Lift trucks at a fork in the road
New automated technologies have created a number of new efficiencies in beverage warehouses. Although many tasks have been replaced by advanced software and hardware, some tasks, such as order picking and loading, often require human intervention. Forklift manufacturers have responded to changing warehouse environments with new equipment that is more efficient, flexible and eco-friendly.
The escalating variety of products in an average warehouse has impacted lift trucks, says Vicky Tyson, industry manager at Yale Materials Handling Co., Greenville, N.C.
“With expanding product lines and new product packaging, companies are looking for lift trucks that contribute to flexibility in operations, optimal productivity and efficiency of operations,” Tyson says.
In today’s warehouses a common combination of a reduced labor force coupled with SKU proliferation has impacted lift trucks as well, says Brett Schemerhorn, vice president of sales for Hyster Co., Greenville, N.C.
“Beverage producers are faced with many challenges, such as downsizing lift truck fleets and warehousing more product and SKUs within existing distribution facilities,” Schemerhorn says. “They need to do more with less, thus putting more pressure or demand on their equipment. They are also implementing strategies to try and standardize on models, capacities and specifications that will be able to handle all of their loads without sacrificing space requirements.”
Withstanding the warehouse
The beverage warehouse can be a demanding environ-ment with new challenges every day. Yale offers beverage industry packages that customize lift trucks for manufacturing or distribution applications, Tyson says. The company also offers a heavy corrosion/wash down package on select models that is designed to provide extra protection in wash-down environments, she says.
Hyster offers a variety of smaller capacity electric lift trucks designed to work in tighter areas, such as the J30-40XNT. The sit-down electric lift trucks have three-wheels and have lifting capacities of 3,000 to 4,000 pounds. The company also offers many walkie and walkie/rider low-lift pallet trucks, including its W40Z and B60-80Z, which are very popular in the beverage industry, Schemerhorn says.
Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA), Houston, represents lift trucks from Cat, Mitsubishi and Jungheinrich. For the beverage industry, MCFA offers Cat sit-down counterbalanced products for Industrial Truck Association Class 1 (rider trucks with electric motors) and Class 4 (internal combustion engines with cushion tires) and Jungheinrich Class 3 models (electric motor walkie or walkie rider trucks).
MCFA designed an exclusive adjustable load backrest for its Jungheinrich walkies in response to the industry’s need to quickly adjust to loads of varying sizes, says Jeff Bowles, MCFA’s manager of product marketing. Rider trucks continue to be the most popular choice in the beverage industry, Bowles says.
“While a majority of customers are still using a traditional sit-down cushion tire lift truck for many functions, considering the use of electric pneumatic trucks could bring a variety of benefits to a beverage application,” Bowles says. “Our Class 1 electric pneumatic four-wheel models are designed with soft ride solid pneumatic tires to improve shock absorption as well as a wide footprint to help stabilize loads. This is especially important when handling multiple pallets.”
The Class 1 electric pneumatic models from MCFA are equipped with fingertip hydraulic control and an integrated armrest that allows the operator to comfortably handle loads with precision, Bowles says. Precision is particularly important when using hydraulic attachments, such as layer pickers and single double pallet handlers, he says.
For its very narrow aisle trucks, MCFA offers exclusive transponder technology that recognizes a truck’s exact location at all times relative to racking positions, Bowles says.
“Two primary advantages of this technology are the automation of truck movement from one pallet position to another and the ability to manage truck activities based on location,” he says. “One such example is that the truck’s mast will not be allowed to lift beyond a certain height when in the area of a vertical obstruction, such as overhead lighting.”
For loading applications, MCFA’s Class 1 and Class 4 sit-down trucks also can be ordered with a bottler’s tilt option that allows operators to move product onto side load beverage trucks easily, Bowles says. The tilt option features an additional forward tilt on the forks to accommodate the titled pallet platforms on the truck, he says.
Yale released a new series of electric stand-up lift trucks, the ESC030-040AC series of three-wheel lift trucks designed to lift capacities of 3,000 to 4,000 pounds. The series was designed for dock and drive-in or drive-through rack applications. It features precision load positioning that allows operators to more precisely control the truck while working on an incline, such as on a dock or in a trailer. The truck’s dual steer tires with hydraulic-actuated rack and pinion-steer axle also provide precise, reliable control, the company says.
