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How does a Goods Lift work?

If you are looking at goods lifts or lifts for warehouses and commercial properties, it is vital that you know how they operate. If hydraulic lifts give you a headace, and belt drives boggle you, this guide should help to clear up some of the mysteries.

Understanding your goods lift makes it safer – you might spot an issue before it causes problems. It can also help with understanding servicing and maintenance, which could reduce your costs and prevent down time.

Read on to learn more…

How does a hydraulic goods lift work?

Hydraulic Goods Lifts are the classic style that most people associate with lifting equipment. As a very simple explanation, any lift is a box in a shaft which is moved up and down – the hydraulic system is what moves it.

The elements involved in a hydraulic lift are:

  • oil pit/reserve
  • pump
  • motor
  • valve

The motor drives the pump, which pushes oil into the system through a valve. The pressure and liquid pushes up the piston, which causes movement of the lift cabin/car, making it rise smoothly.

To lower the car, the valve is opened and the oil is returned to the reserve pit, and the cabin/car is lowered as the piston lowers.

Read more and see hydraulic lift diagrams in our blog here.

How does a traction goods lift work?

Traction lifts work using a belt system. The main elements are:

  • cable/ropes
  • sheave (pulley)
  • counterweight
  • motor

Basically the motor turns the sheave/pulley, which moves the cable. The cable has the lift at one end and a counterweight at the other. When the pulley moves one way, the lift goes up, the other way and the lift goes down.

The counterweight is an energy saving element that prevents wasted energy from the rise and fall, which hydraulic lifts do not.

Read more and see traction lift diagrams in our blog here.

What Goods Lift Features do I Need to Consider?

Goods lifts can help with all sorts of efficiency and movement processes within a warehouse, back of house or other goods environment.

Consider these features when looking at goods lifts:

  • with or without attendant
  • weight capacity
  • size (based on goods size) – a trolley lift orĀ dumb waiter may be suitable instead of a goods lift
  • Travel over non-personnel floors
  • Safety features including light curtains, communication, battery backups, overload devices
  • Entry size – will it be a big enough door?
  • Time and space needed for installation
  • Drive system of the lift
  • Travel height (some types are restricted)

Which is the best system for a goods lift?

If you are putting your lift in a brickwork shaft, and you are going to keep in place for a long time, and the travel is large, a hydraulic system works well and is more powerful.

The benefit is that you don’t need overhead structures and machinery. The downside is they cannot go over 6-8 floors without having a massive oil pit. Hydraulic lifts are also usually cheaper than traction, and don’t require head fixing for cables.


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If you would like a freestanding lift, or don’t want to have deep oil pits, a traction goods lift might be a better choice. Traction lifts can be easily retro-fitted and can usually be moved fairly easily. Where travel is very high, or energy consumption needs to be considered, a traction lift is better than hydraulic.

Whilst traction lifts are faster and simpler, they are also more expensive and the parts may well need replacing sooner (depending on the lifespan of the belts).

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Whatever lift you need, Gartec are here with expert advice and a range of lifts for any access need. Get in touch today to find out more.

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