Wednesday 26th Oct 2016 - Logistics Manager

Top of the stack

Stacker trucks play a key role in many warehouse operations but all too often are not given the priority they deserve. However the past few months have seen a raft of new products employing the latest developments in lift truck technology.

As part of the development process for its new BT Staxio range, Toyota Material Handling surveyed truck users across Europe. Safety, simplicity and durability were identified as areas of design focus to help operators get the job done.

“Operators need trucks with straightforward controls and built-in safety so they can focus on their jobs and managers need equipment that is built to last, keeping their downtime to a minimum,” says Mark Ogden, product manager for stackers at Toyota Material Handling.

And Andrea Luchi, Yale Europe’s general manager for warehouse equipment, highlights the importance of stability and residual capacity, as well as lift-lowering speed when laden/unladen.

Linde Material Handling has just launched a new pallet stacker truck range, the LlO and 112, which have a number of new safety features. “One highly innovative example is proportional speed control. This ensures that as the tiller is raised – which means the operator is moving closer to the truck – traction speed is automatically reduced until it comes to a smooth stop,” says Dave Bowen, sales and service training manager at Linde. “Linde new designs are based around the concept of ‘Sinergo’ (Safety, Innovation, Ergonomics) which places the emphasis on the interface between the operator and the machine.”

The BT Sraxio includes a Click-2-Creep facility as standard which allows the truck to be manoeuvred ar a creep speed with the handle upright. Ogden also points our that chassis skirts are just 35mm from the ground and round away from the operator’s feet to provide foot protection. The Staxio also incorporates the BT Powerdrive system for progressive control and it has a fixed position AC power drive motor that has fewer wearing parts than DC equivalents for enhanced durability.

AC technology

AC traction is also a feature of Hysrer’s new stacker trucks, 51.0-1.2 and 51.4-1.6, which will be available from 1st March. Robert O’Donoghue, general manager for Hyster’s warehouse products, says; “AC technology helps optimise truck performance with regard to speed, acceleration, deceleration and control of travel direction changes and provides powerful regenerative braking. Being AC controlled also improves motor and control efficiency.”

Choosing the right truck for a particular task is critical to success. Linde’s Dave Bowen says: “It all depends on the application and the load. How heavy are the loads, how high do they need to be lifted, how many hours a day docs the truck need to work?”

And Andrea Luchi points out that if a truck is used to work a full shift and long distance to run, the truck will be a ride or platform one, if it is a low utilisation truck it will be a walky stacker. “Manual or half electric trucks are for very low utilisation – less than one hour per day. Lift height and residual capacity are important but if you go above four metres then a fine survey has to be done to see if the stacker is the right truck and if it is not more convenient to buy a reach truck for example. It depends at this point on the number of pallets moved in a shift.”

Maximising the return on investment has never been more important and there are a number of steps that can be taken. Both Bowen and Luchi emphasise the importance of choosing the right truck. “The site survey is the secret, then the rerum on investment will be OK,” says Luchi. “The stacker can be rented if they are not used for very intensive applications, in other words not too high lift and not too many pallets per shift.”

Bowen also points out that initial price is only one factor which needs to be considered. “The cost of the operator will usually be more than that of the truck over its lifetime, so productivity is a major issue. Also look at, for instance, how much downtime will there be for servicing.”

O’Donoghue says: “Ensure staff are trained to avoid damage. Charge when necessary to avoid too much opportunity charging (This is the same idea as a mobile phone, it is a bad idea to have it charging all the time). Service according to manufacturers’ guidelines. Look at warranty costs. Maintaln good floors and keep the truck indoors.”

HSE managers are sometimes unelear about the level of training needed for operators of pallet stackers, says Iayn Johnson of HSE Safety Unit. “Injuries to pedestrians from stacker trucks are frequently to the lower leg and ankle.” HSE guidance “Warehousing and storage: a guide to health and safety” (2007) contains chapters on “Mechanical handling” and “Vehicles in the workplace”.