August 1, 2007
By JENNIFER ZEGLER
Lift truck makers increase performance benefits
Rising utility costs, environmental concerns and increasing overhead charges have had their effect on the industry. With those concerns in mind, companies are looking into more efficient ways to do business, which includes material handling equipment. New lift truck models not only aim to improve performance, but also lower overhead costs.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen how beverage industry customers have been taking costs out of their operation by improving manufacturing and reducing packaging costs,” says Barry Mansfield, manager of marketing and sales support for Cat Lift Trucks, Houston. “More and more, we’re hearing that customers see the material handling area as a place to look to improve efficiency and lower overall costs.”
Hyster Co. agrees. “Beverage companies have scrutinized the operating costs of their delivery trucks for years, but are just now beginning to see the benefits of directing the same amount of attention to their material handling fleet,” says Brett Schemerhorn, vice president of national accounts for the Greenville, N.C.-based company.
The scrutiny puts customer concerns at the forefront of innovation. Performance, productivity, cost of operation, ergonomics, and reliability are all priorities in new models, manufacturers say.
Electric at forefront
Electric systems are gaining momentum with new launches from many companies. AC systems make for an exhaust-free work place as well as an improved environment. Other advantages extend the benefit of the systems.
AC systems offer many benefits explains, Jeff Legett, marketing director of Class 1 and Class 2 trucks for Raymond Corp., Greene, N.Y.
“In performance, all [Raymond Corp.] products now carry the AC power system, which has a number of benefits,” Legett says. “One is increased performance during shift. As batteries discharge, they tend to slow down the performance. One advantage of AC is that the performance of the product remains at a constant level. When you charge the AC system and then recharge, you wind up getting more potential production.”
From the 4100 stand-up model to the 4700 four-wheel sit-down rider, Raymond Corp. offers an extensive line of AC powered trucks. The company also introduced its narrow-aisle lift truck with an AC system, which was a first for that type of equipment, Legett says. Its 4100 model has AC drive and DC-powered lift because the model is designed for dock work, which offers a cost savings for the customer, Legett explains.
On Raymond’s 4700 and 4400 models, AC lift and AC drive are standard and help performanc and dock-to-stock applications. The models also include oil-cooled disc brakes, which Legett explains is an advantage in this industry.
“[Oil-cooled disc brakes] are particularly useful in the beverage industry because in the bottling plant you have wet floors,” he says. “They are essentially close to friction-less while the models are working on the dock. It’s significant in the heavy-duty work environment because, in both dock-to-stock and when you’re backing in and out of a trailer while loading and unloading, you are constantly using the brakes.”
Additional advantages are leading customers to electric systems, explains Hyster’s Schemerhorn. “Customers continue to seek products with AC motors and AC motor controls to take advantage of reduced maintenance costs and increased service intervals associated with this design,” he says.
Hyster offers three electric counterbalanced models, E30Z, J30ZT and E50Z. In addition, the company released its W40Z Freighter Special, which offers increased maneuverability for added productivity during loading and unloading of delivery trucks, Schemerhorn says. It also added AC power to its Reach and End Control Ridge Pallet trucks.
Though some companies may have just begun developing AC systems, Jungheinrich is developing its fourth generation of AC electric power in lift trucks.
“Walkies are essential to many beverage operations and we have designed our units with AC drive control for smooth, stepless operation and superior gradient performance,” says Jeff Bowles, product manager of Class 1 products for the Richmond, VA.-based company. “In addition, the tight turning radius of our 4,500-pound walkie allows for ease of operation when loading and unloading trailers.”
Jungheinrich also is expanding the capabilities of its lift trucks. Its EFX line of man-up combi trucks features RFID technology. In addition, the company’s 5,000- to 10,000-pound capacity electric lift trucks have been equipped with 80-volt power systems that are powered by Jungheinrich software. Bowles says the high-voltage systems offer cooler running trucks, more efficient performance and higher productivity than industry standard 36- to 48-volt systems.
The international company based its North American models on European technology, explains Bowles. It launched the technology in its EKS 314 Order Picker, ETR 320 Reach Truck and ECR 327 and ECR 336 End Riders.
Last month, Toyota Materials Handling USA Inc., Irvine, Calif., introduced its 8-Series AC pallet truck product line that includes a walkie pallet truck, tow tractor, center control rider pallet truck and end control walkie/rider pallet truck. The AC-powered series offers improved battery performance as well as CAN-bus communication technology to provide control of all truck functions with fewer electrical components.
Heavy-duty models also are available from Cat Lift Trucks, Houston. Earlier this year, the company made available its new all AC stand-up end control unit, the ES3000-ES5500 series, which is available in capacities from 3,000 to 5,500 pounds. The trucks feature 500-hour service intervals and electric steering. The 5,500-pound chassis is a new offering for customers that have heavier lifting requirements.
Though system power is a recent focus, companies agree that operator comfort is a main priority.
“We understand that comfortable operators are more productive,” Cat’s Mansfield says.
Raymond considers visibility, entry/exit, comfort of operations and control key concerns for operator comfort. Its models feature open view masts, which offer unobstructed views, regardless of lift height; 8-inch stand-up height on sit down models; naturally slanted floor boards on stand-up models; and ergonomically designed handles.
With numerous operators using one model, versatility also helps productivity. Jungheinrich designed the cab on its EKS 314 model to allow the operator to stand or sit depending on the work environment. In addition, the ergonomics of its controls were designed to be used with one hand and also offer adjustable sensitivity to be customized for each operator.
In addition to AC power, Yale Materials Handling Corp. offers two ergonomic layouts in its latest release, the NR narrow aisle lift truck. The lift truck is available in 3,000- to 4,500-pound capacities and offers a choice of fore- or side-stance operator compartment. The company also designed its platform for the MPE-F motrorized hand truck with improved ergonomics. The model offers optional power assisted steering for optimal performance in the warehouse, the Greenville, N.C.-based company says.
For added safety, Cat Lift Trucks created the Presence Detection System, which helps prevent damage to facilities and equipment by locking out drive and hydraulic functions if the operator is not in the seat. The company also improved seat comfort on sit-down trucks and overall ergonomics.
When versatility is needed, Tygard offers its Claw, which is a lift truck accessory designed to ease layer picking. The Tygard Claw, manufactured by the same-named Washington, Pa.-based company, is an accessory that can change to and from a standard forklift in less than three minutes. It aids with picking for small distributors picking for bulk or side loads.
Hydrogen on the horizon
Looking forward, some companies are working on hydrogen fuel cell technology. Hyster and Raymond are both working on the technology.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest in hydrogen fuel cells, which are basically different means of providing power to a battery because you’re not plugging it into the wall,” Raymond’s Legett says.
Raymond partnered with the state of New York to create a hydrogen fuel cell test system. The company is testing some of its Class 3 walkie and other trucks for two years to test practiced application of hydrogen fuel cell technology, Legett explains.
In January, Toyota Material Handling USA Inc., displayed its fuel cell lift truck prototype at ProMat in Chicago. The FCHV-F prototype uses hydrogen as its main power source to produce electricity without combustion, and generates zero carbon dioxide emissions. The company says it hopes to have models on the market within a few years.