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
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,
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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