Manufacturing News

Efficiency and environmental benefits: trends in forklift offerings

What’s new in forklifts? Hartley Henderson takes a look and finds that the latest developments promise to be kind to both the environment and your bottom line.

There have been significant developments in forklift offerings in recent times, particularly in operating systems, but also in areas such as attachments and safety initiatives. 

According to the Managing Director of Lencrow Materials Handling, Ross Grassick, the area that has changed dramatically in forklift development is the improved efficiency of electric units with the change to AC operating systems. 

“This has extended battery life and made these units a very viable alternative to fossil fuels machines because they produce less air and noise pollution, thereby improving workplace health and safety, and reducing industrial carbon footprints,” he said. 

“The use of AC operating systems in electric units has also improved their duty cycles with smoother operation and step-less controls. Market and user demands have also led to developments in the shape of forklift attachments and we now have more materials handling attachment options available that reduce damage to products as well as increasing safety. 

“Developments in safety programs now include after-market systems that constantly monitor the equipment condition for operational and environmental effects. 

“Operation is controlled from the time an operator sits in the seat and includes the ability to log which driver is in control, as well as factors such as hand brake operation and idle time, speed, braking and any impacts. Information from these forklift units can be sent remotely or through download facilities to allow real time monitoring and can be configured to cover any parameters required. 

“Also, remote control forklifts have improved and are a great alternative for repetitious operations. We have not seen the market expand in Australia, but these units are very popular in Europe.” 

Grassick says that as forklifts are one of the causes of workplace injuries, it is important to ensure that operators are licensed and trained in the type of equipment they need to operate.
“We are still constantly hearing of accidents involving operators who were not educated on the type of equipment they were using,” he said. 

“There is a need to be mindful of the nature and layout of individual workplaces. For example, there are many warehouses operating with insufficient working space, and with obstructions that can cause damage to products as well as injury to people. 

“Maintenance of equipment is also important, although I am constantly surprised that people pay a lot of money for their equipment but then fail to maintain it. The cost of servicing is very little when it comes to ensuring safety and avoiding the cost of major repairs. 

“The industry has invested a lot in adding safety features to forklifts, and we can fit the latest monitoring technology, but if proper attention is not given to key factors such as appropriate operator training and forklift maintenance then safety will always be a problem.” 

Lencrow recently became the Nissan by Unicarriers dealer for Eastern Australia which the company says gives it a range of equipment to cover all requirements in manufacturing industry. 

The range of products includes internal combustion forklifts from 1500kgs through to 30,000kgs (LPG, petrol and diesel), electric forklifts and reach trucks with lift heights up to 12,000mm, as well as electric order pickers and all-directional forklifts. 

Grassick says the 2500kg DU range unit has a fully fuel injected engine that will reduce the use of fuel and improve emission levels. “Other features that come standard with these models include electronic weight gauge, together with speed limiting that doesn’t affect the unit’s performance,” he said. 

Stability control 

Toyota Material Handling Australia offers as standard on several of its forklift models the System of Active Stability (SAS) which uses intelligent technologies to protect driver and machine as well as driving down overall forklift operating costs. 

According to Toyota, forklift incidents are a significant contributor to total workplace accidents in Australia, often resulting in serious injury, including permanent disability, or even death. 

The company advises that its SAS was the first system in the world to monitor and control the forklift through a combination of advanced sensors linked to an on-board controller, enabling excellent load handling performance with greater safety. 

SAS acts automatically to help prevent sideways tip-over which, according to Toyota, is the cause of over 30 percent of serious forklift accidents. In the event of instability, the Swing Lock Cylinder automatically locks the rear axle to improve the forklift’s stability and significantly reduces the risk of a sideways tip-over. 

The SAS system also helps to avoid damage to goods through Mast Front Tilt Angle Control, Mast Rear Tilt Speed Control, and Fork Levelling Control. Both load and forklift are prevented from tipping dangerously forward by constant monitoring of load height, weight and mast position, and if necessary, automatically limiting the mast angle. 

If loads are tilted backwards too quickly the Mast Rear Tilt Speed Control senses the risk and can reduce the mast speed accordingly. With Fork Levelling Control, the forks are levelled at the push of a button, which can be of particular benefit when loads are at a substantial height. 

Toyota emphasises that while SAS provides innovative ways to create a safer work environment, it is important that this in no way overrides the value of professional training, and strict adherence to safety features and the forklift manufacturer’s instructions. 

The company claims that in 2014, battery operated forklifts accounted for just over half of Toyota forklift deliveries and says that it will soon release new models onto the market including a new range of Toyota 8-Series battery-electric sit down reach trucks. 

Recently, Toyota launched a versatile new reach truck designed to operate on outdoor surfaces. The new BT Reflex O-Series has a ground clearance of 145mm and super-elastic tyres. This means it can operate on rugged, loose surfaces while the specialist tyres provide secure grip on wet or high temperature asphalt. 

Hartley Henderson has been a regular contributing writer to Manufacturers’ Monthly for the past eight years, covering industry developments in Victoria and South Australia. Prior to that, he held senior positions in government, semi-government and business enterprises and was National Program Director with the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia.

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