Forklifts are becoming more intelligent in design, too. For example, one of the latest advancements in lift truck technology is a warehouse navigation system. A warehouse navigation system helps eliminate any operator guesswork by having the lift truck choose the most efficient path to get to the next location. An operator can program all of the pick locations in the warehouse and let the truck take care of the navigation.
Currently, a warehouse navigation system is featured on MCFA’s equipment and according to Bowles, it is “one of the most unique and exclusive features” on their warehouse products.
Today, electric lift trucks are manufactured with AC (alternating current) motors. Allen Polk, national accounts sales manager for Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Kenco Fleet Services, says that AC lift trucks are more efficient consumers of battery power, which leads to longer battery run times and less maintenance costs.
In the meantime, a number of lift truck manufacturers are paying more attention to the ergonomics of masts. The mast, which raises and lowers the load hydraulically, is designed with the operator in mind. “Masts with improved visibility and smoother operation improves productivity and reduces stress during operation,” notes Allen Trego, director of product engineering for Marengo, Illinois-based Nissan Forklift.
There is also a focus on prolonging the life of the lift truck. A few years back, Raymond started to use stainless steel axels in their load wheels. Warehousing customers with large fleets can save thousands of dollars when utilizing stainless steel axels. Furthermore, stainless steel axels are particularly well suited for food and beverage applications since they resist corrosion.
Raymond has also updated the materials used to make the undercarriage of the forklift.
“On our undercarriage, we have moved to materials like ductile iron,” says Susan Rice, product manager of pallet trucks and stackers for Raymond. “Ductile iron infuses magnesium into metal, which forms a honeycombing. This honeycombing structure makes the material much more resilient to impact—it’s almost 30 percent stronger than steel.”
Additionally, electric fuel cell technology is an emerging technology. Although electronic fuel cell technology has not really caught on because of the initial cost, according to Raymond’s LaFergola, there are government programs that can help offset some of the costs to fuel cell technology and the hydrogen infrastructure that goes along with it.
The ability for equipment to handle harsh environments associated with refrigerated and freezer applications is a requirement for food and beverage companies.
MCFA offers a full corrosion protection package, which includes a fully galvanized truck frame with stainless steel hardware and pins as well as fully sealed electrical components. Lift trucks featuring fully sealed electrical components that are designed to withstand harsh, wet conditions are extremely attractive, as are lift trucks that are constructed to endure toxic spray downs.
“We equip all walkie end-riders with foodservice grade grease,” says MCFA’s Bowles. Foodservice grade grease provides protection against friction as well as corrosion and oxidation. It also helps to dispel heat buildup in warmer environments and increase a lift truck’s durability.
Similarly, Raymond also offers a package called Extreme Environment Corrosion Protection. With this, a lift truck is equipped with stainless pins and the entire frame and fork assemblies are galvanized to further protect the equipment from corrosion.
Tires have also come a long way in the industry. In challenging environments, tires can assure good traction and a smoother ride to reduce stress during operation. Grooved tires help to stand up to moisture that occurs in changing temperatures, says Kenco’s Polk.
Raymond uses Smoothy polyurethane tires for their electric lift trucks. Smoothy Tires are constructed to manage the high speeds of AC lift trucks and help to reduce heat buildup. “It is perfectly round and it gives you a much nicer ride quality,” notes Raymond’s Rice.
For Small-sized Jobs
If you ship out only a few semitrailer loads a week, a lower cost walkie or walkie end-rider could be the right equipment for your job, particularly if: