Modern devices like vertical lifts, hand trucks and carts got their start long ago. Going back to primitive times, humans realized that a heavy object could be moved more easily if something round like tree logs were placed under it and the object rolled over them. This realization resulted in the invention of the “sledge,” a combination wedge and sled. Grooves were cut into the rollers, requiring less energy to create a turning motion. This became the axle. When wooden pegs were used to fix the sledge so that when it rested on the rollers it did not move, it became a cart.
Over the centuries, especially as people became more environmentally conscious, a switch was made from wood to metal, such as stainless steel to withstand heat and provide durability, to make carts. More recently, businesses are looking for even cheaper, lighter materials, and today many carts are made of plastic. However, there are instances when plastic just won’t work, such as in high temperatures and corrosive applications, and steel continues to be used.
There has always been a need for vertical transport to move heavy loads in factories and on docks. The earliest lifts used man, animal and water power to raise a load. Lifting devices relied on basic forms of power from the early agricultural societies until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. By the 18th century, machine power was being applied to the development of the lift.
In 1835, the first belt-driven elevator was installed in a factory in England. The first hydraulic industrial lift powered by water pressure appeared in 1846. Electrically powered lifts, dating from 1889, enabled quicker movement, and the application of push button and lever controls were in place by 1894. Other powered lifting devices soon followed as machinery and engineering advanced.
When the cost of doing business increased, employee time became more valuable and hiring new workers became too expensive, material handling manufacturers developed new techniques, such as scissor lifts and tables, to get work done faster and with fewer employees. Today, these are a necessary part of a warehouse, as materials are stored higher and higher. Most recently, scissor lifts and tables on production and assembly lines have undergone a strong ergonomics push to make lifting, turning, bending and reaching more efficient, while decreasing chances of employee injuries.