What is an order picker?
Order pickers are types of material handling forklift equipment that are typically used in warehouse, manufacturing, distribution, or retail workplaces. They are used by workers to grab or “pick” materials that are stored at high elevations, such as inventory stored on higher shelves. Compared to pallet jacks, which help workers lift items to 8 feet maximum, order pickers can help warehouse workers reach heights of up to 35 feet.
Essentially, a worker will stand on the order picker’s platform and move up with the mast to the height of the shelf they need to reach. Then, the worker will remove the material they need, such as a box of inventory, and then use the forklift to lower themself back to the ground.
Order pickers are typically electric battery-powered machines that facilitate and quicken inventory organization, as well as distribution preparation. Because they work efficiently in “narrow aisles”, they are ideal equipment in warehouses to maximize storage space.
Industry Uses and Applications
Order pickers can be used in any large commercial setting where highly elevated shelving needs to be utilized. They help with storage, order fulfillment and preparation, warehouse organization and optimization, and more.
- Warehouses: To pull inventory from higher shelving areas
- Larger retail distribution centers: For order fulfillment and preparation, such as an Amazon fulfillment center or furniture warehouse
- Manufacturing facilities: To create “narrow aisles” and pack in more inventory and create more storage space.
- Large libraries: For book and archival storage
- Storage facilities: To easily store items on higher shelves
While most order pickers today are electric-powered machines, some can be manually operated.
- Electric (battery-powered): A majority of order pickers are electric and run by rechargeable batteries. When using an order picker for a narrow aisle, they usually need to be electric and guided by using wire or rails.
- Manual: Some order pickers can also be manually steered. This is only recommended when not being used in narrow aisles.
Keep in mind that electric order pickers are usually the most efficient and quick. Warehouses and other facilities using wire guidance systems for their order pickers must use electric order pickers. Wire and rail guidance systems reduce workplace injuries as well as equipment and product damage.
Typical Order Picker Capacities and Speeds
- Load capacity: 1,500 lbs.
- Travel speed (max): 6-7 mph
- Lift speed (max): 40-80 ft. per min.
- Height capacity: 9-35 ft.
Types of Order Pickers
There are two main types of order pickers – mid-level and high-level. They are categorized mainly based on the maximum height they can allow a worker to reach. Mid-level order pickers will not reach as high elevations compared to high-level order pickers.
Additionally, mid-level order pickers tend to be free-roaming equipment, which means they are guided freely by workers. On the other hand, high-level order pickers tend to be wire or rail guided, meaning they may require a wire guidance system to navigate very narrow aisles. Make sure to check with your forklift supplier to get the exact capacities and height limits for each machine you are considering. Ensure it will be suitable for your workplace’s highest shelving elevations and material weight.
|Max height||Max weight capacity||Applications|
|15-25 ft.||3,000 lbs.||Free-roaming|
|Max height||Max weight capacity||Applications|
|20-35 ft.||3,000 lbs.||Wire or rail guided|
Additional Order Picker Features
All order pickers will come equipped with a worker’s platform and operation panel, where a worker will stand to operate the forklift to move up and down. However, there are a few additional features you may see that come equipped with certain order pickers. Note: many of these are optional, rather than 100% necessary, depending on the needs of your workplace.
- Flip-up (fold-up) side gates: This will allow workers to achieve quick and easy movement between different picking locations.
- Wire guidance systems: As mentioned, wire or rail guiding helps electric order pickers move more easily and safely between locations.
- Lift logic: Some order pickers have “lift logic,” which automatically detects and monitors height and speed.
What to consider when choosing an order picker
It’s important that when choosing an order picker, you make sure it suits the needs of your workplace. Order pickers are meant to make warehouse and storage tasks quicker and easier, but selecting the wrong machine can result in just the opposite. Before choosing an order picker, consider these factors.
- Does the height (lift) maximum match the highest shelf in your workplace? Before buying, figure out the height of the tallest shelving area at your workplace. Then, make sure the order picker will allow workers to reach those higher elevation areas.
- Do you have narrow aisles? Warehouses with narrow aisles - at about 9-9.5 feet wide or narrower - will usually need to use high-level, electric order pickers. If you have particularly narrow aisles, you should consider wire guidance systems for operating your order pickers.
- What are your weight requirements? Most order pickers have a maximum load capacity of 3,000 lbs, but be sure to check the particular load capacity of the machine you are choosing. Also make sure to train your workers on weight limits and ensure they will not be using the order pickers to grab loads that are more than 3,000 lbs.
Rental and purchase pricing
If you are interested in getting order pickers for your workplace, you have the option to either rent or buy! Additionally, if you choose to buy, you can either purchase a new or used order picker.
Pricing will depend on factors such as the size, weight capacity, lift height, tire material, battery voltage, and new vs. used. Typically, when an order picker has a higher lift and weight capacity, it will drive up the cost.
|Per day: $180-$230|
Per week: $380-$500
Per month: $1,100-$1,500
When to rent vs. buy
Businesses typically choose to rent order pickers when they have a temporary or seasonal need, such as preparing orders during a busy holiday season. We recommend considering renting if you need your forklift for 1-6 months.
If you need your forklift for 6-12 months or more, you may want to consider purchasing the order picker. Make sure to compare the total cost of renting over the course of your rental contract with the purchase price. It may actually be more cost-efficient to buy and resell the forklift once you no longer need it!
Ready to compare prices on order pickers? Use 360Connect’s free price comparison tool to get up to 5 free quotes on order pickers and other forklift equipment!