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Forklift attachments have been the unsung hero of the material handling industry. The development and use of a wide variety of attachments has expanded the capability of a forklift making it one of the most flexible, versatile machines in all of industry.
New technologies are now impacting the ability to design and manufacture new attachments allowing manufacturers to make products that could never have been considered for manufacturing. New technologies are also helping attachments manufacturers to customize attachments so that warehouse operations can be more productive and efficient. As a result, new attachments are safer, smarter, economical, and versatile.
Safety In Today’s Material Handling
Safety is an essential part of material handling. Manufacturers are now focusing more than ever on producing attachments that safely lifts loads, safely moves loads, and safely operates equipment to satisfy safety standards required and demanded by the industry.
A representative of B&B Attachments, an attachment supplier and manufacturer in the United Kingdom, points out that customers are calling for attachments that ensure that a warehouse environment remains as safe as possible. He added that the selection of the proper attachment could have a major affect on the way a task is performed and could reduce risks by offering drivers better visibility and safer operating control while loading and moving products.
A representative of a Dutch manufacturer of forklift attachments, RAVAS, notes that safety is a new growth market for attachment manufacturers. For example, real time information concerning the weight distribution of a load allows for continuous monitoring of forklift stability. The rep also points out that the safety assistance modes found on the company’s scales respond like active load diagrams that display a forklift’s behavior both in terms of safety and efficiency. It is a tool that prevents injuries and damage to goods.
The CEO of Combilift, a manufacturer of forklifts and container loaders with offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Spain, notes that the dramatic increase in demand for hydraulic fork positioners in the past five years has been a direct result of safety and ergonomic requirements.
“Buyers look for attachments that augment the functionality of materials handling equipment to offer more versatile application possibilities. Using different attachments on one machine, depending on the task in hand, can speed up handling, enable the handling of diverse types of loads, prevent product damage, make for cost-effective use of equipment and, most importantly, enhance safety procedures,” he said.
Technology In Today’s Material Handling
New technologies have allowed manufacturers to customize attachments to keep pace with modern solutions.
The President and Chief Operating Officer of Cascade Corporation, a forklift attachments manufacturer with offices in Oregon, Ohio, Georgia, and Ontario, Canada, notes that high-tech attachments offers data connectivity that provides a way to share material data with customer’s enterprise or warehouse management systems, increasing overall efficiency and enabling better strategic decisions.
Cascade Corporation is offering weighing technology that incorporates this. He notes that the weighing technology uses specialized indicators and load sensing technology to offer essential information to forklift drivers to ensure the smoothest possible operation.
One technology that forklifts attachments manufacturers are using with great results is computer-aided drawing (CAD) software. This gives them the ability to reduce unnecessary material content and demonstrate full working models before manufacturing. Other software including stress analysis programs, adverse stress and load points on any given part can be located and corrected before manufacturing. This allows manufacturing to be more cost effective.
Advancements in technology are allowing manufacturers to customize attachments to more accurately to match up with applications and to improve design and construction.
Using design technologies are allowing manufacturers to quickly design and test concepts enabling them to significantly reduce lead time when manufacturing attachments. This an important when customers are working on just-in-time delivery
A representative of CAM Attachments, an Italian manufacturer of forklift attachments, points out that this ability to speed up production allows manufacturers to ask customers for the model and make of their machine on which the attachment will be installed and combine that information with the weight and dimensions of the attachment being manufactured. In-house technicians can then do a detailed technical and production level analysis on the product. The manufacturer can then confirm how long it will take to produce the attachment. The product can then be designed and technical drawings can be done that customers can check against their original concept and approve. The product can then be assembled, tested in accordance with industry standards, manufactured in two or three weeks, and then is ready for shipping.
The advent of automated guided vehicles (AGV) equipment has encouraged the manufacturing of smart attachments that has the intelligence to provide businesses with information on safety and damage reduction.
Meijer, a Dutch manufacturer of forklift attachments, will soon be introducing a new length measuring system that can be attached to any hydraulic forklift fork without the need for modification. The device is specifically designed to stop the extending forks automatically or manually when they reach a certain length. That capability makes this attachment ideal for companies that use different size pallets.
Many in the field of material handling believe that the rising importance of AGV will encourage the design and manufacturing of even more technology savvy attachments. The new attachments will allow for autonomous operation without and input by the forklift operator.
Look for automated solutions rather than manual labor to handle certain tasks. This will result in attachments with specific functionality and matching technologies from other sectors.
There will be an improvement in live data monitoring and telematics that will assist warehouse personnel to make decisions and quantifiable understanding of operations will continue to improve.