The move to electrification of materials handling equipment is continuing to impact on attachments and accessories as manufacturers add smart technologies to traditional components.
The impact of electrification was evident at the Kaup stand at LogiMAT, with the German manufacturer debuting the “e-op” suffix for its electrically operated attachments. "We are convinced that electrically driven attachments are a more-than-logical addition to hydraulic attachments,” says managing director Holger Kaup, who adds that "against the background of the automation of numerous logistics processes, their importance will increase in the coming years".
Kaup displayed its 1.7T151e-op sideshifter, 1.5T429e-op double pallet handler and 1T351e-op rotator.
Even though last year’s supply chain challenges are largely over, it’s not plain sailing for Kaup and other manufacturers as OEMs are beginning to finish large numbers of forklift orders which were stalled awaiting parts or components. “This creates turmoil for us as we have to reschedule our production,” he explains.
Another challenge, Kaup says, is getting OEMs to integrate full control of the new generation of electric attachments in the forklift’s ECU. This requires shared protocols which, unfortunately, do not exist as there are no shared standards among OEMs.
“We have started discussions with OEMs to launch an initiative to standardise that, but so far, we have not had any breakthrough in these discussions,” he explains.
German fork maker Vetter also showed off its electric attachments, with a focus on its SmartFork offering.
General manager Arnold Vetter says the growth of AGVs has given rise to even smarter attachments, prompting the incorporation of digital cameras capable of detecting humans as well as barcodes.
“We’ve improved connectivity so the forklift can scan barcodes and share them with the ERP system, if required,” Vetter explains.
Vetter also showed its Lizard system, a smart self-powered plug and play laser/camera solution that can be easily swapped between forklifts.
“This is easy to install and use,” he explains, saying it’s a quick and easy solution to reduce damage in warehouses, for example.
The Lizard is part of a growing line of safety products which includes Koala impact protectors, Gekko anti-slip layers and Zebra warning bard.
Vetter has also invested heavily in creating stronger forks which are safer to use. Innovations include reinforcing forks to prolong their lifetime, the use of various types of steel for different applications, and simple solutions like coatings to improve stability when transporting slippery loads.
Vetter notes the growth of the AGV market, which is driving demand for integrated attachment features.
Like Kaup, Vetter is facing orders being pulled forward after being delayed last year. “We have to be extra flexible and that means measures like extra shifts to meet those demands,” he says.
Bolzoni also showcased new technology marking the evolution of forklift attachments.
Global marketing director Carlo Fallarini says his company “is putting more and more new technology in our attachments in order to support the activities of our customers in terms of safety and load damage prevention”.
Examples at the stand included a Carton and Appliances Clamp with ForceBalance Pad, Easy-MOVE Laser Sensors System and Easy-FORCE.
“Easy-FORCE-P Pressure Control System is an electronic device which allows the driver to make a selection of what he is going to handle and selecting the type of load so that the lamp can select the appropriate pressure,” he says. “All the data is collected on the cloud and the customer can control the process,” he explains.
The same technology was also on show on an Auramo Paper Roll Clamp, where the semi-automatic pressure control system works with sensors and a touchscreen device, for interaction with the operator inside the cabin.
For the AGV market, Bolzoni showed an electric-driven fork positioner fitted with sensors and wiring ready to be fitted on the AGV.
“Demand in the AGV market is growing and we are co-operating with the most important producers in Europe and America. In the beginning, every unit was almost a prototype, with special design requirements. Now the market is growing and we can produce almost a standard solution,” he notes.
Fallarini says Bolzoni’s approach is to create a “co-design process”, especially with AGV OEMs “because they know what kinds of sensors they need, and what protocols they want to use”.
Fallarini concedes that hydraulics still dominates the attachment market, but he notes that there is significant movement toward electrification.
Like its competitors, Bolzoni has largely overcome its supply chain challenges, and the main issue now, according to Fallarini, is the high volumes required to meet delayed orders. “Today, we have orders that are required up to June 2024 and this is challenging for us and our suppliers as we are not used to such long backlogs.”
The attachment suppliers agree that these extended backlogs make pricing extremely difficult as they have been taking orders for delivery later and later when the cost of materials and inputs is hard to predict.
Cascade showed a new electrical mast designed for the AGV market. Udo Schmidt, vice president Cascade Europe, agrees that “the future is moving into electric applications”.
