Lift truck equipment is an essential part of creating a productive and efficient warehouse operation. Every year, lift truck manufacturers look for ways to increase productivity, decrease pollutants and deliver durable equipment for their customers.
To fully appreciate the equipment on the market today, one needs to consider where it all started.
One of the earliest designs came out of Buchanan, Michigan in 1917. The CLARK Material Handling Company created the first internal combustion powered industrial truck, which was called the Tructractor. The Tructractor design resembled a modified tractor that was constructed with a flatbed for manual loading and unloading.
CLARK’s concept was originally conceived to haul materials between various departments of their company.
The Tructractor inspired subsequent designs like the Tructier, which was created in 1928. The Tructier was also an internal combustion powered lift truck that featured hydraulics to elevate a load as well as front-wheel drive.
The early concepts of lift truck technology have come a long way compared to today’s equipment.
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Today’s lift truck equipment is constantly evolving. Companies today are looking for ways to automate manual tasks to help reduce operator fatigue.
“Trends are always towards making the operation of the trucks easier and more efficient for the operator,” says Jeff Bowles, product line manager of Houston, Texas-based Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA). “That’s really a focus for us in our design efforts.”
Meanwhile, another trend is recording data electronically for both equipment management and labor management. Electronic data can help a food or beverage manager easily increase their visibility into the warehouse operations. This can improve productivity by disclosing important information such as current battery life.
“Every time you change a battery, you probably lose about 20 minutes of operating time,” says Joe LaFergola, manager of business and information solutions of Greene, New York-based Raymond. “Twenty minutes of downtime is equivalent to 4.2 percent of productivity loss.”
There are various tools managers can use in order to increase their efficiency in the warehouse, some of which include iBattery and InfoLink.
Raymond’s iBattery module, which is a part of their iWarehouse System, can prolong the life of a lift truck battery to its maximum potential. Some of the information iBattery collects include battery specifications, current battery temperature, battery weight, state of charge, and battery capacity.
Knowing the status of a lift truck’s battery can help prevent unnecessary downtime and increase the hours of operation.
In addition, New Bremen, Ohio-based Crown Equipment has a wireless fleet and operator management system called InfoLink, which essentially lets a manager know whether or not lift truck equipment is ready to work or not.
From a compliance perspective, InfoLink can also improve safety by creating a checklist to ensure that the forklift equipment is safe to use and is compliant with OSHA’s regulations.
A company’s operating procedures certainly help maintain compliance, but there are other tools available too, explains Jim Gaskell, director of global Insite products at Crown. Specifically, “They seek other technology products to help solve these problems (of maintaining compliance), and that’s a trend that we’re seeing a lot right now,” he says.
InfoLink can also make sure that only certified operators are allowed on the equipment.
For instance, OSHA’s regulation 1910.178, which discusses proper maintenance and safety requirements of the lift truck equipment, can be effortlessly followed and ensured by creating electronic paperwork versus standard paperwork.