What is  Forklif-Free?


Forklifts have long been the workhorses of production plants and warehouses, but there is a growing trend toward forklift-free work areas, fueled by  increased safety, cost savings, and flexibility.

It’s hard to picture production plants without forklifts ferrying materials to assembly lines, but that is becoming the case in an increasing number of workplaces. Taking the place of forklifts are smaller “tuggers” (usually electric- or diesel-powered) that tow a train of trailers (also called carts).

Advocates of forklift-free work areas usually point first to the safety issues, noting that nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 seriously injured in forklift-related accidents every year. “We’ve had some pedestrian safety issues in the past,” said Steve Orr, material planning and logistics superintendent at Ford Motor Company. Orr was quoted in an article appearing on inboundlogistics.com. “In the line side, someone would step out and get hit with a forklift, or a high-low driver would bump into someone working on the line. Forklifts can do some serious damage to people.

In forklift-free operations, the tuggers are small, allowing operators visibility that is unobstructed by roll cages or masts. The operators tug carts behind them and only move forward, as opposed to lift trucks where it is often necessary to back up with limited visibility.

The 3-year conversion of Ford’s Cleveland Engine Plant No. 1 is cited as a forklift-free success story. The company spent more than $350 million on new equipment and tooling to make the plant more flexible and efficient.

“Before, we’d build a line, and it could just do one engine,” Orr told Assembly Magazine. “Now, we can build six different engine models on the same line. We can go from a six-cylinder engine to an eight-cylinder engine or whatever. It’s pretty neat.”


The Case for Forklift-Free


That kind of flexibility is one of the major factors touted by forklift-free advocates, perhaps second only to the previously mentioned safety issues. Some other advantages, courtesy of the Conveyor & Caster Corporation website, include:

  • Improved Productivity—The “tugger and trailer” concept offers higher yield and output by utilizing the most efficient method for transporting loads fore and aft.
  • Decreased Congestion—The tugger and trailer concept eliminates traffic bottlenecks by reducing the pieces of equipment (forklifts) required for material load transfer. The lower-cost train of trailers is able to transport more load volume and weight in fewer trips compared with transporting loads utilizing
  • Cost Savings—The saving benefits are said to be two-fold: equipment and manpower. The tugger and trailer concept requires less capital equipment investment when compared with the traditional alternative of using forklifts or lift trucks. The reduction in manpower is significantly less when a tugger with a train of trailers is compared with forklifts or lift trucks.

Kinetic Technologies, Inc. (K-Tec), a designer and manufacturer of forklift-free systems, says that over the life of a forklift, only 20 percent of the cost is ownership—the other 80 percent comes from operating costs.


The Case Against Forklift-Free


Even proponents of the concept concede that forklift-free is not going to work for all employers or in all situations. Among the considerations that might militate against retiring your forklifts are:

  • Conversion Costs—It is obviously more economical to build a new facility to be forklift-free. Converting existing structures can be quite another matter. “Even when approached carefully, existing plant constraints may make the best forklift-free strategy less than optimal,” according to a K-Tec whitepaper. “Narrow aisle widths, blind aisles, poor floors, variable conveyor heights and set backs from the aisles, limited linear line space, ceiling height and poor market (inventory stores) locations are just a few of the basic challenges.”
  • Conversion Time—It took Ford 3 years to retrofit its Cleveland plant. Even the planning can be time-consuming. “Building a forklift free program requires that a significant amount of time be spent on the ‘front end’ of the process clarifying plan targets, goals, identifying waste, ergonomic and safety threats,” according to the K-Tec whitepaper.
  • Wasted Space—Converting a taller facility that was built to accommodate tall stacks of materials can result in a waste of the upper vertical space (which tuggers and trailers can’t reach) unless a mezzanine or similar type of construction is used.


Keep in mind that workplaces do not have to give up forklifts entirely when converting part of a facility to forklift-free operation. For example, in an operation that uses both full and split case picking, it may be feasible to apply a combination of lift trucks and carts.

“Using the truck for full case picking and a cart or dolly to handle the split cases can be very effective as well,” Robert Liptrot, president of Boston Industrial Consulting, told inboundlogistics.com.


Is Forklift-Free for me?


Even if plans for a forklift-free operation are on the drawing board at your facility, the chances are good that you won’t be saying goodbye to your forklifts any time soon.