The stand included several smart systems including the new ActivWeigh solution, available as an integral or hang-on unit, which allows weighing in motion. The solution allows forklift operators to easily approach a load, adjust the fork spacing, lift and immediately weigh the load while the forklift is in motion. Weight data is automatically transmitted via Bluetooth to a truck-mounted display.
Schmidt notes that Cascade’s electronic solutions are customised for different applications and different OEMs.
Looking to the future, Schmidt notes the growth of the warehouse market and its specific needs. He predicts a “mix of hydraulic systems and a growing movement to automated AGV solutions”.
“The traditional solutions will be replaced by the new technology – and this will happen very fast,” he says.
Schmidt believes Cascade, which can supply “everything at the front of the truck … is in a unique position to service the European market”.
“I think we are the only one in the market who offers everything – mast, attachments and forks!”
Like his competitors, Schmidt believes the supply chain situation is far removed from where it was last year. The challenge, however, is predicting what it will look like in a few months, with energy costs and inflation.
Greece’s Sunlight Group used LogiMAT to show its smart battery solutions, including the Sunlight Li.ON FORCE Lite batteries designed for the smaller battery compartments? of Class III vehicles, such as pedestrian pallet trucks.
Group CEO Lampros Bisalas says it was important to participate in LogiMAT because the Sunlight Group has enhanced its footprint in the German market via the acquisition of A. Müller GmbH and Triathlon Group.
“We are a leader in motive power batteries for the intralogistics sector and energy storage systems for renewables, and our specialised team of R&D experts continue enriching and improving our innovative offerings in both these key sectors to meet the needs and demands of the global market,” he says.
“We heavily invest funds and resources to achieve the complete vertical integration of our lithium-ion production, as we have done with our lead acid offerings.”
Wireless charging company Wiferion returned to LogiMAT to launch its etaLINK 1000 charging system, which, according to vice president Matthieu Ebert, is perfect for AGVs and AMRs.
“This 1 kW charger is completely integrated, so we have a single unit to integrate into the vehicle,” he says, making it cheaper and easier to install.
The new charger augments the Wiferion range which includes a 3 kW unit for forklifts and a 12 kW charger solution for larger AGVs and larger forklifts.
The new product is aimed at the burgeoning warehouse market, and seems to have hit the spot, with the company securing an order for 1,000 units from a single customer on the first day of the show.
“Wireless charging is ideal for automated processes. Wireless charging cuts the maintenance effort as the number of vehicles per fleet increases,” Ebert stresses, explaining that the charging alternatives at the moment are manual charging and contact charging, both of which are more time-consuming and disruptive.
For Belgian parts giant TVH, the LogiMAT show came hot on the heels of a crippling cyberattack which grounded sales and support for weeks. Chief commercial officer Kirstof Bolle was relieved to be back in action at the opening of the show, where the company showed off its Cam attachments line and its Energic Plus range of industrial batteries, battery chargers and battery life extension technologies.
Bolle explains that TVH monitors trends to plan its product offerings, and one of the most significant changes is the shift from ICE to electric which began some time ago. But, he says, “it is still too early to declare the death of the IC truck”.
TVH will continue offering parts for ICE equipment for some time to help support the millions of trucks currently in the market, but is also proactively developing new products, according to Bolle.
Bolle believes all businesses should learn from his company’s recent difficulties, which came in the wake of COVID, the Ukraine crisis and worldwide supply chain challenges. His message is to expect the unexpected and prepare for the worst.
“We have come through our last challenge feeling more empowered and more resilient,” he says, thanking staff, suppliers and customers for their patience and support.
GemOne, part of the TVH Group, was at LogiMAT to show two main solutions: the Sapphire high-end security solution and Onix fleet management tool.
EMEA sales vice president Jacques Valckenaere notes strong interest in both product suites which are designed to maximise forklift safety and security by vetting operators before they can use the equipment.
The solutions require operators to answer questions about the status of their equipment before they can use it, and supervisors are alerted to failures in real time.
He notes that safety measures already mandatory in the United States are not yet required in Europe.
“We are aware of the burdens and costs associated with accidents and, unfortunately, customers are often only interested in our solutions after they have had an accident,” he says.
Valckenaere also notes strong interest in two solutions not on show – his company’s battery monitoring system and its anti-collision monitoring.
- For our show overview and details of the mainstream forklift manufacturers’ offerings, see this report.
- For our report on automation exhibitors at LogiMAT, click here.
- And check out our LogiMAT gallery here.