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UniCarriers® Forklift: Pioneering Trust, Reliability, and Innovation

UniCarriers® Forklift: Pioneering Trust, Reliability, and Innovation

UniCarriers® Forklift, a renowned entity within the Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas group (Logisnext), proudly unveils its latest brand campaign, “A Brand You Can Trust,” marking over a century of dedication to customer-centric values and unwavering commitment to innovation.

With a legacy rooted in prioritizing reliability and trustworthiness, UniCarriers Forklift has become synonymous with excellence in the material handling industry. Its comprehensive range of forklifts has seamlessly facilitated the movement of goods across warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities worldwide, earning the trust of businesses across diverse sectors.

Adapting to the evolving needs of the industry, UniCarriers Forklift has invested significantly in research and development to enhance performance, efficiency, and safety. Noteworthy advancements include the electrification shift in North America, exemplified by the release of its advanced electric counterbalance product lineup in 2023, comprising the MXST and MXS Series, SCX N2 Series, and MX2 and MXL Series.

Niels Tolboom, Director of North America Dealer Sales at Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas, emphasizes the brand’s rich heritage of serving satisfied customers for over a century, driving the team to pioneer future innovations. UniCarriers Forklift remains committed to delivering advanced and reliable products that exceed customer expectations.

Looking ahead, UniCarriers Forklift reaffirms its dedication to reliability and innovation in the material handling industry, focusing on electric and internal combustion technologies. Every forklift manufactured by UniCarriers Forklift is backed by the industry’s only 2 years/unlimited-hour warranty, reflecting the brand’s confidence in the durability and performance of its products.

The new electric lineup from UniCarriers continues the tradition of reliability, offering features that maximize uptime and productivity while prioritizing operator comfort and control. With a steadfast commitment to customer success, the “A Brand You Can Trust” campaign underscores UniCarriers Forklift’s dedication to reliability, dependability, and excellence.

As UniCarriers Forklift embarks on this new campaign, it aims to further reinforce its commitment to customers while highlighting their continued success.

forklift warehouse

How Are Advanced Forklifts Transforming the Warehouse Environment?

Modern warehouses are under immense pressure to meet demand and satisfy clients. Thus, facility managers must search for ways to improve efficiency without compromising their employees’ safety. They’re achieving this goal by incorporating advanced forklifts in their operations.

The technology in these machines has made tremendous strides in the past couple of decades. These advancements demonstrate how advanced forklifts are transforming the warehouse environment.

Implementing Automation

Automation has become a more significant part of warehouses and other workplaces worldwide. Experts predict the global industrial automation market will grow 10.5% annually from 2023 to 2030. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are more crucial than ever, leading warehouse managers to implement automation through their forklifts.

Forklifts with these abilities include automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots. AGVs can move independently throughout the warehouse and need minimal human control to get the job done. Autonomous forklifts can identify and pick up pallets on the warehouse floor, and transport them to the necessary destination.

Improving Navigation

An added benefit of automation is an advanced forklift’s ability to navigate the warehouse floor, selecting the most efficient paths to reach its destination. The machine uses algorithms and advanced analytics to study traffic over time, thus finding ways to reduce power consumption and transportation time.

Advanced forklifts take advantage of the latest technology to ensure smooth navigation. These machines use light detection and ranging, cameras and sensors for object detection, and navigation software for creating maps. AI is critical for advanced forklifts as they adjust to the warehouse environment. Additionally, their ability to adapt to situations makes them a stronger asset over time.

Collecting Data

Data collection is at the crux of modern forklifts. This ability lets the equipment learn more about its surroundings and improve its ability to work in a warehouse. Collecting data also makes work easier for managers because the machines can complete this task autonomously. Human employees can then focus on the bigger picture instead of worrying about time-consuming jobs.

While forklifts collect data for navigation, they also collect information on various warehouse elements. Warehouse managers can take advantage of advanced forklifts for these uses:

    • Predictive maintenance: Advanced forklifts tend to last longer because their sensors can tell when they’ll require maintenance. Operators know when their machines need service sooner with this information, ensuring uptime stays as high as possible.
  • Tracking performance: Increasing efficiency at every corner is critical, so warehouse managers have started employing advanced forklifts to track performance. The collected data shows how efficiently the operator works and what they can do to improve.
  • Inventory management: Inventory management is among the most critical data advanced forklifts collect. These AGVs roam the warehouse floor and provide real-time information on stock levels, helping warehouse managers avoid stockouts.

