Adapting Technology for Improved Forklift Safety

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- 29 Sep 2022 ( #1096 )
4 min read

Over the past few years there have been significant changes within the warehouse environment partly as a result of the growing e-commerce market. A perfect storm of Brexit and a global pandemic has catapulted an already fast-moving shift in consumer on-line buying habits, to another level altogether. Coupled with stock holding and supply chain challenges, this has led warehouses to hold potentially more products than previous and increased the need to pick, pack and dispatch in far shorter timeframes than were previously deemed acceptable.

At Transmon, we have seen that the changing warehouse is also shaping forklift truck usage and increasing the need to integrate existing safety equipment as well as adapt and innovate with new technologies. With such a need for streamlined operations from goods-in to dispatch, business owners are seeking out ways to enhance their facility and keep their workers safe.

Often drivers and manual pickers are working in confined spaces in warehouses with narrow aisles full of stock, pick & pack areas, as well as product arriving via goods in and out via dispatch, providing numerous pinch points where accidents can happen.

One of the most critical areas of forklift utilisation that warehouse managers need to address is dynamic speed, particularly in a compact warehouse. There are a variety of different technologies that can be deployed here for different situations e.g. driver aids for high bay, LiDAR detection for narrow aisles etc. but the key is to understand the potential risk of each situation and adapt technology to suit the requirement.

As an example, where pedestrian warning systems solely use alarms or flashing warning lights to identify a potential obstruction, you are relying on the driver to react quickly to avoid any collision. In practical terms we can allow a 1.5-2.0 second reaction time for a typical driver. The alarm sounds when a pedestrian is detected but if travelling at 10mph (16.1kmh) a driver could have covered 22-29ft (6.7-8.9m) in this time and perhaps need as much as 32ft (9.7m) to come to a complete and safe stop.

In this situation, by integrating an Adaptive Speed Control system with a forklift truck (or other materials handling equipment), the Speed Controller assists the driver by reacting immediately upon sensing a pedestrian or other obstacle in the vicinity, the driver’s reaction time to slow the truck is avoided, and the truck starts to brake automatically.

Across warehouse operations, enforcing a site forklift truck speed limit is an excellent way to improve site safety. However integrating readily available technologies such as Radar, RFID, Ultra-wideband, LiDAR and Ultrasonic, can enhance an Adaptive Speed Control system to provide a Dynamic Speed Management system. Here, the truck speed is dynamically managed in accordance with the changing working environments or level of hazard. This provides an enhanced level of site safety, yet allows for productivity to be maintained.

Recently we worked with one of our customers who had high level order pickers working in narrow aisles on free moving trucks shifting left or right within the aisles to allow pickers to select items as high up as 6m. The customer needed a solution that would automatically reduce the forklift drive speed and alert drivers of other trucks and pedestrians that a particular truck was about to leave the aisle and join the main warehouse floor. Usually for this kind situation a forklift would need either a rail or wire guidance system along with RFID tags or magnets set in the floor to create the zones. This approach was not an option for this particular application as the trucks were free-roaming so another solution was needed. 

An Ultra-wideband zoning system with fixed and mobile sensors offered the most appropriate solution with zones at the end of each aisle. When entering the zones the system raises the alert on the truck and slows it down, either entering or exiting the aisle and at either end. 

This innovative variation of an existing technology showcases the need to be adaptive within a warehouse environment to ensure the continued safety of both forklift drivers and pedestrians sharing the same space needed for efficient operations.

Now more than ever, when warehouse space is at a premium and increased volume of stock and number of workers share the same space, it’s a combination that can and will lead to situations where machines and people come too close for comfort. Using available technologies and systems such as Adaptive Speed Control or Dynamic Speed Management will enhance operations and improve safety across the board.

 

For more information, please contact us:

Transmon Engineering Ltd
Web: www.transmon.co.uk  
Email: Send an email 
Tel: +44 (0)116 260 4200
Social Media: LinkedIn | Twitter | YouTube 

 

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