Forklifts: Focus on the three Rs

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The environmentalist motto “reduce, re-use, recycle” is a good reflection of forklift operators and manufacturers’ strategies to make the industry more environmentally friendly. Recyclable components are being adopted, trucks are working ever harder before retiring to the scrap heap, and as ever, reaping savings from reducing fuel consumption is a top priority.

Alternative power sources are one way of reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. Last year Jungheinrich launched its lithium ion powered pallet truck which was trialled and rolled out by Tesco, and Sainsbury’s has trialled Toyota’s lithium ion offering.

Electric trucks are an obvious route to reducing emissions, but the environmental integrity also depends on how batteries are produced, and what happens to components after they are decommissioned.

Yale has engineered its lift trucks to be compatible with electric batteries, LPG and clean diesels, and it is investigating advanced, more efficient battery technologies to reduce energy consumption, increase productivity and reduce toxic material content.

Linde is also exploring cleaner battery chemistry as well as diesel additives, compressed natural gas and even pure hydrogen engines.

The limited supply infrastructure of hydrogen has been cited as a factor in its limited take up. However, earlier this year Marks & Spencer began a trial of hydrogen powered trucks at its at its 1.1 million sq ft distribution centre in Bradford. Darrell Stein, director of IT and logistics for M&S, said: “We are excited to be trialling this solution… with a technology which has the potential to drive significant carbon reductions from our warehouse operations.”

Methanol technology has not seen much take up, although US firm Oorja Protonics, is offering a methanol fuel cell that operates as an on-board battery charger.

As long as there is no definitive alternative to non-renewable energy sources, the drive for efficiency will be paramount. Linde won the FLTA’s 2012 environment award with its design for a new electronically adjustable displacement type hydraulic pump which reduces motor speed, and energy consumption by up to 18 per cent. Linde has enhanced its H40 to H50 IC truck range with the new design which replaces the previous internal gear pump, and allows truck hydraulics and engine speed to become independent of one another.

Cutting consumption

Jana Votkova, warehouse product manager at Linde, explains a further efficiency offering: “Another key feature is the ECO Mode setting available across our two-five tonne range of engine and electric counterbalance trucks.. by adapting the speed and acceleration parameters of our counterbalance trucks, ECO Mode makes it possible to reduce energy consumption by up to 20 per cent while retaining 90 per cent productivity.”

Craig Johnson, sales and marketing manager at Jungheinrich points to the dual cost and carbon efficiency of its VFG series 5 counterbalance trucks: “Independent tests have demonstrated that hydrostatic trucks consume two litres of diesel or two kg of gas less per hour than torque converter driven alternatives. The hydrostatic drive technology ensures low emissions.”

Mitsubishi recently launched a range of three and four wheel electric counterbalance trucks – the EDIA EM “Electric Diamond” range with capacities from 1.3 to 2 tonnes. These 48 volt trucks use Mitsubishi’s “FeatherTouch” electric steering, which the company says uses 50 per cent less energy than conventional systems.

However, more than truck performance is coming under scrutiny when assessing the environmental credentials of materials handling equipment.

Many manufacturers have been accredited with ISO 14001 environmental management standards, including Toyota, Jungheinrich, Hyster, Yale, Cat lift trucks. Nissan is switching to rail and sea transport as part of its Green programme to reduce CO2 emissions. Hyster monitors its use of electricity and natural gas and is phasing out harmful volatile organic compounds in its paints.

Toyota has targeted its manufacturing processes with its “Toyota Production System” which it reckons has resulted in reduced CO2 emissions, water consumption and waste, landfill, hazardous substances and air pollutants.

Channelling the focus on efficient use of resources, Yale, Hyster and Jungheinrich use systems that recapture energy during braking and the lowering of loads. Johnson explains Jungheinrich’s system: “Around 25 per cent of the energy needed during typical operation is reclaimed… Similar to hybrid engines in the automotive industry, this technology represents an easy way to reduce energy consumption.”

Old machines are increasingly being refurbished and re-sold or rented, or even broken down to harvest parts. Jungheinrich is running a series of used equipment fairs across the country, and Toyota has added more than 250 trucks to its short-term hire fleet, including the latest range of Tonero engine-powered counterbalance trucks which are 99 per cent recyclable.

Whether your focus is using less fuel, using your equipment longer, or recycling machines, parts or even energy, the cost savings and efficiencies of taking a sustainable approach is compelling.

