The major trends across many large brands include:
- Labor cost containment and productivity
- Lowering maintenance costs
- Lowering energy costs
In the marketplace today, there seems to be increased interest in managing labor cost drivers and increasing productivity. Linde Forklifts claim 22% greater productivity for its sitdown counterbalanced forklift truck, model H25T 392. With its hydrostatic transmission, the 392 series Linde requires no differential and therefore has greater productivity with less downtime.
Fleet Management Productivity
Other manufacturers, such as Raymond and Crown, are integrating fleet management technology into their lift trucks with iWarehouse and InfoLink. These fleet optimization management tools allow warehouse managers to track usage of materials handling equipment (MHE) in order to reduce labor costs.
Fleet management systems work by requiring an operator to log into a lift truck before using it. Once logged in, the system tracks start time, end time, breaks, idle time, lifting hours, etc, to generate reports on equipment overall usage. By knowing start and stop times, managers can identify employees who start and stop on time and work their equipment the hardest, which helps increase warehouse productivity. By knowing lifting hours, supervisors can identify the types of equipment needed for any given task. For example, if a reach truck shows low lifting hours relative to travel hours, a manager might decide that a pallet jack is more suitable for certain handling tasks and reduce capital costs in horizontal product transportation.
Automated Lift Truck Productivity
Other labor saving innovations include Raymond Corp’s recent announcement of the Courier Automated Lift Truck (ALT). This all-seeing automated pallet truck is taught a route in the warehouse for predetermined pick up and drop off points. The operator drives the pallet jack briefly and picks up a pallet on the ALT. He then turns the knob to automatic, picks the drop off point on a on-screen menu, and tells the pallet jack to “go” by pressing a button. Using the vision system, the ALT takes the pallet to the drop off point, possibly from manufacturing to storage or from the dock to an awaiting Narrow Aisle truck working in the racking. The advantage to this truck is it now reduces the labor expense of long tedious and repetitive trips. And with an operator shepherding multiple ALTs at a time, labor savings increases exponentially.
LOWER MAINTENANCE COSTS
The message from many of the MHE OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) is that maintenance costs are continuing to be reduced.
Crown Corp uses color-coded wiring and hundreds of fault codes to help quickly pin-point component failures. Crown claims this drives down repair cost by making forklift technicians more efficient. Also, due to their vertical integration and close controls in their manufacturing processes, Crown claims their component failures are more infrequent.
- More rigidity added to the forks by encasing the fork frame.
- Added a fork torsion box to for more stability for the operators.
- Forks can sustain a longer life by the addition with an enclosed toe box.
- High Frequency (HF) charger increase battery life by sensing state of discharge of the battery to prevent overcharging and short life-ing the battery.
Raymond Corp announced recently a revamped end-rider pallet truck built with harder steel, replaceable wearable parts in its undercarriage and self-lubricating bushings. In addition, Raymond makes the following claims about their new model 8410 end-rider pallet truck:
- Heavy-duty undercarriage features ductile iron components for longer wear
- Heavy-duty bumper guard
- Longer component life with sealed grab bar electronic controls
- Faster acceleration
- Low step heights to reduce fatigue
- Power steering that reduces steer effort by up to 90%
- Up to 6% more productive than the competition
- Up to 33% more energy efficient than the competition
LOWER ENERGY COSTS
One of the main cost drivers in warehousing operations, energy consumption reduction has become the theme for warehouse lighting manufacturers, battery charger manufacturers and lift truck manufacturers.
Did you know that by 2014, you will not be able to buy a light bulb that is 40 watts or greater? This is part of the drive to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency.
Many warehouses are being fitted with high efficiency lighting. And LED lights and induction lighting are now available for freezer warehouses to reduce energy use and reduce maintenance costs. Just look at US Cold Storage who installed LED lights and reduced their energy consumption and energy costs from 46 cents/sq. ft. to 3.5 cents /sq. ft.
And because LED lights have a longer life span, maintenance costs will also be reduced. This is because an LED light fixture can expect up to a 20 year life span before needing to be replaced.
The Raymond Corporation has introduced eco-performance touting increased energy efficiency by 20%. With their regenerative lowering and ACR system, Raymond claims their lift equipment is more energy efficient and returns energy back into the battery when lowering a load and plugging to a stop.