GLOBAL demand for battery electric forklifts would continue to increase because of growing environmental concerns, according to Nichiyu’s Tim Papas.
Indeed, Papas told Manufacturers’ Monthly that ac motor technology would shape the forklift’s future because of its inherent benefits alone: increased power and control and greatly reduced maintenance costs.
“The move away from internal combustion (IC) is happening for a number of reasons,” Papas said.
“Electric forklifts are cleaner, quieter and smoother to operate than the IC truck. Along with advanced ac control systems, battery electric forklifts can outperform the IC equivalent in almost every way, with much less ongoing cost. In addition, an assortment of regenerative functions are available to minimise battery power consumption,” he said.
Papas predicted a complete ban on all IC forklifts handling food products, fresh produce, working in confined spaces, controlled atmosphere environments or indoors. He said changes in regulations for pharmaceutical and food processing/handling would also have an impact on the forklift’s long-term partner – pallets.
That view was supported by Kiel Industries’ Colin Kiel. He told Manufacturers’ Monthly timber pallets had had their day in the food and pharmaceutical sectors.
“Since the insurgence of automation, timber just doesn’t stand up to the fast repetition, which is where plastic pallets come into their own,” Kiel said.
“Automation is also creating a demand for customisation, particularly from the ceramics, poultry and pharmaceutical industries. Rotationally moulded pallets can be customised more easily than injection-moulded pallets.
“Since plastic pallets were introduced there has been a flow-on benefit to other industries such as packaging, labelling and printing.”
Kiel said there was one major flaw in pallet manufacturing in Australia that does not seem likely to be rectified in the short term.
“Pallet sizes in Australia are different to the rest of the world. Historically, we’ve stuck with the 46” or 1170mm sq pallet. The US uses 48”sq and 48 x 40”. Europe - 1200 x 1000mm for export in containers and trucks, 1200 x 800mm for river barges and rail. Asia uses 1200 x 1000mm like Europe.
“The fact is that our pallets are not compatible with overseas shipping containers. Bringing this into line would have an immense cost impact on peripheral areas like storage, racking and warehousing,” he said.
Storage, racking and warehousing features was another area where Australia had yet to adopt the overseas trends; particularly in the use of VNA equipment (very narrow aisle).
“VNA offers lift heights up to 15m in a man-up or man-down arrangement. With a turret type fork carriage, it enables operators to pick left and right hand sides of an aisle as small as 1550mm width,” Papas said.
“There will also be continual development and upgrades to the forklift computerisation, like data logs to measure utilisation and sensors to detect abuse or damage, and a potential integration of equipment into automated warehouse systems via local area networks with driverless automated guided vehicles for freezer and dangerous goods storage,” Papas said.