Allan Leibowitz is editor of Forkliftaction News
This is my second year on the jury of the International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year (IFOY) Awards, and last year, my participation was remote. The technical reports and test day results were shared with me electronically and I had to make my decision based largely on the input from IFOY's technical team and my fellow judges.
This year, I was able to get into the action, flying to Hannover to participate in the testing and deliberations.
Over a couple of days and in the company of two dozen logistics, materials handling and transport journalists from around the world, I was asked to consider 12 finalists from BYD, Jungheinrich, Liebherr, Still, Wegard and Witron in the test venue, Hall 13 of the Hannover Trade Fair.
As journalists, we're subjected to a barrage of marketing claims from manufacturers, and the IFOY test program is designed to go beyond the hype and determine the real capability of the nominated solutions.
In the case of the less tangible category, Integrated Warehouse Solutions, the evaluation consisted of presentations by the two finalists, Jungheinrich and Witron, followed by a gruelling session of questioning by the jury.
For the machines, the process was more direct and hands-on. It began before we arrived at the chilly test facility, with the IFOY technical consultants under Theo Egberts conducting a range of standard tests on the equipment. At the same time, all the nominees were subjected to the IFOY Innovation Check by scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML) in Dortmund, the Chair of Logistics Engineering at Technische Universität Dresden and the Professorship of Machine Elements and Technical Logistics at the Helmut-Schmidt-University, Hamburg.
So, when the nominated machines were presented to us, we were also given the technical reports and the results of the innovation evaluation. We discussed the results and were able to probe the technical experts on anything that was not clear.
Judges faced the elements in pursuit of excellence
Next, we were introduced to the gear: the 5 T ECB50C electric counterbalance truck from BYD; the newly introduced Still RX 20 electric forklift with a load capacity of 1.6 T; the high-performance EZS 7280 tractor and the ECE 225 order picker with easyPILOT Follow from Jungheinrich; as well as the flagship of the OPX order picking series from Still, the OPX-L 16; and the modular tugger train from Hamburg-based start-up Wegard.
We were given demonstrations of the Jungheinrich cross-technology battery charging system SLH 300, the car-like EASY Drive steering wheel from Still and the MULTIplus shelves from Schulte Lagertechnik.
Then, it was out into the frozen wasteland outdoors for a look at Liebherr's MK 140 electric mobile crane which was erected in under 20 minutes.
Importantly, we were able to quiz the manufacturers on their equipment as well as see it in action, jumping behind the wheel where necessary.
During all of this, there was much note-taking and lots of discussion with the other judges. And this was vital because IFOY doesn't only compare the finalists to each other, but also to similar products already in the market. So, the expertise and experience of the judges comes to the fore to ensure that sound choices are made.
Serious deliberations under way
The judges have all now returned to their home bases, from Brazil to Romania, and in the next few days, we have to score all of the finalists to pick the winners.
To win, a solution must simply get the highest overall score - but interestingly, the decisions are usually quite straight-forward and the winners are generally decided unanimously.
So, my next step is to finalise my scoring and submit that to the organisers. But before that, I will go over the reports once more and check them against my notes from the test day.
The winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the opening day of CeMAT on April 23rd.
I must acknowledge Deutsche Messe and IFOY which facilitated my participation in this year's Test Days.