Lift Truck attachments link up with data collection
For a long time, forklift models were not all that diverse. The practice of precisely tailoring a piece of equipment to its application took hold only recently and led to a proliferation of models designed for more specific use cases. Similarly, forklift attachments have blossomed. And, like forklifts, attachments are increasingly augmented with intelligence and data collection technologies that further enhance their operational impact.
“Data collection tools have helped makers and users of lift truck attachments tap into new insights. “
Some logistics centers handle everything from a gun safe to a kayak to a refrigerator. In the past, according to Pete Drake, senior vice president with Cascade Corp., an attachment customer would typically focus on a narrower product offering. They might have had to buy something good at handling a fridge, but useless for a kayak, or find some alternative to using a forklift at all. Drake says the latest attachments and recent advances feature scales, sensors or cameras to detect loads and their dimensions.
“All those platforms are collecting data, and we’re able to integrate with them where they want to collect data,” Drake says. “Data allows us to put our money where our mouth is. We can go sell a customer on what we hope happens, but now we can actually see what’s happening over the life of the attachment. These sorts of data collection solutions will only become more readily available.”
In the development and design of attachments, Drake says the goal is always to achieve the lowest total cost of ownership. It’s essential to get a complete picture of the attachment’s duty cycle, whether 24 hours a day or a few times a week. Next-generation attachments promise big efficiencies, but some things haven’t changed. Damage reduction remains a primary focus, and energy efficiency is toward the top of the list.
“Everyone is paying attention to lower energy consumption,” Drake says. “You see all the lift truck OEMs are trying to get a leg up on each other, which forces us to respond to customers as well.”
Depending on the product, the latest iterations can represent a good efficiency gain. Aside from componentry improvements, some of this decrease is a result of using less steel. Without intelligent sensors, something like a clamp is a brute force instrument that is entirely dependent on the operator to not exceed certain thresholds. Force control technology can prevent damage to the attachment as well as whatever it’s handling.
Force control turns a previously dexterous task into the flip of a switch and eliminates variations in performance from one driver to the next. Attachment providers are working to further minimize the impact of the operator, and enable them to quickly handle either a gun safe or a kayak.
“Tell the forklift you’re picking up a fridge, and it tells you how to handle it. We’re still trying to take the operator out of it and do that behind the scenes without them knowing,” Drake says. “Some products require more frequent operator interface, which some like and some don’t. Of course you’ll always have to deal with a certain amount of ‘I’ve always done it this way.”
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor · March 13, 2019
Modern Materials Handling