The benefits of forklift free of improved productivity, decreased congestion and cost savings (both at the time of purchase and lifetime of ownership) are clear tangible points for adopting the use of tuggers into an operation. Working alongside the forklifts which can then be used to only take care of vertical stacking and loading or unloading of trucks is the best way to maximize your productivity.


Original article posted:

Is ‘Forklift-Free’ in Your Future?

Lift Tables: The Ideal Lifting Tool


It is hard to talk about reliable positioning solutions without mentioning the humble lift table in the conversation. Hands down, the most reliable positioning solution where lifting or elevating loads is needed in workplaces. Lift tables are an ideal solution for their ease of design, ability to customize, reliability and reasonable price compared to other lifting options. With infinite combinations of lift capacity and size configurations, to mobile lift tables, the possibilities are endless.


Made-to-order scissor lift tables provide the best solution in terms of strength and versatility. Having a lift table custom designed for your business means you can benefit from durable and very effective positioning equipment that is capable of handling heavy loads in a wide variety of environments.


There are different types of lifting table units available including portable and semi-portable units. Portable units are designed to be able to move when loaded, while semi-portable units are not designed to be moved when they are loaded. You can now also add additional features, like a larger hydraulic pump and a higher horsepower motor assembly in order to increase the speed of the lifting table. You can also use these lifts as a platform for your employees to work on, by simply adding components like guardrails and anti-slip platforms.


Impact of Lift Tables in an Organization


Some of the most popular benefits of a customized lift table include:


  1. It provides a customized lifting solution specific to your organization’s needs
  2. It can be made portable for easy relocation
  3. Lift tables improve ergonomics in the workplace
  4. High capacity units can lift up to 120,000 lbs and more
  5. It can be used as a working table for construction teams


Improve Productivity


In palletizing and loading tasks, positioning the work surface at the optimum height for the specific task can reduce cycle times and improve the efficiency of the loading operation. Multiply the reduction in cycle time over many cycles, and across multiple workstations, and you get a strong economic case for scissor lifts.


Reduce Work Place Injuries


Back injuries caused by heavy lifting are a major cause of lost time incidents. A scissor lift provides a convenient method of lifting materials to the desired height. For example, an operator unloading heavy items from a pallet to a workstation performs repetitive, heavy lifting of the materials from the pallet to the table. In this instance, a lift table can position the pallet at table height, reducing the burden on the worker. This eliminates the strain from combined vertical and horizontal plane lifting. When properly implemented, scissor lifts can reduce the risk of acute injuries associated with heavy lifting.


Enhance Process Ergonomics


Scissor lift tables function as an easily adjustable table, allowing each worker to position the work surface at the ideal height for them. Not only can a scissor lift improve the speed of performing repetitive stacking/loading tasks, it can also make the process more ergonomic. By reducing the need for bending and twisting to accommodate the table height, a scissor lift improves process ergonomics and can reduce the risk of repetitive strain type injuries.

Lift tables also known as scissor lifts, are the preferred ergonomic solution for material work positioning and vertical lifting. They improve worker productivity while reducing the potential for workplace injuries. Used as a pallet positioner, for lifting and positioning work, or transporting loads, a scissor lift can make the job faster and safer while increasing productivity.


Choosing the right lift table


Selecting the right lift table solution will depend on your unique environment and specific requirements. We strongly recommend working with an expert who can advise and guide you through the process to ensure you have the optimal solution for the specific environment and conditions.


The basic considerations for choosing the right scissor lift table solution are:


  1. Location: size, surrounding area, floor type, etc…
  2. Material being lifted: size of material, weight, composition, etc…
  3. Movement: How are the materials being transported, stationary or mobile, etc…
  4. Environment: moisture levels in air, corrosiveness, temperature, etc…
  5. Budget: initial cost, return on investment, productivity, etc..


You can work with a professional team to create your own unique lifting table solution, making it highly effective, versatile and cost-effective, especially for larger businesses. There are many consulting firms that specialize in productivity enhancement and warehouse or factory design. Many of these consultants work with experts at Mayi are able to help you with this process or


Customized lift tables have been around for years and they are quite versatile, especially when it comes to finding a solution for a specific application. If you are interested in finding out more please contact us and one of our experts can guide you or refer you to one of the consulting firms we often do business with.






Resource: http://www.mckinleyequipment.com/blog/could-you-benefit-from-a-scissor-lift-at-your-facility