Turret Truck

With storage and manufacturing space at a premium thanks to expensive building leases and high costs per square foot, it’s important for warehouse and facility managers to make the most of the space they currently occupy. There are several types of industrial lift trucks available to support this goal and provide valuable space-saving solutions. 

One such machine, the compact forklift, offers excellent maneuverability around machinery, through standard doorways and even on freight elevators. These material handlers are lightweight and don’t have the same load capacity as a standard warehouse forklift, but they make up for it in their versatility and ability to navigate congested distribution centers and similar operations.

Narrow or very narrow aisle (VNA) forklifts serve a similar goal, as their unique design allows companies to fit more pallet racking into their existing warehouse footprint, increasing pallet positions for additional product storage. 

Both types of equipment are designed primarily for indoor use and run on industrial forklift batteries for emissions-free operation. 

This narrow aisle and compact forklift buyer’s guide will cover the definition, benefits, applications and types of different lift trucks to support purchasing decisions. Learn more about the difference between compact and narrow aisle forklifts and when each is the optimal solution. 

What Is a Compact Forklift?

Facilities with limited space, small doorways, large volumes of product on the floor or areas full of production machinery face challenges in moving materials and other loads. To combat these difficulties, a compact electric forklift is built with a very small chassis, three-wheel configuration and incredible maneuverability that allows productivity in very tight spaces. 

Compact forklifts can be as small as 43 inches long and fit through standard office doorways while still allowing the operator to sit comfortably.

Mariotti Mycros Forklift

What Is a Narrow Aisle Forklift Truck?

The standard warehouse aisle measures approximately 12 feet wide to accommodate the typical sit-down counterbalanced forklift. A narrow aisle forklift is what the name suggests — a lift truck designed to operate through aisles measuring 8 ½ to 10 ½ feet wide or slightly narrower. Some very narrow aisle forklift models can store and retrieve pallets in pallet racking systems as tight as 5 to 7 feet. See the graph below. 

In weighing compact forklifts versus narrow aisle forklifts, the chief consideration is the facility’s current storage density. A compact forklift will still move fairly quickly thanks to its three-wheel design, while a narrow aisle lift truck or VNA being more geared toward pallet or product retrieval makes it less efficient for more general activities.

What Are the Benefits of Compact and Narrow Aisle Forklifts?

Completing storage and picking operations using compact lift trucks will benefit warehouses and distribution centers on multiple levels:

  • Increased maneuverability: Electric compact forklifts are specifically designed and constructed to operate in limited space thanks to their three-wheel design. Simple and maneuverable, they provide state-of-the-art technology, ergonomics, safety and productivity.
  • Increased pallet space: Customers can gain up to 194% more pallet space with narrow aisle forklifts, as they enable warehouse managers to make the most of their square footage by bringing in additional racks and storing more pallets vertically.
  • Heightened productivity: Compact forklifts are relatively lightweight and capable of moving quickly. With skilled operators, they can help increase overall efficiency in any production facility, distribution center or plant for an improvement in productivity as well as floor space. 
  • Excellent versatility: The compact forklift is capable and versatile enough for different applications. Even if a facility has yet to reconfigure its aisles for increased product volume, a compact forklift can be just as productive in the short term while offering the opportunity for future space savings. The same is true for some narrow aisle models as well. 
  • Ergonomic design: Despite being smaller than traditional counterbalanced lift trucks, modern narrow aisle and compact forklifts boast ergonomic design elements that make them comfortable to operate. These lift trucks feature seats engineered for minimal vibration, user-friendly controls and advanced safety features to keep operators comfortable, alert and aware of their surroundings. 
  • Eco-friendly operation: Compact forklifts, VNA lift trucks and other narrow aisle equipment are built for indoor storage applications. Powered by lead acid or lithium-ion batteries or other electric power, they release no harmful emissions and operate relatively quietly. Since they don’t consume fuel, you can eliminate that consumable resource from your operation. They’re also a great way to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, which may help bolster a business’s reputation with buyers or partners.

Narrow Aisle Forklift Applications

Narrow Aisle Forklift Applications

Narrow aisle forklifts can serve numerous applications in different environments. With the right environmental package, they can even handle highly specialized jobs in harsh industrial settings. The following are a few types of operations in which these lift trucks excel:

  • Cold storage facilities: Transporting cold and frozen goods is much easier with narrow aisle forklifts. When one of these lift trucks is outfitted to operate in frigid environments, it can navigate cold storage facilities effortlessly, making operations more efficient and easing the burden on personnel. 
  • Manufacturing plants: Manufacturing plants benefit from compact forklifts because of their versatility and mobility. These facilities tend to be crowded and fast-paced, so a compact lift truck is ideal for keeping materials moving. 
  • Retail distribution centers: Where retail stock needs to be stored and transported across, in and out of a warehouse, narrow aisle forklifts are ideal for doing it swiftly. Today’s distribution centers are under immense pressure to maintain inventory thanks to e-commerce demands, so every inch of floor space counts. Narrow and very narrow aisle forklifts allow these facilities to make the most of it. 

Types of Compact and Narrow Aisle Material Handling Equipment

Compact, narrow and very narrow aisle forklifts come in a few different configurations to meet specialized needs. Here are some of the most common types and the specific operations they support:

Turret Trucks

A turret truck’s mast rotates so operators can pick up loads at a 90-degree angle. This action doesn’t require the truck’s body to turn, maximizing space and efficiency. The turret truck is one of the most common narrow aisle forklifts and is popular in warehouses and storage facilities where space is at its most precious. 

Some turret trucks can handle large loads of over 3,000 pounds, depending on the model. 

Order Pickers

When operators need to pick single items from pallets instead of the whole load, they’re likely to use order pickers. These lifts are used to reach tall shelves in narrow spaces, so they’re excellent for parts centers and other warehouses where smaller items are stocked and bought individually.  

Reach Trucks

Having a high lift capacity and the ability for their forks to extend laterally to retrieve pallets makes reach trucks suitable for warehouses with high-density storage and shelving. Vertical storage deep-racking systems require reach trucks to yield their full benefit.

3-Wheel Compact Electric Forklifts

Although limited in material handling capacity compared to conventional models, these forklifts have a turning radius that’s tight enough for constricted spaces. Small in stature but comfortable and highly maneuverable, these lifts are perfect for manufacturing or production areas.

Add a Narrow Aisle Forklift From Barclay to Your Material Handling Fleet

Purchase A VNA Lift

Make the most of your facility’s floor space with narrow aisle forklifts or compact electric lift trucks from Barclay. These versatile alternatives to traditional forklifts are ideal for numerous applications and will allow you to store more while maintaining productivity and ease of access. Barclay is proud to be a dedicated Mariotti dealer for compact and very narrow aisle forklifts.

We have a broad selection of forklifts to suit your needs, including compact, full-sized and specialized models. Call us at 980-561-2100 or submit a contact request form to ask questions or discuss our products with a team member.