Forklifts, mobile device management, and safety

Mobile device management software connects technologies commonly used on forklifts for increased visibility. Hidde Hannenburg writes.

Mobile device management allows a business to connect their technology hardware with the business’ back-end systems to greatly enhance the visibility and information managers have to hand when making decisions.

A TOTAL of 59 Australians died while using forklifts from 2003-2013, including six workers in 2013, which was the highest number in three years.

As a result, forklift use is now considered high risk work according to Safe Work Australia and as such the organisation is focusing on worker safety, training, and business compliance across industries operating forklifts.

Safe Work Australia requires that a person who operates a forklift must hold a high risk work forklift licence.

Training to get a high risk work licence must be completed as part of a course from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO).

 They also state that most forklift incidents involve pedestrians, therefore businesses should make sure there are clear, separate pathways for pedestrians and forklifts.

Alternatively high visibility work wear should be worn if walking outside of designated walkways.  There are penalties to companies if these safety guidelines are not followed.

There is also an enormous cost to business associated with forklift accidents, with the Australian manufacturing industry dealing with 110 serious claims regarding falls from a height due to forklift use between 2009 and 2011. Minimising liability costs is therefore paramount for companies using forklifts.

Add to this the high costs associated with repairing damaged forklifts, which are very expensive business assets. Businesses tend to expect long life-cycles of around five to seven years for forklifts and are therefore highly motivated to reduce damage and the associated costs.

Forklift user management

It is vital that managers of warehouses, factories, as well as field workers take charge in managing forklift use to ensure workers are safe and compliant.

Mobile device management allows a business to connect their technology hardware with the business’ back-end systems to greatly enhance the visibility and information managers have to hand when making decisions. 

Honeywell Scanning & Mobility device management software connects a wide range of mobile technologies commonly used on forklifts to a business’ platform, such as a WMS, for increased visibility.

This offers businesses flexibility in the mobile technologies they choose to deploy on their forklift fleet. Technologies best suited for forklift use include rugged vehicle mount computers that withstand vibrations, hands and eyes free voice technology for safety and long-distance scanners. 

Honeywell is also developing new vehicle sensing technology to better track the performance of workers and forklifts, including ignition interlock to only allow trained workers to start up a forklift, as well as accident sensing cameras and alerts to management so they can assess if it is a false alarm or an actual accident that requires appropriate steps to be taken.

Finally the ability to detect poor forklift driving or behaviour will be included.

Optimised visibility of forklifts and workers also allows a business to show a commitment to measuring occupation health & safety (OHS) performance.

This is important, because as noted by Safe to Work, “Poor OHS leads to higher accident and injury rates.

“Poor OHS can also increase business operating costs and lower productivity, workplace culture and morale.

“Commitment to OHS is best sustained through a focus on perform­ance outcomes which can be reported on and monitored over time.

“Measurement of OHS perform­ance demonstrates that a business is committed to improving the safety of its workers.”

Safety and cost benefits

When devices are made accessible on the network via mobile device management, managers are in control of complex forklift costs and life cycles.

For instance, managers can see each forklift’s usage and properly schedule maintenance and associated costs, have a record of leased forklift usage for overage charges and ensure forklifts are cycled for equal usage across the fleet.

Some MDMs can predict when device batteries will fail, so replacements can be installed proactively.

Device management also helps maintain uptime of a varying fleet of mobile assets, such as forklifts, vehicle mount computers, voice technology and scanners, that are often at different stages of their lifecycle.

 In 2009 VDC Research Group released a paper supporting device management, saying: “A powerful resource to control the costs associated with device failure and solution upgrades, MDM software lowers incidence of repair, ‘no trouble found’ tickets and the need for spare devices.

Investments in MDM have successfully improved the networking ability for line of business applications and customer relationship management. Ultimately, MDM decreases workforce downtime and variable costs across an enterprise’s entire mobile fleet.”

Mobile device management provides worker safety, forklift and device reliability, higher productivity and enhanced profitability, which is important in an increasingly competitive business climate.

[Hidde Hannenburg is Global Product Marketing Manager, In-Premise Mobility with Honeywell Scanning & Mobility]