Technology for technology’s sake has never had a part to play in the forklift truck market – developments have to have a practical value in improving productivity and safety, or cutting costs.
The recession had an immediate impact on the market. Andrew Elliot, executive vice president marketing, Toyota Material Handling Europe, says: “The changes that we saw during the recession were dramatic. Companies de-stocked rapidly to cope with sharp drops in demand. We had to respond, by offering flexibility through, for example, our rental operations.
“But what is noticeable is that having established a lower cost base our customers want to maintain these levels – so when volumes increase it requires an even greater level of flexibility and efficiency.”
And this had led suppliers to hone their market offer. Elliot says: “The key here is to understand the components that make up costs. Our product, service and solutions offer is designed to help customers reduce the cost per load of goods moved, as well as the overall cost of their material handling operations.”
Bill Goodwin, sales director at Jungheinrich, says: “Safety remains a key consideration in the design of forklift trucks, and Bill Goodwin, sales director at Jungheinrich, says: “With staff safety concerns playing an ever more significant role in the specification process, forklift technology certainly has a role to play in making the distribution centre environment safer.
He highlights research that shows that the risk of injury to a worker using a hand pallet truck is 66 per cent higher than it is for a worker with a powered pallet truck. And Goodwin also sees renewed interest in automated guided vehicles. “We are working with one distribution centre operator who is looking to use AGVs to move empty SKUs around the store and the driver for this has, in part, been the number of lost days due to injury caused by the current manual method of delivering the SKUs.”
Reach trucks have seen some significant developments in recent years. Alex Jones, product marketing manager at Linde, identifies three key customer needs currently driving product innovation – to stack pallets as high, as fast and as safely as possible to maximise operator productivity, cost efficiency and space utilisation in high volume operations.
“For high volume operations such as warehouses, large national distribution centres and out of town retail outlets, maximising pallet density within a confined floor space is critical and reach trucks provide a flexible, efficient and cost effective material handling solution for these operators. But as pallet stacking height and density increases it is vital that reach truck technology continues to evolve to keep pace with the ever changing operating landscape.
With its X-range Linde has focused on reduced truck reach movement, higher performance speeds and operator visibility, from wider-spaced masts which it reckons gives a 15 per cent increase in pallet throughput.
Toyota is introducing several new warehouse models to meet evolving demands in high-density storage and order picking, including the BT Vector very narrow aisle models and the next generation BT Radioshuttle aisle-free storage system. There are also new BT Optio high-level and low-level order pickers.
Crown’s ESR 5000 Series of reach trucks now has Crown’s Optimised Cornering Speed (OCS) system, an increased top speed and an extended lift height – up to 13 metres. The OCS does more than simply identify the steering angle: it also knows whether the truck is going into a turn or coming out of a turn, and adjusts the truck’s speed accordingly. As well as optimising the truck’s stability in a wide variety of circumstances, the system enhances operator productivity. In addition to the OCS system, there is an increased top travel speed of 14kmph.
With the Super Duty mast, the truck has a residual capacity of 800kg at a lifting height of 13 metres.
And earlier this year, Crown unveiled the Crown RM 6000 in the US – the first mono-mast narrow aisle reach truck.
Yale has focused on increased visibility and operator comfort in updating its MR series of reach trucks. Senior product strategy manager for warehouse equipment, Robert O’Donoghue, says: “Our research has found that visibility is one of the major factors that influence an operator’s attitude towards warehouse equipment. It is cited time and again in our discussions with end users so it was imperative that we looked at this issue when updating our current series.”
The reach truck’s overhead guard has been redesigned to maintain driver protection while offering significantly improved upward visibility.
Productivity has also been improved with an eight per cent increase in travel speeds, particularly beneficial when trucks need to operate over longer distances.
Flexi Narrow Aisle has been looking at ways to reduce the number of movements that an operator has to make in the aisle during the stacking and de-stacking cycle. John Maguire says: “In any application the amount of time spent in the aisle way picking and putting away pallets has to be minimised if optimum operational efficiencies are to be achieved, so today’s forklift trucks are built to offer faster, safer work cycles. The new Flexi Euro VNA articulated forklift truck has been designed to halve the number of movements that an operator has to make.”
All the evidence shows that lift truck operators perform better over the course of their shift if they are comfortable so trucks are increasingly being designed to minimise noise and vibration and offer better visibility for the operator.
Bill Goodwin says: “Any technology that removes some of the pressure on the forklift operator by making his or her day-to-day operational procedures more straightforward can only bring efficiency, productivity and safety benefits.”
“Of course, it is important to make the truck operator as comfortable as possible, but the addition of warehouse management systems, on-truck data capture systems, RFID-based warehouse navigation systems and forklift truck personnel protection systems also play an important role in helping to deliver lift truck operational efficiencies.
