Vertical Material Lifts Explained

What Is A Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor?

VRC Vertical Material Lift is another name for a Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor (VRC) or commonly referred to as a freight lift.  Vertical Material Lifts move products and other goods from one elevation to another.  These can be used to move goods in factories, warehouses, industrial plants, distribution centers, automotive dealerships, retail shops, or anywhere that products, supplies, or materials need to move from one level to another.  Since these lifts are NOT elevators and transport material only, elevator safety codes do not apply to this line of products.  VRCs have their own national code (ASME B20.1) and are specifically exempt from the national elevator code.

Learn More About VRCs

Common Names for Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors

Mezzanine Lift
Food & Beverage Lift
 Storage Lift
Freight Lift 
Parts Lift
Freight Elevator
Cargo Lift
Material Lift 
Utility Lift
Pallet Lift
Automobile Parts Lift 
Platform Lift
Baggage Lift
Box Lift
Vertical Conveyor

Benefits of Vertical Material Lifts

  Designed to Fit Your Specific Application, Location, and Lifting Needs
  Can Replace Long, Large Footprint Inclined Conveyor Belts
  Minimal Room Required for Installation
  Lower Cost Alternative to Personnel Elevators and Forklifts
  Designed to Run Continuously with No Down Time
  Quiet & Smooth Operation
 Available When You Need It
  Increase Safety and Productivity
  Access Once Inaccessible Space
  Single Person Operation Eliminates the Need for Spotters to Assist with Lifting Materials
  Low Cost of Ownership (i.e. Maintenance, Service Contracts, Inspections, etc.)
 Repeatable Travel Accuracy 

Who Needs A Vertical Material Lift?

Any business or person that needs to move material between multiple levels, whether those levels are basements, mezzanines, lofts, or other previously inaccessible space, will benefit from the use of a material lift.  The use of a vertical reciprocating conveyor can add safety, throughput and efficiency to an operation, not to mention a general convenience for the people who are using them to complete their tasks.

Why are VRCs Needed?

Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors (VRCs) provide an efficient, convenient and safe way to transfer materials from mezzanines, balconies, basements, and between levels in multiple story buildings.  They can be installed against buildings and mezzanines, in shafts and through-floor, interior or exterior applications.  Vertical Material Lifts are also a more efficient way to move material between levels and less costly than forklifts and traditional elevators.

How Do Vertical Material Lifts Work?

At its very core, a vertical reciprocating conveyor is comprised of six primary features.

  • The Lift Platform, or carriage, is the “Floor” of the vertical reciprocating conveyor- it’s where your materials to be moved will be placed, and it will travel to each of the stops at your lift, coming to rest flush with the floor on the upper levels.  For pit mounted units, the lift platform will be flush with the floor on the lower level as well.  For surface mounted units, the lift platform will be raised a few inches from the floor and an approach ramp may be required for smooth travel.
  • The Drive Header sits above the upper section of the lift platform on a straddle (2-post or 4-post) type of lift.  It houses the motor, shaft, wire rope and drums that will do the actual work of lifting the platform.
  • Guide Rails, or Masts, are the vertical members by which the carriage is guided throughout its vertical travel.
  • A Push Button Station(s) is used to control the operation of the lift equipment.
  • Safety Enclosures are structures that surround a VRC to prevent outside interference with its normal operation and to safe guard personnel.  Typically, the are 8′ high panels composed of expanded metal or other materials that will prevent a 2″ diameter ball from passing through.  This is a requirement of ANSI/ASME B20.1.
  • The system will also have Interlocked Gates or Doors, which is a locking system used on the access doors or gates of a vertical reciprocating conveyor to prevent its operation unless all such doors/gates are closed and to prevent the opening of any such gate/door unless the VRC carriage is present at that particular landing or opening.

What is ASME B20.1?

ASME B20.1 represents the Safety Standards for Conveyors and Related Equipment.  These standards state, in part, that all vertical reciprocating conveyors must have safety enclosures surrounding the landings, along with interlocked gates or doors, a control panel placed on the outside of the lift platform so that it cannot be operated from the inside, “No Rider” and load capacity signage.


CIP has solutions for a wide variety of lifting needs.  See the whole CIP VRC family here.

Do you need help designing the right lift for your specific lifting application?

Key Differences Between Mechanical and Hydraulic Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors

Click the  to expand or collapse each topic.


 Mechanical Lifts

Have No Fluids – Will never leak

Hydraulic Lifts

Will Eventually Leak – Slight seepage is considered normal

Lifting Force

Mechanical Lifts

Electric Motor Drives the Shaft and Drums to Lift the Platform with Wire Rope Cables

Hydraulic Lifts

Electric Motor Drives Hydraulic Pump – Cylinders can twist, decreasing the life cycle of the lift

Cycle Limits

Mechanical Lifts

100% Duty Cycle Motor – Continuous Operation with No Down Time

Hydraulic Lifts

10 Cycle Per Hour Average – Hydraulic VRCs can only be ran periodically

Travel Speed

Mechanical Lifts

Speeds up to 50 Feet Per Minute

Hydraulic Lifts

Standard 17 FPM – up to 35 FPM on special order


Mechanical Lifts

Controlled Accelleration and Deceleration with Variable Frequency Drive – Soft-Start and Soft-Stop

Hydraulic Lifts

Conditions Can Cause Jerky and Inconsistent Movement – Precise intermediate stops not possible due to hydraulic drift.


Mechanical Lifts

Minimal Maintenance – Cable will stretch over time, but that is all that will have to be adjusted or replaced

Hydraulic Lifts

Continuous Maintenance – Hydraulic fluid changes, oil filter changes, reservoir cleaning and much more

“I would rather sell and install a CIP lift. I believe their products are superior compared to other lifts.”

Steve Williams

Iowa Illinois Warehouse Services

My experience with CIP’s Sales and Technical Staff was a very good and positive experience. The lift works great and has been very beneficial to our operations.

Lynn Hampton

Eastman Chemical Company

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