Forklifts have come a long way from the gas-guzzling, suspension-free machines they once were. With the use of technology, trucks are now more fuel-efficient -- if not completely electric -- with an emphasis on ergonomics and safety. Now, manufacturers are equipping new forklifts with additional sensors, improved tires and braking systems, and automation to make forklifts even more efficient and safer than ever.
So how will these forklift tech trends benefit your Indiana warehouse?
Most forklifts use lead-acid batteries as their main power source. While these usually work well, recharging poses a serious safety risk. For one, they are extremely heavy, with the average battery weighing over 2000 pounds. Charging usually requires removing the battery carefully from the forklift, then completely charging for eight hours and cooling overnight in a separate battery room. Any mistakes in the charging process, and you can induce electrical sparks or acid splash.
Lithium-Ion is the future of forklift batteries. These batteries are a bit more expensive than their lead-acid counterpart, but last 2-3 times longer. This can save your Indiana warehouse money on the back-end, especially when your entire fleet gets outfitted with lithium-ion. They also last longer between charges, and you won’t see a decline in performance as cells become depleted.
The biggest benefit of lithium-ion batteries may be the improvements to charging. Instead of removing the heavy battery from the back of the forklift, you just plug it in right from the truck. Charging a lithium-ion battery takes a fraction of the time, and you no longer have to balance charging and cooling. You also lose the acid splash and electrical safety concerns, as you never have to manipulate the battery itself. At the very least, you can free up some warehouse space and say goodbye to your battery charging room.
Some of the greatest wear and tear on a forklift -- and its operators -- comes from the sudden motion related to an overly-sensitive braking system. Jerking causes strain on pads, tires, and engine parts, and can cause whiplash, leg, or back pain. As brake pads wear down, it becomes harder to accurately control the forklift.
Now, the forklift tech trend is to add additional sensors to the truck, so that braking is more responsive and fluid. Much like the automatic brakes in newer models of cars, these sensors will help see the obstacles that you may have otherwise missed. Running over errant pieces of merchandise or collisions with racks can then be avoided, saving you from operator injury or needing a costly repair. The sensors will also slow down a forklift when it takes corners, which will cut down on damage and tip-overs.
Tires are also getting smarter with special rubber compositions that make them softer without losing traction. These tires should help forklifts easily transition from rough terrain to smoother surfaces, which should help those trucks that need to be used both inside and outside. The new compounds also help with fuel efficiency, as the lighter, softer tire will decrease the amount of energy the forklift will need to use. Tire improvement may actually be one of the greatest tech trends, as they can easily be retrofitted to an older model of forklift.
While other technology trends help you operate a forklift safer and more efficiently, the true game changer is automation. As some lifts become driverless, warehouses efficiency will dramatically improve. Accidents from driver error should dramatically decrease, and loads can be racked and unracked faster and in tighter quarters.
The increased efficiency is possible because each forklift will use complex communication systems so that every automated forklift works in perfect unison with the others. This technology doesn’t eliminate your need for a highly trained workforce, but the future warehouse will have many smaller automated lifts, each performing one specific job. Movement will be swift, using an array of sensors that navigate the trucks through specific pathways and motions. Your labor force then acts more like managers, ensuring that workflow is optimized.
You can utilize the experts at Tynan to keep your fleet updated with the latest technological upgrades. Whether it’s retrofitting older models to utilize lithium-Ion batteries or updating to a new truck, we’ll be sure your entire fleet is safer and more efficient. Call (317) 597-4003, and we’ll show you how new forklift tech trends can help your Indiana business.
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