A guide to using box trolleys in the warehouse

Busy warehouses need a variety of trolleys depending on the type of goods they deal with. Furniture companies like Harveys and DFS need trolleys to move large sofas, while jewellers such as Beaverbrooks and Ernest Jones carry lots of small high value items that require trolleys suitable for transporting smaller and lighter loads.

If a business has items packed in boxes or ones that fit into boxes, they need box trolleys. There are several types of box trolleys available. It is important to purchase the best models for a business’s particular needs.

Trolleys with built-in boxes

A simple flatbed trolley will carry boxes, but sometimes it is better to have one that comes with the suitably sized boxes. A trolley that has up to 20 boxes on four levels is useful for small items and for dealing with orders that have several small products. The boxes can be labelled with item descriptions and codes, and the trolleys used to store as well as move items.

If used as a picking trolley, box trolleys can have a clipboard and paperwork holders attached so that operators can pick hands free.

Other box trolleys have one or several large plastic boxes. These are useful for picking multiple item orders. When filled they can be taken to a packing station to be processed for dispatch.

Flatbed trolleys

For stackable boxes, a simple flatbed trolley may be sufficient as long as the boxes are the same size and can be stacked safely. Flatbed trolleys with added vertical sides are suitable for mixed box loads. The sides provide extra stability and prevent falls.

Bespoke box trolleys

Box trolley manufacturers produce a range of box trolleys, but occasionally a standard trolley does not fit the exact requirements of a business. If you deal with a British manufacturer, they will be able to design a bespoke box trolley. Box trolleys are fabricated in small batches, so there are no expensive tooling costs when modifying designs. If a business simply needs a box trolley made to a custom size, this is straightforward to do.

If a business requires a redesign of a box trolley, warehouse equipment manufacturers have design engineers who will visit a warehouse or storage facility to observe what type of goods need manually transporting. They talk to the business owner, managers, and employees who operate trolleys. After lengthy discussions and considering all suggestions, the designer returns to their workshop and partners with metalworkers to fabricate a prototype box trolley. This is then tested out with the client. Modifications to the design may be needed at the testing stage. After the design is approved, the required number of trolleys are made and delivered. Most manufacturers do not insist on large orders and are happy to make as many or as few as the business needs.

If a manufacturer is chosen who does all the manufacturing in house, the time between initial consultation with the designer to the final delivery of the box trolleys will not be long. The advantage of using a British manufacturer is that you can meet face to face with their designer and you don’t have to wait a long time for shipping.


You can purchase cheap box trolleys from large hardware chains or online retailers. These are often made from aluminium and plastic. They are fine for domestic use, but probably not for heavy duty industrial use where they may perform several hundred picking journeys a day. It is important that the best quality box trolleys are used in warehouses.

Heavy duty box trolleys are made with tubular steel which is powder coated to prevent corrosion. Tubular steel is ideal because it is both strong and lightweight. The platform on which the boxes stand also needs to be strong.

Trolleys should be easily pushed and steered using premium quality swivel castors. A well-made box trolley will last a long time even when used heavily every day.

Box trolley safety

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates the safe use of box trolleys. Operating box trolleys comes under the HSE’s pushing and pulling of loads regulations, and a useful risk assessment tool for trolleys can be found online.

A risk assessment is designed to highlight areas where operators could be at risk of muscular-skeletal injuries. Workers need training in the safe lifting of items from shelves to box trolleys, and the correct procedures for pushing or pulling trolleys. If box trolleys are used in areas where forklift trucks operate, all drivers and operators need to be taught how to minimise the risk of collisions.

Provided a detailed risk assessment is carried out and all safety measures are implemented, using box trolleys is perfectly safe.

Manual handling or robots?

Most small to medium businesses rely on manual handling to pick order items from warehouse or storeroom shelves. Large operators like Amazon and Ocado have introduced robots and other automated systems into their warehouses that replace some manual handling equipment, but automation is expensive and beyond the budget of most small to medium businesses. Box trolleys purchased today should be useful for many years. If the price of robots drastically reduces, box trolleys may be replaced, but most companies cash forecasts are not based on investing large amounts on automated handling equipment.

Box trolleys purchased now will not need replacing for many years. Box trolleys are based on simple but reliable technology. Unlike automated or motorised equipment there is little to go wrong with them. They need to be examined regularly for faults, but unless the trolleys have had a hard collision with a wall or other solid object it is unlikely that regular defects will occur. Like all equipment, box trolleys are subject to wear and tear but expect box trolleys to last for many trouble-free years.

To learn more about box trolleys talk to your box trolley manufacturer, or better still visit their workplace to see them making box trolleys. Here at Steely Products, we are passionate about making quality manual handling equipment at reasonable prices, and our expert metalworkers manufacture everything on site.

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    Posted by Mark
    24th June 2019
    Retail & Warehousing

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