Low carb diet
Improving environmental performance in logistics operations is a clear priority for companies. Linde’s Alex Jones points out that carbon reduction legislation being rolled out in the UK requires businesses to seek out emission savings from all areas of their operation to minimise exposure to any potential taxation.
“The mix of trucks in the material handling fleet can potentially make a significant contribution to the overall greenhouse gas emissions of an organisation, so choosing the right trucks to ensure the operation is running as efficiently as possible should be a key consideration in setting carbon reduction objectives.
Plus with fuel and energy costs continuing to soar, running the most efficient trucks will help to keep operating costs under control.”
Linde has developed a Carbon Calculator to convert truck fuel consumption, over a recognised test cycle, into carbon emissions, and it is concentrating its technologies on greater sustainability for in-house logistics and materials handling. Jones points to the development of hydrostatic drive technology saying it makes today’s trucks up to 25 per cent more energy efficient than competitor’s trucks.
The company has also introduced a new Eco Mode setting on its counterbalance trucks which it reckons gives up to 20 per cent less fuel consumption by adapting the speed and acceleration parameters. Jones also points to other design features such as low consumption LED headlight and additional volume in the tread of long-life tyres to last 25 per cent longer. It has also been working on fuel cell technology – fuel cell trucks now available to order as a customised option.
Toyota has been developing a “portfolio approach” to new technologies and is currently working on hybrid technology, lithium ion batteries and fuel cells. Andrew Elliot says: “We have a global leadership position in hybrid technology, but we also recognise that different energy systems are developing at different rates around the globe.”
Jungheinrich has been developing lithium-ion (li-ion) technology and at CeMAT, it is introducing a new EJE li-ion electric-powered pallet truck. Li-ion allows for rapid charging times, extended running times beyond normal single shift operation and compact truck dimensions.
Goodwin says: “While we develop alternative fuels, we are also trying to get more out of the technology that we have at the moment. For example, the batteries for our electric motors are constantly developing.
“We are working to lower their operating temperature to prolong their life and develop more efficient transfer to the motor. This means fewer battery changes, more work done and less energy needed for charging, resulting in financial and environmental savings.
“Also, on battery-powered models, every time users brake or lower the forks our advanced AC technology reclaims the excess energy and uses it to charge the battery. Around 25 per cent of the energy needed during typical operation is reclaimed during braking and lowering through using our advanced motors as an alternator. Similar to Hybrid engines used in the automotive industry, this technology represents an easy way to reduce energy consumption.”
He points out that the need to reduce noise pollution in the workplace is also a growing issue. Jungheinrich recently launched a pallet truck, the EJE 116, for use at sites where noise levels need to be kept to a minimum.
Doosan concept truck
Doosan has produced a concept truck, the ICF, with a range of new features including a “work guide system” to enable operators to see information about their cargo and interpret the best optimised work process they should apply to it as well as an extendable counterweight for better stability and loading capacity.
Other ideas on show include changes to the operator position, mast properties and drive train. The ICF shows how the company may eventually incorporate augmented reality systems into a heads-up display.
The truck was created by technologists at the Doosan Institute of Technology Industrial Design Centre.
Paul Watson, Doosan’s UK sales manager, said: “Even though we won’t be seeing the ICF in warehouses for some time yet, there may be some elements that we will hopefully be able to incorporate into our next series of products.”
Ten new Hyster designs
Hyster will be exhibiting ten new Intelligent Designs at CeMAT 2011, in Hanover, Germany, 2nd – 6th May.
Dominant in the outdoor exhibition area on stand G-02, Hyster will show its strength delivering fuel efficient, tough and reliable trucks with a low cost of operation.
Hyster has a new LPG version of the compact 8-9 tonne Fortens designed for high capacity applications, particularly where space is at a premium. There is also an upgrade to the H2.0-3.5FT and H4.0-5.5FT Fortens series of trucks which include new technologies to achieve up to 15 per cent reduction in fuel consumption. For low intensity or medium duty operations, Hyster is launching the new CT-Series of diesel and LPG IC pneumatic forklift trucks available in 2,000kg or 2,500kg capacities.
It is also unveiling a new 24V A1.3-1.5XNT three wheel electric counterbalance truck for the first time at CeMAT. And there is a completely new design of the low level order picker is available with scooter control and a variety of fork lengths and options, including a scissor lift.
Compactness is key
Samuk has focused on compactness, strength and intelligence for its new J Series electric three-wheel truck. The truck has lifting capacities from 1 to 1.6 tonnes and uses a AC drive system with regenerative braking. It has a fixed wheel base which maintains excellent stability when tilting forward fast or at height. The rear steer wheel drive prevents the truck speeding up when pivoting or on full lock – unlike two-motor front wheel drive trucks.
Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw, chairman of Samuk Lift Trucks, says: “Innovative design, combined with carefully-sourced components, means that this new range of electric three-wheel trucks offers compactness, strength and intelligence.”