Dock operations also were taken into account as The Raymond Corp., Greene, N.Y., designed its Models 4150 and 4250 stand-up counterbalanced lift trucks. Raymond designed the models, which range in capacity from 3,000 to 5,000 pounds, with greater visibility for the operator, increased maneuverability with agile steering, shorter head length, dual steer tires, and ComfortStance suspension to maximize operator comfort. The models are powered by Raymond’s ACR System to run smoother and faster to move more pallets while maintaining an energy-efficient performance throughout the battery cycle, the company says.
Designed for heavy lifting
With increasingly crowded warehouse space, Yale has noticed the need for handling heavier loads, Tyson says.
“With limited warehouse space, most beverage companies are tasked with maximizing utilization of existing storage space,” Tyson says. “Lift trucks need to lift heavier pallets to greater heights while delivering the maneuverability of smaller trucks.”
In June, Yale introduced the 5,000-pound capacity GC050LX cushion and GP050LX pneumatic tire internal combustion lift trucks. The trucks are fuel efficient, using 12 percent less fuel than competitor average, Tyson says. Designed for moderate duty applications, the models have electronically controlled Powershift transmissions for smooth direction change and an optional integral side shifter to optimally place loads.
MCFA offers walkie rider units that can transport up to three pallets at one time, Bowles says. The company also offers electric pneumatic trucks with capacities up to 10,000 pounds, he says.
“The robust design is ideal for handling multiple pallets, especially in high-lift applications where there are simultaneous multiple pallet put-away operations,” he says. “These trucks are also designed to operate effectively indoor, as well as outdoor.”
The use of attachments, such as multiple load handling and layer picking attachments, is seen as a trend with increasing appeal, manufacturers say. Hyster introduced its E45-70XN series that provides a higher capacity lift truck that can be used with multiple load handling attachments and case layer picker front-ends. The combination of lift truck and attachment can help increase throughput by handling and building more loads in the same amount of time, Schemerhorn says.
With sustainability affecting the entire industry, lift truck manufacturers have released a variety of advancements designed to use less energy.
Toyota Material Handling USA Inc., Irvine, Calif., introduced its 8-Series four-wheel AC electric lift trucks in March. The AC-power delivers longer runtimes and offers quicker acceleration, the company says. In addition, the AC-powered system uses a series of subsystems that either conserve or regenerate power to maximize operational productivity, the company says. The 8-Series is available in 4,000 to 6,500 pound load capacities.
Yale Materials Handling offers the new ERP-VT/VF three and four wheel electric sit trucks that move 13 percent more loads and use 12 percent less energy than competitors’ models, Tyson says. The model also is highly maneuverable with a zero turn radius, she says.
In addition, Yale’s newly re-engineered ERC-VG is alternative fuel-ready, Tyson says. The company re-engineered the ERC045-070VG to deliver reliability and value with lower overall operating costs. The model also prioritized operator comfort and performance in the redesign, Tyson says.
Hyster offers lift trucks that can accept several alternative fuels and are testing others, Schemerhorn says.
“Alternative fuels such as methane and hydrogen fuel cells will be utilized by more facilities as well as future technology, such as fast charge lithium ion batteries that will eliminate the need for battery storage and changing of batteries when the power has been depleted,” Schemerhorn says. “This technology will allow lift truck operators to recharge their equipment faster and get back to moving product in less time.”
In July, Raymond announced its first hydrogen fuel cell-compatible order picker was in use by a food distribution company. The fuel cell was installed in Raymond’s Model 5500 order picker with a specially built 21-inch battery box.
“Today, fuel cells are used as battery replacements in lift trucks and, therefore, must meet size compatibility standards,” says Frank Devlin, segment manager for Raymond. “There are some extra challenges in engineering a fuel cell-compatible order picker due to the existing battery compartment size, so Raymond redesigned the battery compartment of its Model 5500 order picker to enable [the company] to convert its entire fleet to hydrogen power.” BI