Design Engineer Drives Forklift, Invents Improvement

1109-11A Toyota Location-092Anthony Cook, a design engineer in the UK, was taking a class on how to drive a forklift when he was suddenly struck with a brilliant idea.

“There is a fundamental problem with the design of counterbalance forklift trucks,” Cook told the materials handling website “The view from the operator’s position is not sufficient to allow the driver to accurately determine the mast tilt position. Even experienced … operators have toe estimate the required mast tilt, and then they use their skill to make fine adjustments as they approach the load. If a driver gets it wrong, it could result in damage to the racking system, the pallet payload and possible risk of injury.”

The Mother of Invention …

So the cogs in Cook’s mind began turning. Within a very short amount of time, he designed a simple visual “tilt angle” indicator that removes the guesswork and skill out of setting the correct tilt angle.

“The result is basically a sliding indicator weight controlled by a wire linkage,” Cook said. “The position of the indicator weight allows the operator to accurately align the forks first time, every time. The concept uses gravity to provide the movement. There are no electrics involved.”

Cook — who owns his own design firm, AEC Designs, based in Chesire, England — named his invention “ForkAngles” and has applied for a patent. His invention already has been nominated for two prestigious materials handling industry awards in the UK and currently is being sold to businesses there.

Easy and Fast to Install

ForkAngles can be easily retro-fitted onto any forklift without any drilling or modification to the vehicle. The device is basically a sleeve that fits over one of the arms of the mast and can be installed in just a few seconds.

Cook tested his forklift accessory device out at several local companies, including Churchill China, a factory that makes fine china, as well as a regional forklift training company. What he discovered was that without ForkAngles, operators had only a 6% probability of setting the tilt angle correctly the first time. But when the device was installed, drivers achieved a 99.5% probability of getting it right.

ForkAngles indicates when the forks are parallel to the ground, so it operates on inclines as well as level surfaces. It is simple to set up and calibrate and is made of high-impact materials so that it can be used in even the toughest industrial applications.

Low-Maintenance and Durable

The device is based on simple mechanics, giving it an advantage over electronic auto-leveling systems which can require continual maintenance by skilled technicians in order to remain accurate.

ForkAngles also can be used to indicate multiple tilt angles. For example, it can be used to indicate required back-tilt to compensate for fork deflection.

Dave Cadman, warehouse manager at Churchill China, said the device has improved productivity in his facility.

“By using the ForkAngles mast  tilt indicator, our operators have been able to work alone and with confidence that the load will go in precisely, and without causing any damage,” Cadman said. “As well as eradicating this risk and the potential costs in terms of delay and repairs, the indicator also helps to improve productivity. The truck operators can now work without a load supervisor and we are all confident that the  goods will be loaded safely and in good condition for shipping to the customer.”


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