The original purpose of the cart was to move things around. Carts have been used since the dawn of civilization. They were originally wooden platforms or boxes with wooden axles and wooden wheels. Industrial carts are the latest manifestation of this, but they have evolved both in their function and construction. They are now made of plastic, metal, and even wood. They have have gained metal, rubber and plastic wheels with roller and ball bearings on metal axles. Carts can be much more than a simple platform or open box. They now have shelves, drawers, bins, shafts for reels and specially designed cradles to hold specific items.
This means that selecting and specifying them is much more complex and interesting. Light and heavy duty carts can serve a whole range of needs:
? A light plastic or metal cart can serve as a portable audio-visual station. A plastic cart can be easily drilled to make attachment holes which will accept common cable ties. The ties can be used to organize and train the various cables connected to the A/V devices. Self-adhesive cable tie mounts can serve the same purpose on metal carts.
? A flatbed cart can be used to move more or less random materials. These are typically used in warehouses and shipping and receiving.
? A specialized cart can serve as a self contained computer workstation that can be moved to each task location and only require a cable connection for occasional recharging.
? A cart with drawers can serve as a portable tool box containing the tools and instruments need to perform generalized tasks. Alternatively it can serve a specific task such as refurbishing the starter motor on a single model of an aircraft engine.
? A cart with shafts for wire reels and bins for wiring appliances and devices can speed electrical installations.
? A stainless steel cart can have all the instruments and materials to treat a specific medical emergency, providing quick, complete access for doctors.
? A cart can have a fixture built into it to hold and allowed the repositioning of an automobile engine for easy maintenance.
? A cart can have a commonly used device such as a vacuum pump and its related equipment permanently mounted on it so that the pump can be easily moved from one lab bench to another.
? A specially designed cart can be used to hold and protect aircraft airframe parts during assembly, warehousing and transportation between plants
Carts can be subjected to various levels of abuse:
? Carts used to hold electronic equipment while it is going through the burn in process must provide proper ventilation to prevent overheating.
? Light duty industrial carts can be used in office settings to deliver office supplies or croissants, while being subjected to the occasional coffee spill.
? A cart can be used to hold tools and parts in an automotive repair garage, while being subjected to oil and grease contamination and the occasional bumping into other objects.
? A cart can be used to hold blueprints at a construction site, while being subjected to sawdust, metal metal dust and being beaten about.
? An industrial heavy duty utility cart can be used to move luggage at a train station, while being subjected to having luggage and boxes thrown onto it.
? An fireproof heavy duty cart can be used in a foundry to move molds from the warehouse to the furnace floor, while being subjected to high temperatures, sand and having heavy objects dropped on it.
Carts can be required to protect the environment in which they are used:
? Industrial carts used in clean rooms must have little if any out gassing or dust produced when they are moved or used.
? Carts used in hospitals, and especially in operating rooms, must be capable of surviving the harsh chemicals used in cleaning and sterilization.
? Carts used in food service and food processing must be designed to be easily cleaned, and, in some cases, survive high pressure wash downs.
? An industrial heavy duty utility cart used in prison needs to be made so it is difficult to remove parts that might be used as contraband tools or weapons.
The materials used in a cart need to match the environment the cart is used in:
? Carts made of painted mild steel are adequate for normal locations.
? Carts based on NSF shelving are suitable for applications that do not involve constant moving or more than mild abuse. Such carts have the advantage of easy and somewhat flexible reconfiguration by the user.
? Carts made of plastic are suitable for environments where quiet is required.
? Carts made of plastic or plastic-coated steel are appropriate in locations where the environment contains chlorine. Stainless steel is attacked by chlorine.
? Carts made of stainless steel are suitable for nearly all environments.
? Carts made of bronze or sheathed in copper are useful for locations with combustible gases present. Unlike steel, bronze or copper will not spark when struck.
Cart design lends itself to "thinking outside the box", rather than picturing a simple platform or multi-shelf design.
There are many things to consider when specifying or purchasing a cart. The cost may well not be the most important factor. The productivity gained, or damage prevented may greatly out weigh it. Having a cart that improves ergonomic factors for its user can improve output and prevent claims based on injuries. There are tasks that can be made easier and less error-prone by devising a proper cart design.