Advancements in lift trucks simplify ‘heavy
Back-breaking work would
describe what forklifts perform in beverage plants and warehouses. Instead
of lifting cases and building pallets by hand, lift trucks of all types and
sizes maneuver aisles to transfer items with ease. New models are
incorporating the latest technology in energy efficiency, comfort and
“Using the latest in computer software
technology, lift truck manufacturers are designing and manufacturing trucks
that are more efficient, reliable and comfortable than ever,” says
Bobby Hopkins, product specialist with North Carolina’s Hyster Co.,
maker of an AC power line of lift trucks. “The ability for the
customer to tailor truck performance to meet their application and driver
requirements is a feature long desired by the materials handling
Soaring fuel costs are not just affecting everyday
commuters, they also have an effect on industry. In lift trucks, plants and
warehouses are looking to expanding electric options to keep costs down.
Companies are innovating to further lower costs by changing from DC to AC
“Our industry is seeing an increase in the sales
of electric forklifts,” says Steven Kinmouth, sales and marketing
engineer for Komatsu Group. “The introduction of the BBX50 meets the
demand in today’s industrial environment for more electric models
with AC drive technology. AC drive technology is quickly overtaking DC
drive technology because AC motors have fewer parts, which translates into
The BBX50 is the latest introduction from the Japanese
company. The all-AC 6,500-pound capacity truck was developed to accommodate
the beverage industry where many applications require carrying two pallets
side-by-side. It also was ergonomically built and features a multi-purpose
display and programming panel.
In addition, Tusk Lift Trucks, Covington, Ga.,
released a new series of electric lift trucks. This new series now extends
the company’s line of electric truck capacities to 4,000 to 6,500
pounds. Its new trucks also feature changes to the drive system, new
operator compartment improvements that help the operator program the
maximum speed, lifting speed and regenerative braking.
A longtime player in electric trucks, Jungheinrich
Lift Truck Corp., Richmond, Va., launched its newest model in June. The ETR
320 Pantograph Reach Truck is an all-AC truck that was specifically
engineered for high productivity. It comes equipped with a steady
pantograph mechanism that enables precise load placements at heights up to
33 feet. The company manufactures the machine’s three AC motors,
controllers and CAN BUS software to work together efficiently.
“The truck is new to the company, but the
components are all part of our tried and true offerings,” says Jason
Dunigan, Jungheinrich’s product manager. “We started in 1996,
so for 10 years we have had electric trucks, which gives us an edge over
other companies that have just started in that direction.”
Dunigan explains that electric, in comparison to the
industry standard liquid propane gas (LPG), helps lower the cost of
ownership of the machines. The electric machines cost about $3 to charge
for a shift, which is much less than the high price of a tank of LPG that
often does not last a whole shift.
Optimization for the operator
New lift truck models also consider what’s
important for the operator. A model’s comfort, ergonomics and safety
are all key issues when designing a new machine. For companies, an
operator’s comfort helps productivity.
“A comfortable operator is an efficient
operator,” says Gil Ortiz, electric product planning specialist for
Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. Inc.
Yale Materials Handling Corp. introduced a new product
line and two new lift trucks for warehouse applications in the past year.
The company introduced the highly customizable Veracitor VX line of trucks
with productivity-enhancing ergonomics and technology. Most recently, the
company introduced the NTA-SB very narrow aisle lift truck that offers
greater serviceability, productivity and ergonomic options for the
warehouse operator. The model is a man-up turret truck that is ideal for
pallet handling and case picking applications.
Yale is also keeping its eye toward the future.
“As new technologies like fuel cells and RFID develop, Yale will look
at innovative ways to include them in our products as we strive to improve
lift truck ergonomics, customer productivity and overall dependability and
performance,” says Lou Micheletto, warehouse products manager for the
California-based Toyota Material Handling addresses
important options such as multiple speeds, in addition to safety. The
company’s exclusive System of Active Stability (SAS) launched in
1999. In combination with its Active Mast Control, SAS complies with OSHA
standards and has created a safer working environment.
During the past year, Toyota has introduced its
7-Series electric walkie straddle stacker lift truck with adjustable base
legs as well as its range of Class 3 pallet trucks. Its pallet truck lineup
has added new features such as an ergonomic control handle, mechanical
chassis enhancements and soft-cushioned rider platform. Its machines also
are well-matched for attachments and accessories.
“Toyota forklifts are highly compatible with the
many different aftermarket load handling attachments typically used by the
beverage industry,” Ortiz says. “We offer many different mast
and hydraulic configurations to match the specific needs of a beverage
plant. Due to the fragile nature of some beverage containers, Toyota lift
trucks also offer an ‘Auto-Fork Leveling’ feature that
facilitates proper load placement by automatically leveling the forks with
the touch of a button.”
Convenience is key
Convenience is seeping into all aspects of life, and
industry is not different. Time-saving equipment, such as the Tygard Claw,
is on hand to help out. The Tygard Claw, a forklift attachment designed for
layer picking, is manufactured by Tygard Machine and Manufacturing Co.,
Washington, Pa. The Claw can be used for layer lifting, pallet splitting,
building base pallets and can easily create pallets of mixed products. The
company produces a series of Claws with different variations and models,
the newest of which is the Front Mount Tooless Quick Disconnect.
“Our newest is a detachable quick disconnect for
front-mount users that can take the Claw on and off of the forklift in less
than one minute without tools, which returns the forklifts to other uses
quickly,” says Kip Tygard, vice president of the company.
The Tygard Claw helps reduce manual labor moving
rates, and increases the picking time from 250 cases per hour to between
1,000 and 2,500 cases per hour, Tygard says. It is not only faster, but can
reduce damage caused by handpicking, such as ripped handles. In addition,
the more ergonomic Claw also helps production and reduces workman’s
The advances in lift trucks run the gamut, but all
cater to what the warehouse operator is looking for: cutting costs, comfort
for the operator and convenience of quick-changeover. With these
improvements, lift trucks aren’t just taking some of the heavy
lifting away from beverage plant and warehouse personnel –
they’re helping out all over the place. BI
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