Case Study: John Lewis bio diesel powers forklift

John Lewis is turning waste cooking oil from its in-store restaurants into bio diesel which it is using to power a Jungheinrich counterbalanced forklift truck at its distribution centre at Brackmills, Northamptonshire.

The oil is collected directly from shop stores by John Lewis’s own delivery vehicles and taken back to the Northampton DC where it undergoes the chemical process that makes it suitable for use as a fuel.

The truck runs on a Volkswagen engine approved for the use of bio fuel. It is mainly used to undertake a range of general yard duties such as sorting, stacking and unloading wooden pallets and other packaging materials.

In total John Lewis operates a fleet of over 70 Jungheinrich forklifts at the Brackmills distribution centre. Trucks in the fleet include VNA order pickers, reach and pallet trucks as well as counterbalanced forklifts. The majority of the fleet is electric-powered.

“We take our corporate environmental responsibility seriously and are committed to recycling 75 per cent of all the waste we produce across our group by 2012,” says Lawrence Ireson, maintenance manager at John Lewis’s Brackmills site. “Converting waste cooking oil into fuel forms a small part of this commitment. We have been using a bio diesel blend in our transport fleet for some time so it seemed natural to use the same fuel in our Jungheinrich ic-engine-powered counterbalanced truck.”

Case Study: Toneros fit the bill for recycling firm

Recycling company Closed Loop, in Dagenham, has taken a fleet of recyclable forklift trucks from Toyota.

Five lorry loads of baled waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill are delivered to the site each day to go through an eight stage process of sorting cleaning and sterilisation. A fleet of new Tonero forklifts from Toyota are used to unload the lorries and transport bales of flattened bottles to the conveyors for processing and to load the finished product in bags for delivery to the customer.

The Toneros are fitted with bale clamps, and compress the bales to allow easy handling even when the strapping is removed. Closed Loop has also taken on Toyota’s “Safety+” package, including speed limiters and a load weight indicator.

Operations director Colin Jackson said it was important that the company supplying the forklifts fitted with the ethos of Closed Loop: “It goes without saying that as a recycling company, we examine every area of our business to reduce the environmental impact. Solar and wind power help to reduce our energy use and we take great care to clean the water used in our processes to allow it to be returned to the water system.”

Case Study: Enersys extends XFC battery range

Enersys has launched a new range of Hawker XFC batteries with 2V cells designed for counterbalance trucks, reach trucks, pallet trucks, order pickers and AGVs.

The batteries can be used when in a partial state of charge. The charging profile of the XFC technology allows a rapid recharge in less than four hours from 60 per cent depth of discharge and opportunity charging as often as needed without damaging the batteries.

This means that XFC batteries can be specified for power-on-demand applications where charging can be done whenever the operator requires, whatever time is available. In this way they enable flexibility in the deployment and utilisation of handling equipment to support multi-shift operations.

By comparison, conventional batteries only provide optimum performance when discharged to a specific level before being fully recharged for 8-12 hours which means extra batteries are required to support continuous operations or else equipment is unavailable.

The introduction of the batteries with 2V cells follows the launch of the original Hawker XFC range with 12V blocs in 2007.

Case Study: Batteries to save energy

Norish Foods made a 40 per cent energy saving, reduced downtime, and achieved a return on investment within one year, since powering its cold store trucks with trak air batteries and chargers supplied by Hoppecke Industrial Batteries.

Its fleet of Flexi Narrow Aisle articulated forklifts have been running on a three shift rotation at temperatures as low as -28°C for nearly seven years using the trak air batteries originally supplied.

Normal operating life of a lead acid battery in cold store conditions is four or five years and batteries lose around 30 per cent of their capacity in cold storage applications on average.

Therefore, vital factors for electric-powered trucks operating in a cold store environment are the quality of their batteries and the ability to charge them.

The trak air system also protects batteries from overcharge, which prolongs service life significantly. Also, the high frequency chargers cut charging times by around 2.5 hours.

Norish Foods has saved on truck running costs because with a six hour charging time, fewer batteries and chargers are required. Typically, on traditional battery types at least two spares were required per truck to allow 24-hour operation while in extreme cases a spare charger would be needed per truck.

Norman Hatcliffe, managing director of Norish Foods, says: “The really great additional benefit of Hoppecke trak air is the 40 per cent energy saving we achieved. It meant we were able to obtain payback on our investment in fewer than 12 months as well as real long-term high power performance from our fleet of flexi trucks.”

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