Changing the Workforce

Advanced forklifts have expanded their capabilities, making them as valuable as humans in the warehouse. These machines are practical because they don’t become fatigued like people, letting them work for more extended periods with fewer breaks in between. The only necessary stoppages are for refueling or recharging the battery.

Introducing advanced forklifts changes the workforce within the warehouse. Managers can worry less about labor shortages as more autonomous machines enter the facility. Keeping and finding reliable human workers can be complex, considering the high turnover rate in warehouse jobs. The American Journal of Transportation says transportation, utilities and warehousing experienced a 49% turnover rate in 2021 — an increase of 8 percentage points since 2017.

Lowering Environmental Impact

Increased warehouse demand leads to 24-hour operations and more energy used. Shareholders and consumers have become increasingly concerned about power consumption and its effects on the environment, which is why many warehouses have turned to renewables to lower their impact and build their reputation. Electric forklifts provide the opportunity to achieve these sustainability goals.

Electric forklifts emit very little pollution, minimizing their ecological impact. They also have fewer internal moving parts than gas-powered forklifts, making them easier to maintain and more reliable in the long run. Besides air pollution, electric forklifts also improve noise pollution inside the warehouse, fostering better communication and reducing the risk of hearing loss on the job.

Electric forklifts have evolved to emulate electric vehicle technology. For example, these machines typically employ regenerative braking to recapture energy lost during braking. The reclaimed power helps equipment last longer and increases productivity, even while considering battery-electric forklifts can have limited ranges.

What Are the Advantages of Advanced Forklifts?

While best warehouse practices change annually, advanced forklift technology paves the way for logistics professionals. Here are a few benefits these machines give warehouse managers.

1. Productivity

Experts predict a 10% compound annual growth rate in e-commerce between 2023 and 2028, so productivity is a priority for warehouse managers. Advanced forklifts enhance productivity, and deliver results by working around the clock and requiring fewer breaks. AGVs don’t feel physical or mental fatigue, so their capacity to work effectively is higher than most humans.

2. Safety

Protecting employees is a chief concern for warehouse managers. Thankfully, it’s become a priority, considering workplace injuries increased by 7.5% from 2021 to 2022. Advanced forklifts reduce the risk of injury by taking over the most demanding tasks. Additionally, their sensors can detect unsafe conditions inside the facility and assist the operator while running.

3. Operating Costs

While advanced forklifts can be pricey, they bring lower operating costs over time. Optimizing routes and reducing fuel consumption are two ways warehouse managers can lower operating costs while maintaining efficiency. Switching to an advanced electric forklift can eliminate fossil-fuel consumption, further increasing profitability.

What Are the Challenges of Advanced Forklifts?

Advanced forklifts will become more commonplace for logistics professionals, but they have drawbacks. Here are a few challenges warehouse managers face with this new technology.

1. Upfront Costs

Innovative technology comes at a high price — AGVs can exceed $100,000, depending on the manufacturer and the machine’s size. Smaller operations may be unable to afford this and will have to wait for costs to come down. Organizations able to take on that expense must account for maintenance and integration costs on top of the initial price tag.

2. Learning Curve

Integrating an advanced forklift into warehouse operations requires time and resources. A machine with autonomous capabilities needs time to learn the warehouse floor and optimize itself. Additionally, employees will need time to adjust to this new technology.

3.Cybersecurity

Incorporating advanced technology accelerates productivity and efficiency. However, it also comes with risks, such as cybersecurity concerns. Collecting and storing large amounts of data leaves companies vulnerable to losing valuable and sensitive information. Research shows about 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses, so this problem extends to warehouses of all sizes.

Moving Warehouse Environments Forward With Advanced Forklifts

The past few years have presented numerous challenges for warehouses, prompting managers worldwide to reevaluate their practices. Considering the rising e-commerce demand and shifting business landscape, the next decade of operations will be critical. 

