Lift Truck Tech: Trends Converge Around Labor Efficiencies

2 minutes to read

Roberto Michel, Modern Materials Handling – August 2020 – Plenty of lift truck technologies are in play—so many that it can be daunting to pick the winners. Just a few include autonomous lift trucks, telematics and fleet software, virtual reality (VR) software, and digital cameras that integrate with truck forks.

One thing all these technologies have in common is the ability to improve labor efficiency. As a result, one can assess value by how much efficiency a technology can bring to an operation relative to its cost. Think of it as a sliding scale for lift truck technologies.

Lift truck suppliers offer a broad range of technologies, including telematics and fleet software, autonomous lift trucks, and other advancements like lithium ion (Li-ion) trucks. Another shift in the market is that vendors are now focusing more on solutions and systems, says Brian Markison, senior director of sales and marketing with lift truck provider UniCarriers Americas Corp.

“From the customer’s perspective, it’s more than buying iron now, because you’re putting in these vehicles as part of an overall process that is aimed at meeting some productivity improvement goals,” says Markison. “So, as a vendor, you must be able to provide products as part of a solution.”

Fully Autonomous
Vecna Robotics and Unicarriers

UniCarriers pallet jack running Vecna Robotics’ Pivotal™ automation software.

While fully autonomous lift trucks carry a higher price tag than conventional trucks of similar type, they can bring payback by fully automating select workflows, especially repetitive transportation. While some autonomous vehicles are capable of vertical lifting tasks, horizontal transportation are perhaps the best fit, says Markison.

“Right now, good applications [for autonomous] are transportation scenarios like crossdocking, or transporting pallets from receiving to storage staging, or in a DC that serves manufacturing, moving goods from receiving to a manufacturing line,” says Markison.

UniCarriers also has a partnership with Vecna Robotics, a provider of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), though which UniCarriers manufactures and promotes their pallet jacks running Vecna Robotics’ Pivotal™ automation software.

Ultimately, it depends on customer needs as to what type of driverless lift trucks and applications will bring the most value, Markison says, but eliminating longer haul, repetitive moves, is a top consideration. “With autonomous vehicles, you take some of the pressure off your traditional vehicles and their operators, allowing them to focus on high-value tasks,” Markison says.

Read the full article from Modern Materials Handling here.

Watch the video below highlighting the partnership between Vecna Robotics and UniCarriers.