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Just as is the case with automobiles, forklifts are evolving. The evolution may not include access to the Internet and the ability to have email read to you, as is the case with automobiles. Still, forklifts are going through some interesting changes that include automated lifts, introduction of environmentally friendly and ergonomics features, and customization.
The first change that is easy to pick out is that these machines are getting smarter, which permits more detailed tracking and even the running of tasks without human navigation. We are seeing warehouses now using ERP, RFID and zone control systems that help to computerize forklifts and permit software control and management.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and permits the forklift to be incorporated with the rest of the business operations of the warehouse. The software can identify data needed by the forklift so that it can locate items that need to be picked, guide the forklift to the shelves where they can find the products, and then helps let the inventory portion of the business know what products have been picked to fill orders. In short, it helps to reduce human errors and make a warehouse’s operation much more efficient and productive.
RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification. This technology uses electromagnetic fields to transfer data wirelessly. The data is used to help a forklift identify and track tags that are attached to objects like products and help forklifts fill orders with or without human involvement.
Zone Control is technology that assists forklifts to operate in particular zones of a warehouse.
In addition, independent sensors can be added to forklifts to track their movement and detect when the lift is involved in an accident. An example of this is ForkTrack, a technology that permits fleet managers to obtain in depth, real time reports about their forklifts, sense impacts, monitor speed of the lift and include zone and operator ID controls.
Having the ability to customize the forklift with attachments and accessories that help make operations more efficient and productive is almost revolutionary. When you first buy your fleet of forklifts you can make sure they include features that may not be needed by other warehouses, but essential to yours. It assures that your fleet of forklifts can easily accommodate unusually shaped or heavier products. It also permits the addition of features that permit forklifts to better navigate through tighter spaces.
The advent of the technology known as Hydrostatic Drive means that a forklift equipped with the feature does not need mechanical brakes that would have to be adjusted or repaired. This makes servicing forklifts more straightforward and helps to reduce maintenance costs.
Forklifts are also coming equipped with alternate current motors. They are high performance motors that help to reduce the cost of maintenance while improving energy
consumption. Using this type of motor means that there is more time between recharges and that means that the lift can be used for longer periods of time. AC motors are completely enclosed so there is less of a chance of dust exposure. This type of motor does not include brushes, which helps to reduce maintenance.
Of course, in recent years warehouse managers have had to be more concerned with the affects of their operations on the environment. No doubt, you have come across rules from the Environmental Protection Agency with which you have to comply. Lifts themselves are more environmentally friendly because they are powered by electricity. So there is no bad emissions waffling through the air and electric forklifts don’t need engine oil transmission and radiator fluid, which could damage the environment.
Narrower forklifts are available to be used in warehouses that have narrow aisles because more space is being used for storage.
Finally, forklifts include ergonomic features like more comfortable seats, soft touch contoured handgrips, air conditioning, and adjustable steer columns. All of this assures that the driver is much more comfortable and not susceptible to aches and pains in the back and the legs that can cause him to miss time at work.
So the next time you get on board of a forklift, think about these improvements that help you do your job more efficiently.