Lift trucks: Using tuggers and carts effectively
October 18, 2010 - MMH Editorial
Football season is underway, and fans are hoping for breakout performances from stars and rookies alike. On the gridiron, an overpowered player can be a distinct advantage. In the warehouse, however, too much power can lead to waste, danger and sluggish performance. For some corporations, this fact has prompted consider- ation of fork-free environments, where versatile and custom-built carts and tuggers can do the work faster and more efficiently than their bigger cousins.
Disposing of expensive and powerful equipment in favor of carts may seem counter-intuitive, but Jill Burrow, marketing manager for Topper Industrial, said certain warehouses might benefit greatly from the switch. For operations requiring multiple trips between the same areas, carts can cut travel time significantly. According to Ed Brown, president of Topper Industrial, a tugger can pull as many as 13 carts. In addition, said Brown, carts and tuggers can be easier to use than many forklifts.
“A forklift costs five times as much, but a forklift operator also costs five times more than a tugger operator,” said Brown. “Anyone can grab a tugger and go.”
Once a forklift drops off a pallet, in many cases a picker must bend to access product or arrange for the pallet to be lifted. Carts, on the other hand, can be configured with swiveling or angled platforms to allow pickers fast and comfortable access to products. Worker safety issues tied to forklifts that operate in tight areas, such as poor visibility when driving in reverse and dock mishaps, can also be greatly reduced.
“Companies looking at carts are looking at the cost of equipment and the cost of maintenance, but they’re also looking at safety,” said Brown.
In addition to ergonomics and safety, a fork-free zone might help a warehouse reduce product loss and equipment damage. Carts provide a secure cradle for moving product, while some fork-borne loads are prone to toppling. And forklifts, often 10 times as heavy as a tugger and cart setup, have a way of proving their strength by leaving dings and dents on storage racks and other hapless stationary objects.
With carts and tuggers, Brown said most companies see a return on investment within a year. In football, a first-round draft pick can cost millions over a multi-year contract before he produces the desired results. For companies not looking to attempt such a Hail Mary, tuggers could prove an efficient alternative.