Narrow Aisle Handling Made Easy

Posted by on 02/28/2024

The landscape of materials handling is shifting toward smaller warehouses, higher racking, and narrower aisles. “Often referred to as 'micro-warehousing,' the rising costs of warehouse facilities and real estate are the main drivers of this trend,” Doug Pierce, Global Product Manager at Cascade, says. “Building upwards is often more cost-effective than expanding outwards due to the high costs of building materials and land, especially in dense urban areas. Instead of relying on large distribution centers, companies are strategically positioning fulfillment centers to reduce delivery time and costs.”

In these smaller environments, higher racking and narrower aisles are required to maximize warehouse utilization, so the role of innovative forksattachments, and mast solutions is crucial. "As the industry evolves, Cascade remains committed to providing cutting-edge products that address the unique challenges of narrow aisle warehousing,” Doug says. “Our focus is on enhancing efficiency, reducing costs, and seamlessly integrating advanced technologies to meet the evolving needs of our customers.”

Here are some ways to achieve easy narrow aisle handling wins entering the new year.

1. Maximize Maneuverability Inside Your Existing Warehouse

Trilateral Head and Mast System

Cascade’s Trilateral Head is a traversing and swiveling fork system, allowing operators to retrieve pallets from either side of a narrow aisle with the forklift at a 90º angle to the load. This considerably reduces aisle width requirements, even when combined with a standard forklift. The Trilateral design also has 180º head rotation, making it a productive choice for any palletized load.

Recently, a customer with a narrow aisle warehouse required a custom solution for the front end of their AGV to allow for fast picking and depositing of loads. Lift-Tek Elecar, a division of Cascade, bundled their mast with a hybrid Cascade Trilateral Head. Combined with the Trilateral Head, this 3-stage mast can reach lifting heights of up to 12 meters/39 feet, perfect for high-racking warehouses. The Trilateral Head allows the forks to turn left or right 90º, letting automated trucks manipulate a pallet on either side of the aisle. Manufactured as a hybrid attachment, the custom Trilateral Head has hydraulic and electric functionality. Electric sideshifting and fork rotation are complemented by sensors that assist with speed and acceleration control for even more accurate load handling in very tight warehouse environments.


Operators can automatically adjust fork lengths without leaving their driver’s seat. Ideal for double deep racking systems in tight warehouse spaces, these hydraulic forks can be extended to handle various pallet sizes or multiple pallets at once by simply adjusting the fork length.

High-Lift Masts

Developed by Cascade subsidiary Lift-Tek, our mast technology helps you reach higher lift heights (masts lift 15 meters/49 feet!), maximizing vertical storage space and warehouse density. Some designs can help warehouses gain up to 30-50% more storage capacity in tall and narrow environments.

2. Increase Output by Reducing Travel Times with Precision Handling Technology

Mobile Weighing Solutions

Cascade ActivWeigh™ is a patented, carriage-based scale integrated with “Weigh-In-Motion” capabilities, sideshifting, and fork positioning functionality, all packaged as a compact integral or hang-on unit. ActivWeigh allows forklift operators to easily approach a load, adjust the fork spacing, lift, and immediately weigh the load while the forklift is in motion—saving valuable time in fast-faced warehouse environments. ActivWeigh also accepts most Cascade attachments like a Push/Pull or Single Double, allowing customers to easily add a weighing function to a standard attachment.

Cascade ActivWeigh offers accurate weight measurements for off-center loads, providing streamlined operation with an incredibly thin profile that maximizes the net truck capacity. Weight data is automatically recorded during transport and transmitted to a truck-mounted Bluetooth display. From the display, data can then be communicated wirelessly to an end user’s Warehouse Management System for analysis and further optimization.

Weigh Forks save time and money by combining transport and weighing into one easy step. Weigh Forks have scales built into the forks rather than the carriage and improve productivity whenever you would otherwise need to take extra time driving to a floor scale.

Recently, a customer in a high-racking application utilized Cascade Weigh Forks to streamline their order-picking process. Needing a way to easily ensure that drivers were loading order picker carts or pallets to their desired weights, this customer asked Cascade to develop an audible alert that sounds when the cart or pallet weight reaches a predetermined value. These customized Weigh Forks offered a simple way to validate weight accuracy while picking orders at high lift heights, requiring little driver input.

Sensor Forks and Camera Forks

These forks come with a built-in digital camera and sensor package, providing drivers with incredible visibility of fork placement. Using a high-quality video transmitted via Wi-Fi from the tip of the fork and conveniently displayed in the operator compartment, drivers can easily navigate difficult handling situations that require greater precision. A wide-angle auxiliary camera can also be mounted on strategic points of the lift truck, including the mast or load backrest, to provide an additional point of view for drivers. Some users position the auxiliary wide-angle unit on the back of their truck for a rearview camera in narrow warehousing environments.

Along with the camera, depth and level sensors detect objects above the forks and proximity to the load, assisting operators with optimal positioning and fork clearance when lifting and depositing loads. The improved visibility that comes with Sensor Forks saves time and effort by allowing operators to read the label or product SKUs on a high-up bin, crate, or pallet before picking it from its rack. This next-level handling awareness can help operators eliminate overdriving loads, reducing the risk of fork punctures and costly product damage. 

3. Tackle Small Warehouse Footprints with Customized AGVs and Forklift Solutions

Bilateral Attachment

With a Bilateral attachment, an AGV can place a load on either side of a warehouse racking system without turning the truck. This unique attachment has forks that traverse the carriage and then extend from the left and right sides, allowing the vehicle to travel straight down a warehouse aisle and deposit the load onto a rack from either side—no turning necessary.

How does a Bilateral Attachment work in practice? Last year, a logistics customer wanted to improve their workflow handling pallets of boxes containing milk and juice cartons. Eliminating the need for complex turns and maneuvers was crucial in the narrow aisle warehouse environment, so our Bilateral attachment was a perfect solution. The Bilateral unit traverses horizontally on their Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) carriage, extending from both the left and right sides to approach loads on either side of the aisle with precision. With its horizontal traversal and dual-sided extension capabilities, it optimized AGV utilization, eliminating unnecessary movements and turns to move product faster while minimizing product damage.

Custom Solutions/Technical Service

Cascade Custom equipment is perfect when you need a specialty, tailor-made solution to fully maximize your micro-warehousing space—especially in AGV environments. Our global network of local facilities also ensures our technical support is second to none, meaning less downtime and better customer service.

In the era of micro-warehousing fueled by real estate costs and e-commerce, Cascade can help you maximize space in narrow aisles and high-racking environments. Contact us today so you can start innovating for the future of material handling technology.

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