News story

Robotic pallet jack pins forklift operator

Wednesday, 11 September 2013 ( #633 ) - Joliet, IL, United States
Central Grocers' Joliet facility uses Yale equipment.
Central Grocers' Joliet facility uses Yale equipment.
An operator has sued five companies and a consultant after what is described as an experimental laser-guided robotic Yale double pallet jack pinned him between his forklift and a storage bin. Lawrence Balun, 50, experienced a spinal disc herniation in the incident on 30 August, 2011 in the Joliet distribution centre of Central Grocers Inc. Defendants include equipment manufacturer Nacco Materials Handling Group Inc, doing business as Yale Materials Handling Corp of Greenville, North Carolina; dealership Yale Equipment & Service LLC of Rosemont, Illinois; voice-recognition sensor maker Vocollect Inc of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; computing technology developer Intermec Inc of Everett, Washington; detection-sensor firm Sick AG's US unit Sick Inc of Bloomington, Minnesota; and David Kressin, an outside consultant to Central Grocers and facilitator of the tests with the robotic equipment at the warehouse. Bruno R Marasso, an associate with the law firm Romanucci & Blandin LLC in Chicago, is representing Balun. The litigation was filed last month in Cook County Circuit Court, is requesting a jury trial and is pending before Judge Kathy M Flanagan. An initial case management conference is scheduled in early December. Balun and his wife, Elizabeth, are seeking damages for negligence and loss of consortium. The law suit says the prototype pallet truck was equipped with a voice recognition system and motion-/object-detection sensors that were supposed to stop the equipment before any collision occured. Apparently, the machine was unresponsive to a verbal command. The litigation's discovery process will explore whether the machine was properly calibrated, whether the audio receiver operated correctly and whether the fail-safe visual sensor was working. Balun's separate injury claim under the Illinois workers' compensation act is pending in the Will County jurisdiction. Retail co-operative Central Grocers, which utilises the Centrella brand for proprietary products, supplies approximately 400 independent supermarket stores, mostly in the Chicago area, and began operations in the new Joliet facility in 2009.