Advanced forklifts and similar technologies are moving warehouse environments forward by increasing productivity while lowering process costs.

pallet packaging

All About Packaging – Pallets

Packaging is such a broad term that covers everything from a metal crate for a train battery to a gusseted pouch for pancake mix.  One variable that the majority of packaging has in common is nearly all packages are stored or ship on a pallet at some point in the supply chain. Coincidently, a pallet is also often the most misunderstood type of packaging! In this article, we will be completing a deep dive into pallets including a few secret tricks we use to drive out costs associated with pallets.

What is a pallet?

A pallet is a horizontal platform that is used as a base to unitize goods during transportation and storage. Pallets are typically handled in the supply chain by forklifts, fork trucks, and conveyor systems. Most commonly a pallet is made of wood but can also be constructed of other materials such as metal, plastic, corrugated, and hexacomb.

Why is a pallet used?

Pallets are used as the most common method of unitizing products to safely and effectively move and store goods through the supply chain. Pallets also allow for stacking goods in racking or multiple pallets stacked on top of each other.

Pallet Material

Once it is determined if a returnable or expendable solution is the route to explore, the next logical step is to determine the material type. If returnable, common materials include plastic, metal, and wood. If expendable, common materials include wood, hexacomb and corrugated. Wood is the most commonly used material given its performance, cost, and existing supplier base.

Pallet Type

There are a variety of pallet types commonly used such as a stringer, wing, and block-style pallet to name a few. The type of pallet needs to be selected that provides the features required for your specific product size, weight, and supply chain. Selecting the incorrect pallet type can result in wasted money, product/packaging damage.

Pallet Size

There are standard and custom pallet sizes. The standard sizes vary based on location. The standard size in the US is a 48”x40” platform.  With that being said, the 48”x40” platform is not always the correct size depending on variables such as supply chain and size of packaging. Having the incorrect pallet size not only potentially increases the pallet cost but also costs associated with freight and damage.

Interested in learning more if your pallets are optimized for your packaging and supply chain?  Click the below link to learn more about what BoldtSmith Packaging does.

Expendable or Returnable

The first variable to explore when selecting a pallet is whether it should be an expendable or returnable solution. A returnable pallet is most often used in a closed-loop supply chain. For example, an automobile company is receiving headlights from a local manufacturer on a dedicated truck. In this scenario, a returnable pallet is a solution that should be explored.

On the other hand, if a manufacturer is shipping their finished goods from China to the United States on an ocean container and LTL once it arrives domestically, a returnable solution likely will not be applicable.

Pallet Alternatives

To reference the earlier example for a product manufacturer shipping products from China to the US, fitting the most amount of product into the ocean container is critical. The average height of a pallet is 5” and when double-stacked into the ocean container, that is 10” of air being shipped. Popular alternatives to pallets include floor loading and slip-sheets. Both alternative methods require modified unloading techniques when received domestically.  Does it make financial sense to eliminate pallets for overseas shipments?  Potentially, a financial analysis needs to be completed to allow for the data to provide the evidence needed to determine the best method of unitizing the product.

Packaging Considerations

It’s so critical when selecting the pallet type, material, and size to consider the entire packaging system. The referenced packaging system includes the packaging going on the pallet, method of securing product to pallet, storage methods (racking vs stacking), etc. For example, what package is being put on the pallet? If an engine is going on the pallet, plastic banding would be a reasonable material to use to secure the product to the pallet.  If boxed goods are going on the pallet, the stretch film may be a better material used to tie the product to the pallet.

What Does BoldtSmith Packaging do?

BoldtSmith Packaging Consultants is a recognized leader in packaging design, testing, and optimization for retail and e-commerce packaging, shipping crates and displays. We do not manufacture or broker packaging, we sell a service filling in as a temporary packaging engineer for companies requiring specialized packaging expertise. Click the below link to learn more about BoldtSmith Packaging and the services that we offer.

What does BoldtSmith Packaging do?

forklift trucks

How has the Role of Forklift Trucks Evolved in Warehousing Operations Landscape Amid Flourishing E-commerce Presence Worldwide?

