Forklift training key to storage success

TO make best use of narrow aisle forklifts, operators need skills above and beyond those required to master sit-down counterbalanced trucks.

TO make best use of narrow aisle forklifts, operators need skills above and beyond those required to master sit-down counterbalanced trucks.

Training for eye/hand/foot co-ordination is critical. Narrow-aisle forklifts come with a variety of joystick controls with multiple buttons and the sequence of functions can vary. Putting someone these trucks without sufficient practice can be counterproductive.

Ensure visibility in direction of travel. Reach truck manufacturers have produced side-stance and forward/rear-ward stance configurations based on different interpretations of this ANSI recommendation. Clear advantages/disadvantages exist for both configurations.

Ensure visibility at high levels. This is critical in put-away or take-down modes to reduce load/pallet damage and improve productivity. Optional tools include cameras, fork-height laser beams and shelf-select systems that will elevate the forks to the needed level.

Make the operator comfortable. Studies have shown that productivity can fall by as much as 33% in the last two hours of a shift. Operator compartment size, control configuration layout and function “cushioning” can help maintain productivity.

Keep the operator inside the cab. Because these vehicles make right-angle turns into and out of confined spaces, operators’ backs can be in close proximity to overhanging loads. Make sure operators take these turns slowly and that they keep arms and legs inside the cab.

Drive with the load retracted. This is another important safety issue, especially when going around corners and through crowded warehouse areas. It’s also a maintenance issue. If reach trucks and deep reach trucks are operated with the load completely extended at all times, it exposes the reach mechanism to additional stress.

Make sure the straddle dimensions fit your aisles. The base leg openings of reach trucks can vary from 33 to 53” and each base leg width can be as narrow as 3.5” to as wide as 5.5”. A truck can be as narrow as 40” or as wide as 64”.

Make sure the straddle dimensions fit your rack openings. Some narrow-aisle trucks have a narrow base-leg opening and require the operator to raise the load before it is retracted to secure the load against the upright. Other operations straddle the pallet with the base legs. Either method is fine as long as the rack opening from upright to upright accommodates them.

Avoid overloading upper levels in rack. When operators extend a load and set the pallet down they need to make sure the forks and the reach mechanism don’t add their weight to the load placed on the beam pair.

This article courtesy of Shephards Industrial Training Systems, jimshephard@ shephardsystems .com; Hyster Company, ahgwmars@ hyster.com; and Yale Materials Handling, aylmiche@ yale.com.