Until a human can physically lift up two tons of random material, spin it around his head, and gently put it back down on the ground, forklifts will be a part of our everyday life. Almost every industry relies on forklifts to handle heavy loads. Not all require a standard set of forks. Paper companies need paper roll clamps, recyclers use clamps and rotators, and the list goes on and on.
Forklifts can be used for so much more than lifting and moving around pallets. Attachments can be fixed to the front of the machine, called the carriage, to do many different functions. This article will outline and describe some of the more popular attachments as well as provide links to where a customer could buy an attachment for their forklift. National Warehouse is a dealer for new attachments from the most popular brands and manufacturers such as Cascade, Rightline, and Arrow Material Handling. We also provide used forklift attachments and can help you source reconditioned forklift attachments.
Before we look at the different types of attachments we need to go over what it takes to put an attachment on a forklift. On the front of the machine is the carriage. This is where one would mount an attachment and hook up the hoses. Depending on the functions of the attachment, it will require a certain number of hydraulics or levers. Typically each function will need two hoses. Most forklifts have at least two functions: one being the raising and lowering of the mast and two being the tilt function back and forth. However, additional sets of hoses and hydraulics can be added on the front of the machine for attachments.
Here is a list of the attachments covered in this article.
Types of Attachments
- Fork positioner
- Push-pull aka slip sheet
- Single double
- Carton clamp
- Paper roll clamp
- Bale clamp
- Coil ram
The most common type of attachment and what most forklifts come with is called sideshift. Sideshift is a function that moves the carriage and the forks side to side. It is a very beneficial attachment in most applications because the operator can move the load horizontally without moving the machine. Imagine operating a forklift in a narrow aisle and trying to maneuver a pallet 2-3 inches side to side to put it into the racking. Sideshift would save the operator a lot of time and effort. In this case and all other times when a forklift only has one attachment, it would need three levers and six hydraulic hoses.
A fork postioner is very often paired with a sideshift especially on high capacity machines. Fork positioners move the forks themselves in and out on the carriage so the machine can handle loads of varying widths. Paired with a sideshift, the forklift can position the forks in an almost unlimited amount of variations. High capacity forklifts typically have a SS/FP because the forks can weigh thousands of pounds and will handle a variety of loads so moving the forks could be quite cumbersome and waste a lot of time.
A rotator does not leave much up to the imagination with its function as an attachment. They usually have forks attached to the front of the attachment and will rotate either 180 or 360 degrees. Great for any application that requires tipping or rotating a load. However, several variations exist. A rotator could also have a fork clamp function much like a fork positioner except that these have enough hydraulic pressure to squeeze a load with the forks while rotating.
Slip sheets are also referred to as push pulls. Most of the slip sheets that we see are two function attachments meaning they have a built-in sideshift. This would require the forklift to have four hydraulic functions. Slip sheets are popular in a lot of distribution plants because they eliminate the use of pallets. They have a large vertical platform that pushes the load out and off the forks that are usually very thin and very wide.
Single Double is a creative and simple name for a multiple load handler. It is simply a pair of forks that split into four forks. The outer 2 forks slide outward so that the forklift can handle two pallets side by side. Single doubles are similar to slip sheets in that they typically are a two function attachment that has a built-in sideshift function. Useful when requiring small amounts of horizontal movement in areas where it would be tough to maneuver the entire forklift.
Most attachment manufacturers will be able to make any number of custom attachments depending on the application. There are several types of clamps that have become standard across many industries. Carton, paper roll, and bale clamps are three of the more popular forms of clamping attachments. A lot of these will also rotate and can be either one, two or even three function attachments allowing the user to complete any number of actions with the load. They can be outfitted with a hydraulic setting that will regulate the amount of pressure the clamp can output to avoid a careless operator damaging the product.
Coil rams have been talked about before on our National Warehouse blogs because they are usually featured on large and high capacity forklifts. They are useful, but fairly industry specific. They are used to move around very heavy coils of rolled steel and other metals.
The last attachment that National Warehouse sees quite often is a scale. These can be very expensive, but very useful in applications needing to measure a product or load in weight. Oftentimes, the scale is integrated into the forks so that a pallet can be weighed and usually tared so that the only weight registered on the display is what is sitting on top of a pallet. Most scales will have a display inside the operator’s compartment for a quick and easy measurement.
Whatever attachment your application might call for, please do not hesitate to call us at National Warehouse. We stock a good inventory of used attachments and can order new attachments for a discount from most of the major manufacturers. When we do not have the attachment you are looking for, we will help you find it.