AC Motors Help Lift Trucks Reach Higher

Less maintenance, faster acceleration among many advantages.


We all know the challenges facing warehouse operations, especially when it comes to maximizing cube efficiently to beat the rising costs of warehouse space.

"What you continue to see in food and grocery DCs are narrower aisles and higher racking systems to get as much product under one roof and within the smallest cube space as possible," notes Dale Guckian, warehouse product manager for Yale Materials Handling Corp,, Greenville, NC.

"Warehouses and DCs are saving floor space by using higher vertical warehousing and lift trucks designed to meet these requirements," adds John Colborn, marketing director for The Raymond Corp. in Greene, NY. "Utiliza-tion of space and cube is so critical because warehouse space is very expensive."

To help food companies reach higher racks, some lift truck manufacturers are offering AC (alternating current) motors, which offer a number of advantages including faster acceleration, higher efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

AC powered lift trucks run off of DC batteries and convert the DC power back to AC to power the motor.

"Many companies have already started introducing AC technology across their entire electric product lineup to enhance the performance and productivity of the units, as well as to reduce the overall cost of ownership," notes Cesar Jimenez, electric product planning and product marketing manager for Toyota Material Handling USA, Irvine, CA.

AC technology is being used not only in narrow-aisle applications, but throughout the warehousing industry, notes Matt Ranly, senior product manager for Crown Equipment Corp. in New Bremen, OH. "AC does offer some inherent advantages over DC, but Crown took time to evaluate and understand the real AC advantages and where it could add value for our customers. We are the only lift truck manufacturer designing and building our own AC motors here in the U.S."

Ranly states some in the industry are under "a real misconception that AC will lower the amount of energy or that AC will prolong battery life by 25 percent to 50 percent. In reality, there is a marginal improvement in battery life. There are real benefits of AC and one is there are no brushes, which means lower maintenance. Another benefit is giving the operator a much smoother feel in operating the truck, which could lead to better control and higher productivity."

Warehouse managers want highly productive and efficient workhorses in their narrow-aisle forklift trucks to complement and enhance the work their operators do. "Everyone in the industry is looking for equipment offering faster throughput and higher productivity," says Ranly.

They also want energy-efficient equipment to help reduce overall cost of ownership, adds Ilidio Alves, director of marketing and product development for Nissan Forklift Corp. in Marengo, IL. Manufacturers, heeding customers' requirements, are using advanced technologies to help warehouse operators meet these diverse requirements.

For instance, Nissan's recent launch of its Platinum II series of fuel-efficient lift trucks meet EPA requirements for emissions for internal combustion engines, notes Alves. "It also has special features on the transmission, allowing customers to save in terms of tire wear and wear-and-tear of the machine without reducing the efficiency of the operation. So customers gain the lowest cost of operation, which is really what Nissan has been focusing on this year."

Lower Cost Of Maintenance

Universally, there is a continued migration to AC controls in material handling equipment, including AC traction systems and optional AC lift systems, says Guckian at Yale. "To advance our position, we've come to market with not only AC traction and lift systems, but with AC power steering systems as well, a first in the North American market in narrow-aisle reach equipment."

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