Diverse demands

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The changing nature of warehouse operations is having an impact on the choices operators must make. Johanna Parsons reports.

There is a new diversity of demands made on warehouse operations that are increasingly expanding to deal with multiple retail channels, and new distribution strategies such as portcentric and multi-modal operations.

These new operating designs are coupled with the fact that land, and warehouse space is in short supply. And where it is available it certainly won’t be cheap. So making optimum use of warehousing space is essential, and more often than not, this means going up.

Particularly for retailers that need to expand their stock range to sell online, creating new storage locations by extending racking vertically is a relatively reasonable way of expanding.

In response, last year reach trucks were at the centre of Jungheinrich’s innovation drive, as the firm launched a new range based around the ETV 318 model.

As a reflection of the new complexity of requirements in the warehouse, the range can be fully customised, with a range of “configuration packages”.

For instance, if the user’s application involves frequent lower level pallet movements with longer travel times between stops, the truck can be set-up to offer faster travel speed. Alternatively, if the user demands higher mast movements with shorter journeys between picks or pallet put-away, the ETV 318 can be configured with higher mast lifting speeds.

The ETV 318’s standard mast lifts from 6.2 to 11.51m and has a load capacity of 1.8 tonnes. It can have a clear glass roof for visibility and a fully sealed electronic controller and on-board software specifically tailored for forklift truck use. The firm reckons that because it is bespoke the software helps to increase both truck reliability and energy efficiency still further.

Such is the prevalence of higher racks that Jungheinrich’s new counterbalance truck range features a “Panorama” mast with an intelligent hose lay out to provide the operator with excellent visibility. The DFT/TFG ranges 316-320 and 425-435 are somewhat of a departure for the firm, being a mid-price truck to take on some competitors’ value-focused brands, so the inclusion of such features is perhaps even more significant.

Similarly, Crown’s ESR 5200 reach truck series includes four reach truck models with Crown’s moving mast and “MoveSeat”. This has an integrated headrest, which tilts back to improve upward visibility.

The armrest, which features integrated controls, moves with the seat. Designed for intensive duty cycles, the MoveSeat is especially helpful when operators spend substantial amounts of time positioning loads at heights.

Crown’s ESR 5200 also allows a choice of lift heights, capacities, performance packages and operator features to best match duty cycles. And with one eye on the other popular way of fitting more into your DC, the trucks can operate in aisles as narrow as 2.5 metres.

The new generation of reach trucks from Linde, the 1120 range R14 – R20, is designed to cover the widest possible range of applications, with bespoke features focussing on cost-effective, and highly productive narrow aisle storage.

It also offers an option for a panoramic High Vision armoured glass roof, which gives the operator totally unobstructed upward visibility when storing and retrieving loads at height.

Linde also offers an automatic holding brake function which secures and stabilises the truck when storing and retrieving loads or when negotiating gradients.

Toyota too has made flexibility a core for its reach trucks. With lift heights of up to 12.5 metres, the BT Reflex series offers truck models suitable for block stacking, drive-in racking, and long load handling including chilled and cold store environments.

But with all these new requirements and new features, the way is perhaps less clear as to exactly what features offer the best value of return for any particular workplace.

To that end, working with suppliers to ascertain the best fit often pays dividends, as they may know more about what is on offer, and how to best meet your requirements.

A spokesperson from Impact Handling says: “Helping customers get the most out of their equipment and reveal the hidden costs associated with running a truck, such as fuel and tyres, is an integral part of a supplier’s role.

“Another way a supplier can help companies increase efficiency is to ensure all the operators are trained properly on the machine. Taking the time to implement training for operators on a new truck is a great way to limit unnecessary damage – not only to the machine, but to the potentially valuable loads it will be carrying.”

While different methods of taking and fulfilling orders all impact the requirements operators have of their materials handling equipment, manufacturers are losing no time in addressing the issues as they arise. And as the tendency for distribution centres is to take racking to higher levels, it’s no surprise that reach trucks are at the forefront of the innovations to meet new levels of demand.

Buyers’ guide: Hyster’s 20 top tips for buying a reach truck

Robert O’Donoghue, senior product strategy manager for NACCO Materials Handling Group.

1) Check residual capacities today
Residual capacities change with new truck designs, so it is important to check the very latest statistics from the manufacturer.

2) Aisle widths
Could a smaller truck be used to decrease the aisle widths and increase the number of aisles per warehouse?

3) Mast height/range
Make sure it is not too tall for doorways, sprinklers, pipes, and tunnels in the racking. Check the ratio of closed height (h1) to top lift height (h3). Check to see if the mast is noisy through the stages.

4) Travel speed
A good travel speed is important, but many operations have speed limits, which makes the top speed irrelevant.

5) Lift speed
Look for lift speeds in the region of 0.8m/s. Over the course of a day, seconds add up to valuable minutes.

6) Operating environment
If required in the cold store, check that the manufacturer has an integrated cold store solution.

7) Usage
Reliability is critical, so make sure that the truck, battery and battery management meet the requirements.

8) Visibility of fork tips
Compare the total channel width of different brands, but make sure you are comparing like for like according to residual capacity. Cameras and lasers can make operating easier.

9) Access for the operator
Look for a reach truck with a wide and low step with easy to grip handles. This varies between brands and makes a big difference to a driver.

10) Driver comfort
Drivers are expected to sit in a reach truck for most of their shift, so make sure it is comfortable to minimise fatigue, which can affect their overall performance.

11) Construction
Make sure that the truck is tough and robust.

12) Steering column
Research shows that drivers do not like steering wheels that are too small or have an offset angle. They need to be very tough, as many drivers use them to get on and off the truck. Adjustability must be easy or the driver won’t use it. Get your own driver feedback.

13) Display
The visual display provides important information to the driver and comes in many different formats. Test them to see if they are intuitive and easy to read.

14) Controls
Mini levers or Joystick? Driver preference or site history may decide which way to go, however always try the options and test how easy it is to activate tilt and sideshift, for example.

15) Pantograph or moving mast
This is a practical decision to determine whether a Pantograph Reach Truck (scissor design reach mechanism to extend the forks) or a moving mast is appropriate, particularly if double deep racking is used.

16) Double deep racking
When used in double deep racking, a narrow body chassis will often be needed, so it is important to select a manufacturer who offers this as a standard option rather than a “special”.

17) Common components
Select a manufacturer that can prove the quality and reliability of the components. Common controls across warehouse products help the drivers to switch trucks easily.

18) Service access
Check to see how easy it is to access major components as this will help to minimise service costs.

19) Cost of ownership
Check that the reach truck is energy efficient, has long service intervals, proven reliable components and helps deliver productivity.

20) Support
Quality local support plays a crucial role in ensuring that the truck performs at its best throughout the contract period.

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