Lift Truck Tips: Thinking beyond the attachment
February 01, 2013 - MMH Editorial
Amid all the modern lift truck accessories and options are a time-tested core of lift truck attachments. Some, like side-shifters and fork positioners, can be deployed with relative ease, since most operators are accustomed to working with forks. Others, like the push-pull systems that allow end-users to replace pallets with slipsheets, require more extensive training. Particularly when considering push/pull systems, says Jim Farance, regional and strategic account manager for Cascade Corp., fleet owners should bring operators into the conversation early.
“Successful conversion requires training and teamwork up front, and it’s essential to get operator buy-in,” says Farance.
Improving productivity, damage reduction and safety are the primary reasons lift truck owners look at attachments, Farance says.
Bottlenecks in receiving, for instance, can be addressed by a single/double pallet handler, or multi-load handler, one of the fastest growing attachment segments. These attachments expand to carry two or three pallets side by side or collapse to a single pair of forks that can fit in narrow aisles. The familiar fork-based approach will reduce training time and most operators will appreciate being able to empty an inbound truck in roughly half the time, he adds.
But unloading the truck might only be half the battle. If a customer’s aisles are large enough, the lift truck could carry two or three pallets into storage. With the right double-wide racking, the same lift truck can even put away multiple pallets at once. Farance always encourages end-users to look beyond the attachment itself. In their overall review, companies should consider aisle space, turning radius and possible rack systems.
“In some cases, it might require that they change the way they’re doing something in their facility,” he says. “That’s where an open mind is important, because in the long run that might help them achieve the ROI they are looking for.”
The process of moving to a push-pull system using slipsheets in place of pallets—a move favored by those companies concerned with maximizing shipping cube utilization and/or minimizing pallet storage—requires initial operator training. Farance likened the training experience to learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. In a short time, awkward step-by-step coordination becomes second nature. To ease the transition, Farance recommends management and a “lead operator” make early presentations to operators about the project’s objectives, and include plenty of hands-on training during roll-out.
It’s also important to consider the relationship between packaging and shipping, adds Farance. Particularly in clamp applications, packaging changes designed to reduce packaging costs or maximize the cube in a shipping container might also reduce the ability to clamp handle a load without potential increased product damage.
“When evaluating the most efficient way to transport product from point A to point B without product damage,” says Farance, “it’s important to consider all aspects of the handling process.”