The rising global prevalence of technology and connectivity has set off a significant transformation of the industrial landscape, especially in the retail domain. As the world moves to an increasingly digitized platform, e-commerce, or electronic commerce, commonly associated with online shopping, is rapidly establishing itself as a favored retail choice among consumers. In fact, studies have shown that almost 95% of all shopping will be facilitated through e-commerce by 2040.

With such a prolific rise expected in e-commerce adoption over the forthcoming years, the demand for robust warehousing and distribution facilities takes significant precedence. This, in turn, augments the need for efficient material handling systems and components to ensure proper storage, loading, transport activities in the warehouses.

Since product transport is one of the most integral roles in the e-commerce distribution ecosystem, the forklift market is likely to garner tremendous interest as retail and shopping activities continue their transition to the online platform.

What are forklifts?

Forklift trucks, also known as jitneys or lift trucks, refer to a class of vehicles designed for industrial use. These systems comprise a power-operated platform attached to the front, which can be raised or lowered as required to lift or move cargo. The term forklift is derived from these platforms, which are usually in the form of fork-like prongs. Lift trucks are used across myriad industrial sectors for the efficient transport of goods and materials.

The origins of these systems can be traced back to 1887, when the first material handling equipment, known as a two-wheel hand truck, was created using a combination of wheels and iron axles. However, the history of the modern forklift is more commonly associated with the invention of the Tructractor by the Clark Equipment Company, in 1917. The machine, which is often credited as being the first forklift, was essentially a tractor with an attachment for product handling, bearing only a minor resemblance to their modern-day successors.

Since its inception, the forklift industry has undergone several evolutions. The industrial impact of this material handling equipment over the years has been profound, evidenced most prominently during its contribution to boosting efficiency and productivity in workforces during World War I and World War II eras.

Rising prevalence of e-commerce solutions amid turbulent global conditions

While e-commerce itself is on its way to establishing a firm presence in the retail landscape, the ongoing global crisis stemming from the coronavirus outbreak has brought about a significant shift in consumer preferences and behavior. The rise in demand across the globe for essential and daily goods, alongside limitations due to social distancing and quarantine protocols has breathed new life into the e-commerce journey, as more and more people turn towards online portals for safer and quicker shopping experiences.

Fueled by this expansion of e-commerce, logistics systems, including warehouses and distribution facilities have grown tremendously in number, thus accelerating the demand for lift trucks and other warehouse solutions.

E-commerce solutions are most attractive to consumers due to the various benefits and conveniences they offer over conventional shopping experiences, including free and faster delivery of products, hassle-free returns and exchanges, and wider selections, among others. In order to fulfill these benefits, warehouse and distribution operations need to be extremely efficient, in terms of timely movement and transport of products to and from the facility, making the role of forklift trucks a crucial one for the industry.

Many prominent figures in the e-commerce and retail-associated industries have taken heed of this and started to develop innovative warehouse transport technologies to cater to the rapidly surging demand for online products. A notable example of this is global delivery service DHL, which has implemented several technologies including AI, self-driving vehicles and robotic lift trucks, etc., at its North America warehouses, to accommodate evolving product demand.

Technological advancements shaping the forklift industry

The forklift industry has witnessed several advancements over the years. These progressions, which range from mobility solution to automation to power source technology evolution, each assert a considerable impact on the way the modern fork truck functions.

Chief among these advancements is the emergence of environmentally friendly forklift technologies, given the burgeoning costs of fuels and the rising impact of climate change on the global ecological structure. According to some studies, energy-efficient lift trucks can last over 20-30% longer than their internal combustion engine-based counterparts.

In light of this knowledge, several companies have forayed into the development of energy-efficient electric forklifts to cater to the evolving warehousing demand from the retail industry. For instance, GMH (Godrej Material Handling) has recently unveiled the three-wheel Bravo Electric Forklift for the 1.6-2 ton category, equipped with an advanced battery solution for optimum product transport and handling.

Apart from the ecological standpoint, forklift trucks have also undergone a significant transformation in terms of mobility, as was evidenced by the launch of the Sidewinder ATX-3000 forklift by Vetex, which is an omnidirectional lift truck, owing to a series of rollers used in place of traditional solid or pneumatic tires.

