Manual vs Powered Jacks: Each Has Their Benefits

work assist

Manual Jack

Moving pallets of products and supplies and other heavy loads doesn’t always require a forklift. In many instances, using a manual or electric jack is a better solution, especially if space is an issue.

Both types of jacks can get into narrow aisles, areas with low clearance, or other spaces where forklifts can’t easily fit.

Yet despite their similarities, manual and powered jacks have one major difference. As the name implies, manual jacks feature hydraulics that are pumped by hand while most electric jacks operate by a battery that power the lift up and down automatically.

Benefits of Power Jacks

The biggest advantage of power jacks is their speed. Loads can be picked up, moved to another location, and dropped gently into position quickly, safely and efficiently.

Power Jack (Photo via The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design)

Power Jack (Photo via The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design)

Power jacks are also easy to manipulate, especially on ramps and other uneven surfaces. On most power jacks, the battery doesn’t just provide lift, it also powers the drive wheel, moving it forward and backward with the push of a button or knob.

That makes it a lot easier to move palletized loads or other heavy objects up and down hills.

Benefits of Manual Jacks

Manual jacks will do everything a power jack will do, only manually.

Lifting loads isn’t difficult because manual jacks have manual hydraulic pumps that can lift even the heaviest loads by simply moving the handle up and down. The hydraulics do the heavy lifting.

But biggest downside of manual jacks is in their movement. Unlike power jacks, the wheels on manual jacks aren’t powered. So moving loads has to be done the old-fashioned way, with muscle and force.

On the positive side, manual jacks can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of a power jack, and for far less than a forklift.

Manual jacks also don’t need to be plugged into a power source to be recharged, unlike power jacks. They also won’t increase utility bills by requiring daily charging.

Electric Forklift. (Courtesy: Yale Europe)

Electric Forklift.
(Courtesy: Yale Europe)

Which One Should You Use?

Which material handling equipment you need for your operation depends on what you plan to use it for and, equally important, your equipment budget.

If you have a lot of space, a generous budget, and are planning on lifting a lot of loads all the time, a forklift probably would make the most sense.

If space is limited, your equipment budget is modest, and you are only planning on moving a few loads per day, a manual jack may be the ideal solution.

And if there are a lot of ramps to navigate in your workplace, you may want to consider a power jack.

About Dan M