inspection at least once a year. These regulations are designed to ensure safety but are not as onerous as those covering lifts designed for people carrying or, indeed, the operation of lift trucks.