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Warehouse/DC Operations: How to listen to a lift truck

The lift truck is evolving into a platform for data collection, enabling managers to optimize the equipment, the operator, and the facility.
By Josh Bond, Contributing Editor
September 01, 2013

Few fleet managers will be surprised to learn that a modern lift truck can collect data about every facet of its operation, well beyond the simple hour meter. Many are familiar with the concept that microprocessors onboard even the most standard lift trucks are ready to interface with computers, tablets, voice systems, or a warehouse management systems (WMS). What they might not know is that this capability is not reserved solely for massive fleets with deep pockets.

The brains inside modern lift trucks are great for turning them into advanced mobile data collection platforms, but they are also designed to enable small, specific changes to a lift truck’s operation, even for a fleet of one. These changes increasingly allow a lift truck owner to shape the lift truck to the application while improving the productivity and uptime of both.

With plug and play technology, a lift truck can even be made to respond to voice commands. Other solutions enable reach truck forks to rise to the precise level of the pallet opening at the push of a button. By collecting information about a lift truck’s travel through a facility, it’s also possible to identify areas of traffic congestion, restructure the placement of racking, or pinpoint problems with the floor surface that could lead to excessive damage.

But for all the innovative options, the most important factor to consider before a fleet owner unlocks the potential of the modern lift truck is whether it will create measurable results. “A lot of technology has come onto the scene in the last 10 years, and it can be distracting to a fleet owner who is just trying to procure a piece of equipment,” says Scott McLeod, president of Fleetman Consulting, an independent forklift fleet management and procurement consulting company. “As lift truck suppliers try to differentiate themselves, customers should be careful about gimmicks and look for tangible results.”

To help readers feel less overwhelmed and more empowered, Logistics Management spoke with a collection of lift truck suppliers to learn how a few technology options can be best used to optimize productivity and processes.

About the Author

Josh Bond
Contributing Editor

Josh Bond is a contributing editor to Modern. In addition to working on Modern’s annual Casebook and being a member of the Show Daily team, Josh covers lift trucks for the magazine.

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