Automation has asserted its impact across the industrial spectrum in myriad applications, and fork truck technology is no different. Automated lift trucks are equipped with a host of sophisticated technological systems including guidance systems that help them self-navigate through warehouses and facilitate automatic pick-up and drop of products, with little to no human intervention required.

These systems are reshaping the way forklift trucks function across various industries including warehouse, automotive, manufacturing, and more. The Raymond Corporation has recently introduced an automated lift truck stacker that leverages vision-guidance technology from Seegrid Corporation, to enable autonomous stacking from pick-up to delivery locations.

Source: Global Market Insights

warehouse

MAN AND MACHINE ARE KEY TO CREATING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE IN TODAY’S SUPPLY-CHAIN WAREHOUSE

When it comes to warehousing and the use of robotics to manage and maintain a competitive supply chain, the conversations usually begin with the potential for these powerhouse machines to replace workers and eliminate the need for humans in the facility. As this might be the case in some situations, the bigger concern surrounds how to successfully create an environment where both humans and robots are able to safely collaborate, creating more efficiencies within the warehouse sector while at the same time optimizing the processes many still operate manually.

This is the concept of interconnecting the mind and abilities of these machines to support human workers, not replace them. The truth of the matter is, there are some things humans can do that robots simply cannot do, and the fear of robots replacing humans is backwards compared to what is really going on in meetings between warehouse managers and creators of autonomous solutions.

Dan Khasis, founder of Route4Me, a unique route optimization software platform, takes a deeper look at the emerging relationship between robotics and warehouses and dissects the reality of what is really going on when managing the supply chain inside the modern warehouse. “There’s this perception and risk associated with the subjects of robotics and job security,” he concedes. “It is very common to see a lot of warehouses that are based on the location, the retailer, the company, where their worker population is unionized. Many times, the situation starts with C-level executives who discover the technology that can drive efficiencies in the warehouse, save money and that work very well.”

“However, word gets back to the union workers that the expectation is for them to work twice as much in the same amount of time and they quickly realize it isn’t realistic or possible,” Khasis continues. “At that point, technology adoption is eliminated because people cannot be replaced. At that point, they accept the inefficiencies and turn to loopholes to deal with the issues that are clearly present. It is not the worker’s fault, but there is a struggle with getting warehouse workers onboard with these new technologies in addition to the long hours that are required to keep up.”

Khasis goes on to explain that the ability to do the picking and packing in the warehouse is still one of the biggest pain points in the warehousing sector. An example he cites is weight restrictions and what makes sense in terms of safety and simplicity. Can one send a robot to pick up a fridge that weighs 800 pounds versus utilizing someone in a forklift to lift the fridge? Sure, but some would question how a robot could prove to be more beneficial than a forklift in situations like these.

“There are basic and common risks associated with robotics, such as employees getting injured, and the technology exists to avoid such accidents,” Khasis says. “In terms of a hybrid model, you’re able to have things such as augmented reality where if one is driving through the warehouse, there’s clearly the safety component in question. There are heavy items throughout the warehouse that are elevated and there needs to be a population of properly trained employees to minimize these risks along with the technology to support it.”

Heavy lifting comes into play with this pain point and Khasis emphasizes that well-trained individuals are more favorable over advanced technology in these cases. With every advancement comes risk and it’s about measuring the risk against current and potential resources that determines the best way to optimize operations while mitigating these risks. The warehouse sector is aiming to operate optimally and safely as that is where competitive advantage is ultimately found.

“The hybrid warehouses that are half robots and half autonomous are still an open question regarding the interaction between human workers and robots because there will undoubtedly be issues with how they collaborate together,” Khasis points out. “For example, will there be a specific area for robots and one area for the workers, how we will address collision avoidance, and how they will actually collaborate are the bigger questions still in the process of being solved?”

Leadership in the warehouse sector is experiencing a technological disconnect as well. While many news headlines boast the latest big-name companies adopting a new form of advanced technology, there are still many large companies operating the good old-fashioned way: via Microsoft Excel or another manual process and dismissing the option of advanced technology completely. This isn’t a bad thing, but Khasis emphasizes that these companies could maximize their bottom lines by adopting technologies that aren’t incompatible with emerging technology.

