Lift Truck Tips: Use attachments to handle items with care

Force control attachments aim to take the guesswork out of clamping.

By ·

Statistics on the amount of product damaged from lift truck attachments and clamps are hard to pinpoint, but the tally is undoubtedly in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to Brad Vandehey, product manager for attachment manufacturer Cascade (

In recent years, advances in on-board lift truck computing and aftermarket attachments have added brains and finesse to the brawn of the warehouse workhorse. Still, load clamping remains a perennial source of shrinkage. Lift trucks have always preferred the blunt technique of a spatula over the delicacy of a thumb and forefinger, but new force control clamp offerings aim to bestow lift truck operators with the precision needed to cut product loss and boost productivity.

The problem is most notable in operations where loads of variable weight are handled, according to Vandehey. A 2,800-pound pallet might look nearly identical to one that weighs closer to 400 pounds, and the operator might assume the same clamp force will work for both.

“If they’re going from a stack of eight washers to a single unit, that one washer could be in trouble,” says Vandehey. “The operator should not have to guess how much force to apply.”

When working to identify the sources of shrinkage, Vandehey is careful to distinguish between poor driver habits and the limitations of the machinery. Even if a driver has a pretty good idea of how much force to apply, the mechanisms for applying that force cannot be accurately controlled by the driver. In electric lift trucks, the motor spools up at such a speed that it can get away from even an experienced driver, Vandehey says. With variable clamp force pressure regulators that offer a stick-shift interface, operators must learn the gears and use them.

With force control technology, the operator is taken out of the equation. Each load is automatically weighed and no more than the needed force is applied. In the near future, radio frequency identification tags (RFID) might integrate with a warehouse management system to provide even more specific information about proper load handling—again without any reliance on the operator.
When force control was implemented at one paper facility, the manager informed Vandehey that the difference was immediate.

“After it was installed, he told me, ‘One day the operators were crushing rolls, and the next day they were not,’” Vandehey recalls. “The plant manager said ‘it was intuitively obvious that we are saving money.’”

At an estimated retrofit cost of $5,000 to $6,000 for some models of automatic force control technology, Vandehey estimates the savings could be easily recouped within a year, and warehouse managers won’t be the only ones happy to avoid damaged goods.

“How hard is it for the average shopper in the supermarket to walk past the crumpled paper product in favor of the one that looks like it hasn’t been crushed?” asks Vandehey. “Hopefully one day that won’t be a problem.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Contributing 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.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Hydrogen, the Future of Materials Handling
Large, successful organizations are integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology into their lift truck fleets and benefiting from lower operational costs, reduced emissions and improved reliability.
Download Today!
From the October 2016 Issue
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order fulfillment process and increased throughput with near 100% accuracy.
System Report: Brownells new DC is flexible and responsive
Pallet Usage Report: Pallets Remain Critical in the Modern-Day Warehouse
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Pallets: Supporting Product, Processes and the Enterprise
The smallest leak in performance or cost can bring a lean, nimble and speedy supply chain to a halt. During this 30-minute webcast we'll examine how Modern's readers use pallets to keep the wheels turning as they maneuver a road filled with sharp edges and potholes.
Register Today!
Brownells: Designing for Efficiency and Growth
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order...
Industry celebrates National Manufacturing Day
Fourth annual Manufacturing Day is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve the public...

American Eagle Outfitters’ omni-channel journey
The fashion retailer has used warehouse execution software and automation to create a true...
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...