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Logistics 4.0 in practice. The use of automated forklifts reduced the number of accidents by 50 percent

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They do not take coffee breaks, do not ask for holidays and sick leaves. The use of maintenance-free, automated forklifts in logistics and production increases productivity. It also has other advantages.

Hargassner is a family-owned company that develops and manufactures biomass systems for the wood sector (production of wood chips and pellets). These are both small systems with a capacity of 4 kW, as well as industrial solutions with a capacity of 330 kW. In logistics and production, the company began using automated means of transport. They were mainly introduced to reduce costs and also to increase worker safety. Automated forklifts replace traditional, manual forklifts in performing various repetitive, horizontal and vertical transport operations.

Both routes and operations can be programmed without reconstructing the facility’s infrastructure.

In Hargassner, SAE160 Autopilot machines were chosen. The same forklifts were used in the Austrian Weng im Innkreis for both horizontal transport, as well as for stacking goods, loading and unloading.

Automated forklifts run on planned routes

Four automated forklifts are maintenance-free machines that can bypass any obstacle. They know exactly where to go and are able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They do not interrupt the assigned work, performing it virtually flawlessly and without collision.

Autopilots are mainly used in places where there are repeatable or similar routes. Operations of moving a large number of pallets on bigger distances are the best applications for this type of machines.

Automated forklifts work especially well when transporting high-value materials or hazardous substances. They are also useful in any area of a production plant, where the presence of personnel should be kept to a minimum for security reasons. Their other significant advantage is that they can be manned in manual mode, just like conventional forklifts (they were designed on their basis). It is enough to switch them to the manual operating mode and take control of the steering wheel.

The forklifts are clearly visible to all employees and programmed in such a way that they move on predetermined routes, allowing everyone to predict their behaviour. All employees are trained to get familiar with the way these „machines” work and how to best respond to their movement.

Time savings and comfort for employees

Autopilots can work both in the independent vehicle mode, as well as in cooperation with other automated devices, as well as WMS, MRP or ERP class systems, managing entire processes in full integration and synchronization with them.

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Workers can also give instructions to automatically controlled forklifts. This makes working hours more flexible: operators do not have to start preparations at 6 o’clock in the morning or end work late in the day, which definitely makes life easier. Autopilot trucks can deliver materials to the assembly line at night, which saves a lot of time. It was calculated that the implementation of automated forklifts also allowed to reduce the number of accidents by 50 percent.

We were looking for a flexible solution in the field of automation that would match the profile of our activity. Instead of forcing the operators to drive back and forth, the autopilot forklifts can transport all the necessary materials directly, which translates into a significant increase in job satisfaction,” says Florian Pommer, operational manager at Hargassner.

Photo: Toyota Material Handling