“There’s a generational shift in the warehouse,” he says. “For example, the VP or director in today’s warehouse might not have faith in the modern technology approaches available. We sometimes have friendly arguments with our own customers explaining how something might not ‘look’ better but mathematically and in terms of optimization, it is paramount in comparison and when broken down. There are both trends and realities that differ from what people are talking about versus what’s actually happening.”

Khasis continues: “Many warehouses out there are still using legacy software and there’s a significant amount of big industry players who still have not modernized their systems. Part of that modernization is moving stuff to the cloud and as they move things up to the cloud, opportunities will open up for them to take advantage of newer technologies. These newer technologies on the market are not backward compatible with the relatively obsolete systems that are closed off and still very much in use. They simply do not interact well with other systems.”

For warehouses, proactive measures through advanced technologies are phasing out antiquated systems that require a retrospective approach to the process. Processes Microsoft Excel are still very much part of the manual process Khasis says breaks the dynamic between the adoption of technology and the desired bottom-dollar impact.

“Few companies actually understand what they need to have in each warehouse and when they need it,” he says, “and the way to successfully identify what consumers are demanding is best found through reliable and integrated e-commerce data. In some cases, the warehouse directors will project certain time frames for specific items based on the previous year rather than analyzing data revealing search activity increases within the e-commerce sector.”

These data predictions and trends monitoring can give matchless insight on upcoming and unpredictable events that other manual processes simply cannot accomplish. Weather changes, for example, and alerting warehouses of what to keep in stock versus assuming patterns in spending can make big differences in gaining that advantage over competitors. E-commerce monitoring through this data can give ample information in real-time without the need of someone else providing trend forecasting. This brings extra work costs down for the warehouse worker and increases time savings overall, all while driving the bottom dollar up.

Khasis emphasizes the importance and role advanced technologies will have in providing more opportunities in optimization and human-robot collaborations. With advanced technologies, warehouse managers can better predict what types of deliveries are on the horizon and prepare their warehouse more efficiently, streamlining the process and interactions between automation and warehouse workers.

“The warehouse does not live in a vacuum and it must be able to adapt to upstream and downstream systems. For example, if a shipment is coming in and you have the capability of knowing what is on that vehicle and where it needs to g—assuming you have the technology available to share that information—you can then have the human workers and robots collaborate to make room for that to go smoothly. This can include advanced space allocation, unloader coordination and advanced warehouse space preparations.”

Autonomous vehicles will soon have to adapt to the warehouse as well. The issue of inter-compatibility will undoubtedly be of question.

“One cannot send a delivery vehicle or any other type of truck with a different height from the warehouse because the robots can’t access it,” Khasis notes. “The concept of inter-compatibility between internal robotics and external autonomous systems will be particularly important in the near future. We believe that in order for there to be efficiencies, there must be integration, and everything needs to collaborate.

“Our patent–called Autonomous Supply Chain, and the point of this is to reiterate that a warehouse can have the best software on the market but if it isn’t compatible or the timing isn’t right, then it doesn’t matter. That brings up the question of timing and what determines the right time and how it impacts planning which is very important.”

Without the key element of integration, the most advanced technology simply will not present the results sought for competitive advantage in the warehouse, negating the desired effects from the dollars spent on adopting them. For companies seeking to redefine the warehouse, they must consider in what ways integration is possible and affordable.

“We look at all the assets including the people, the vehicles, the potential shipments on the way in and out of the country, the warehouse and its capabilities and location, and figure the best way to optimize routes,” Khasis says. “For some of the biggest global companies, this is still being done with manual interpretations, which includes reporting analysis after the fact. There is little preventable action with this type of process, and it takes more of a retrospective approach.”

The option of accepting inefficiencies is simply not going to cut it anymore. Processes are changing, technology is becoming the new standard, and people are needed that are open to learning and adopting methods of work that increase productivity while supporting long-term and short-term goals in the supply chain.

“The goal of Autonomous Supply Chain is to get in front of the problems and decisions rather than behind them while utilizing an advanced technology that can collaborate across the board,” Khasis says. “By incorporating all techniques across different business units and different business entities, the process is streamlined. When this is all put together, we are estimating anywhere from 25 to 50 percent value creation, savings and profit increase mainly because a lot of this process is currently human dependent.”

