Lift Truck Tips: How to make a lift truck speak your language

Voice-enabled mobile computers can condense the benefits of two or more technologies into one productive platform.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
June 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial

Amid the proliferation of lift truck technology, the operator has become burdened with the need to learn more than just knobs and levers. While juggling a smart phone, tablet, vehicle-mounted terminal, voice headset and RF scanner, the operator runs a risk of being less productive than he or she might have been with a good old fashioned sheet of paper. Having identified this potential problem, hardware and software manufacturers have worked to condense and combine technologies onto common devices on common platforms. The latest trend is the integration of voice technology with vehicle-mounted terminals, providing operators the clarity of a screen with the constant contact of voice.

“Those who have invested in voice are looking to leverage that investment for picking, packing, cycle counting or replenishment,” says Bruce Stubbs, industry marketing director for distribution center operations for Intermec. “There are lots of people looking to push the envelope even further and use voice with forklifts.”

Currently, that might entail equipping a forklift operator with a hip-mounted terminal with a wire extending to a headset. The operator must then manage the equipment on his body as well as the equipment on the truck. With the voice functionality piggybacked onto the vehicle mount, the operator need only wear an earpiece, increasing his mobility. But, the benefits go beyond safety and ergonomics.

Traditional vehicle mount screens are often designed to black out when in motion, in an effort to avoid distracting the operator. The productivity downsides of requiring a vehicle to remain stationary in order for the operator to receive information are obvious.

“With integrated voice, the screen can still black out, but the operator will have constant contact with the system while driving, picking or performing other tasks,” adds Stubbs.

The screen can provide additional information, such as images of the item or quantity to be picked, or even pallet-building diagrams. And, depending on the type of vehicle-mounted terminal, it might be detached and hip-mounted so that an operator can perform tasks independent of the lift truck. The lift truck might also feature integrated charging bays for terminals or Bluetooth headsets.

Additionally, the combination of previously independent hardware and software can simplify information technology and maintenance costs. The benefits of streamlined hardware and software also tend to reduce training time.

“It’s two things that once existed separately,” says Stubbs, “and now you can blend them and get the best of both worlds.”

About the Author

Josh Bond
Senior Editor

Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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