As with any type of machinery, there have been a number of improvements to the lift truck industry. Some of the most notable lift truck revolve around sustainability, electric fuel cell technology, improved ergonomics, and model updates. Keeping informed on the latest trends and technologies can help your company improve efficiency and operating costs.
Sustainability can mean numerous things in the lift truck industry. To some companies it can mean going green and lowering the carbon footprint; to others it means finding ways to save money.
Some companies, such as New Bremen, OH-based Crown Equipment Corporation, offer remanufactured lift truck parts as a viable way to save money and keep lift truck equipment up to date.
“There’s a big trend toward the renewed components,” says Jim Gaskell, director of global in-site products for Crown Equipment. “We’ll bring those high ticket items back to the factory and take them through a remanufacturing process replacing all of the worn parts and putting updates into different units and controllers,” he explains.
By taking advantage of renewed parts, companies are able to get the best of both worlds: a better price and the same warranty. Along with renewing lift truck parts, many experts believe revolutionizing the lift trucks battery is crucial in keeping up with current sustainability trends.
In addition, there are many ways to revolutionize the battery of a lift truck. One way is with Raymond Corporation’s recent innovation called the iBattery module, which helps decrease downtime and overall cost. The iBattery monitors many different processors inside the battery, which includes the state-of-charge. By identifying the state-of-charge the battery is in, the iBattery can help avoid overcharging the battery, which will help to increase the runtime of the battery.
“If you maximize the battery your savings are at least 20 percent over a five year period,” says Joe LaFergola, manager, business and information solutions at Raymond Corp. “You’re also saving electricity because you don’t have to charge the battery as frequently.”
A popular option for batteries would be to switch to lithium-ion technology. “We get pretty good runtime on the trucks,” says Michael Wiesenegg, product line manager for Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA), in Houston, TX. “Lithium is completely green and clean, although there’s still a higher cost on them compared to conventional batteries.”
Electric fuel cell technology
Another sustainability trend for fork lifts is electric fuel cell technology. Within the last few years, this technology has been gaining a lot of interest among the material handling industry. Electric fuel cell technology is a great way to lower a company’s carbon footprint by not emitting any harmful contaminants when in use while offering a great source of energy. Currently, electric fuel cell technologies are manufactured by third-party companies and are an alternative to batteries. When deciding to utilize electric fuel cell technologies, there a several items a company should consider.
One important factor when deciding to utilize electric fuel cell technology is cost. Electric fuel cell technology is currently a large fleet solution because of the price.
According to Crown’s fuel cell project manager, Ernst Baumgartner, “A multiple shift facility with 15 trucks or more is an ideal circumstance for considering trucks powered by fuel cells.”
Although the initial cost is expensive (the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that fuel cell technology has a 1.5 times lower maintenance cost in comparison to conventional battery systems), fuel cell technology is eligible for a federal tax credit.
Another factor when deciding to use electric fuel cell technology is to make sure the lift truck is equipped for it. The performance of the fuel cell equipment should match the same performance standards as a battery.