More than ever before, the concept of synchronization in the supply chain is needed. Customer demands will continue to rise and become more complex as time goes by. In the age of Amazon and next-day delivery, the warehouse simply cannot afford to operate with one or the other–being robots or humans. Both are a crucial part of the bigger picture that have a significant impact on business.

“The warehouse location is equally important, and the industry is extremely behind in understanding warehouse site selection,” Khasis says. “If you have a warehouse in the wrong area–even with 100 percent support from the union with the best robots on the market—it is going to be difficult because now you need different people fulfilling roles that weren’t accounted for, such as drivers. Sure, you might have a cheaper warehouse but if the location isn’t carefully considered, your savings are quickly dissolved in other valuables that weren’t modeled into the original budget. This process is also still manually done throughout the industry and can be optimized using our software.”

Each element in the process will undoubtedly impact the success and outcome of your warehouse, beginning with site selection to worker population to technology integration. In an age where business goes to people instead of people going to businesses, ensuring all parts are synchronized is a critical part of the bigger picture of gaining and maintaining competitive advantage and keeping up with an evergreen marketplace.

______________________________________________________________

Dan Khasis is a technology entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Route4Me, a unique route optimization software. 

Every Loading Dock Should Have a Vehicle Restraint. Here’s Why.

In 2017, there were 270,000 injuries reported in the transportation and warehousing industry. The same industry also saw 819 deaths, a number only surpassed by the construction industry. The number of preventable fatal work injuries in transportation and warehousing grew 5.3% from 2016 to 2017 (1). 

What do these statistics have to do with loading docks? More than 25% of all industrial accidents happen at the loading dock, and for every accident, there are about 600 near misses (2). If your job has anything to do with loading docks, these figures are meant to help you understand how important loading dock safety really is. 

Forklift Fall-Through

One of the most dangerous types of accidents that occur at the loading dock is forklift fall-through. This type of accident happens as a trailer is being loaded or unloaded. Sometimes, the momentum of the forklift transfers to the trailer, causing it to move forward until it separates from the dock leveler. Other times, the truck driver thinks loading or unloading is complete and pulls away from the dock prematurely. When the forklift leaves the trailer, it falls into the gap. The forklift driver often falls out or tries to escape, and the forklift falls on him or her. The average forklift weighs as much as three cars. 

“Forklift fall-through doesn’t happen every day, but when it does, it’s one of the worst types of accidents that happen in a warehouse or distribution center,” says Jeff Schulze, Vice President at loading dock equipment manufacturer Systems, LLC. “Fortunately, when used correctly, vehicle restraints help minimize the chances of a forklift fall-through accident.” 

When a trailer backs up to a loading dock, the most common types of vehicle restraints capture or block the trailer’s Rear Impact Guard (RIG), sometimes called an ICC bar, securing the trailer to the loading dock until the restraint is disengaged.

Wheel Chocks Are Not the Answer

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that companies with warehouses and distribution centers are responsible for the safety of their employees, which obviously includes dock personnel, and requires that all vehicles are, at minimum, restrained by wheel chocks prior to and during loading and unloading. 

If someone believes wheel chocks are an acceptable substitute for vehicle restraints, he or she must ensure that every trailer is properly chocked, which is rare. In one facility, every dock position might have an immaculate set of wheel chocks that are always stored in their cradle, but they’re only immaculate because they aren’t used very often. Dock personnel at another facility might believe truck drivers should chock their own trailers, but all they’re legally required to do is set their brakes. At another facility, perhaps wheel chocks are not even available. They were there at some point in time, but on a frigid winter day they weren’t returned to their cradle and the snowplow picked them up and ripped them off the wall. At yet another facility, some of the chocks have simply broken down from years of use and were never replaced. In each case, the company is not only risking OSHA fines, but also the safety of its dock personnel.

Wheel chocks also must be applied firmly against the closest set of wheels to the dock, or they may not prevent trailer creep. This requires more than just casually tossing the chock near the trailer wheels. A gravelly drive or wet or icy conditions also reduce the effectiveness of wheel chocks. To top it all off, in most cases, trucks can simply pull trailers right over wheel chocks, so they’re generally not very good at preventing early pull-away. 

