An order picker, also known as a stock picker, is a machine very similar to a forklift that enables the user to pick up a pallet using forks. Unlike a forklift, the unit can also lift the individual up to higher shelves for picking certain items. Order pickers are generally powered by electricity. The units are mainly used in a warehouse setting and, while they can be used for transporting pallets, they usually serve a much more specialized purpose.
The operator controls an order picker from a platform that generally sits very close to the ground. The individual can direct the order picker to go forward, backward or steer it from side to side. Once the unit is in place, the the forks can be raised to a level that makes it convenient for the operator. If the materials needed are on a shelf that the operator cannot reach, then the entire platform is capable of raising up to a certain level. Even at higher levels, the unit remains balanced due to a counterweight on the other end.
Once the order has been picked, the platform is then lowered back to its original position and the order picker is then directed to the next location. It is possible with most units to move the order picker while the platform is raised, though some companies may have policies and procedures in place to prevent such operation. The machine can also place pallets on a shelf, but forklifts and stackers may commonly be used for that purpose as well.
The power source for an order picker may be a consideration for some companies, especially those who are going to be using the unit over multiple shifts. The battery in the unit will need to be recharged from time to time. If the unit is constantly in use three shifts out of the day, this may mean the company will need to invest in additional batteries to keep the unit running at all times. Various battery capacities may also be available for individual order pickers.
Other considerations when choosing an order picker may include travel and lift speed, along with the size of the forks and operating limits. Most order pickers come with a fork size that will pick up a standard pallet, typically no longer than 5 feet (1.5 m.). The travel and lift speed can help increase efficiency in production, but can also cause more accidents. As with all specialized heavy equipment, employees should receive adequate training on the units they will be using. Each picker will also be rated for a certain weight limit, and have reach limitations.