Doing It All
By JENNIFER ZEGLER
Advancements in lift trucks simplify ‘heavy lifting’
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 convenience.
“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 industry.”
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 motors.
“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 less maintenance.”
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 company.
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 compensation claims.
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