Communication is Key

Securing a trailer to the loading dock is only part of the reason vehicle restraints are preferred over wheel chocks. Communication between dock personnel and truck drivers is essential for maintaining safety in the loading dock, and wheel chocks do nothing in this area. Vehicle restraints often include light communication systems that know when the trailer is restrained and use interior and exterior lights to communicate this to the truck driver and dock personnel so loading or unloading can safely begin. 

Safety is an Investment

Anyone who thinks vehicle restraints are too expensive should consider that loading dock accidents cost companies an estimated $675 million every year,(3) and the average cost of a worker injury accident is about $189,000 (4). A better way to spend $189,000 is to install automatic vehicle restraints and greatly reduce the chances of a forklift fall-through accident in the first place. 

There is also a possibility that installing restraints at your loading docks may lower your insurance rates. “When you install restraints, you’re acting to not only reduce the chances of employee injury accidents, but also damage to equipment, vehicles, and cargo from accidents,” says Schulze. “It’s definitely worth a call to your insurance provider.”

A Chance Not Worth Taking

It’s been said that forklift fall-through accidents are a one-in-a-million incident. That might not be far from the truth. If a facility has 20 dock positions and each sees 10 trailers per day, and each of those trailers sees 40 forklift entries and exits during loading or unloading, it only takes 25 weeks for this facility to have a million opportunities for a forklift fall-through. Suddenly one-in-a-million feels much too close for comfort.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

The time to put on your seat belt is not after you’ve been in a car accident. It’s a bit late to install smoke detectors after your home has burned to the ground. If you drive a forklift to load or unload trailers and wheel chocks are all you’ve got, ask your supervisor about vehicle restraints. If you’re a warehouse manager or safety officer, don’t wait until someone gets hurt to put vehicle restraints in the budget. When you install vehicle restraints in your loading docks, rest easy knowing you’ve done the best thing you can do to help minimize the risk of forklift fall-through accidents. 

 

Jeremy Artz is the Product Manager for loading dock equipment manufacturer Systems, LLC. He has 20 years of marketing and product management experience in various industries from manufacturing to financial. Jeremy specializes in connecting people and products by focusing on how those products can benefit businesses and improve lives.

 

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1 National Safety Council Injury Facts https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/work-overview/work-safety-introduction/ 

2 Industrial Safety & Hygiene News https://www.ishn.com/articles/107356-slow-down-watch-out-know-the-facts-about-loading-dock-hazards 

3 Material Handling & Logistics https://www.mhlnews.com/warehousing/safety-and-security-loading-dock-know-your-risks-and-take-control 

4 National Safety Council: $39,000 medical cost https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/work/costs/work-injury-costs + estimated $150,000 property damage ($75,000 forklift + $75,000 building repair cost)

BYD to Unveil Unique Technology at ProMat

Build Your Dreams will be among the hundreds of leaders in logistics, supply chain, and management solutions leaders at this year’s ProMat Trade Show in Chicago from April 8-11 at McCormick Place.

Known for its “Forklifts Simplified” motto and approach, BYD’s lineup of forklifts boast a load capacity range from 3,500 to 10,700 pounds and include 80-volt battery technology, industry proven motors and controllers, LED lights (front-rear-strobe), LCD display, 4-Way Hydraulic Valve, rear grab-handle with horn, and rear-view mirrors. BYD’s forklifts also offer the added bonus of lowered costs for maintenance thanks to a reduction in overall parts used to build them.

“BYD’s material handling vehicles can operate across multiple shifts without the need to change or replace batteries,” said Terry Rains, BYD’s Director Forklift Division, North America. “Each forklift includes a leading-edge Battery Management System and — at 10 years — it is the longest battery warranty in the business.”

In addition to its impressive lineup of forklifts, the leading electric vehicle company with also unveil its one-of-a-kind 10-volt “plug and play” battery charger. This new technology eliminates the need for a 480 charging system as it’s compatible with standard sockets.

“This is rental re-invented,” Rains said. “The 110-volt charger creates a new charging solution for customers who may not use their forklift for an entire 8-hour shift.”

To learn more about BYD‘s innovative solutions portfolio, please visit: www.byd.com