Toyota Tracto used in manufacturing environment

Forks on or off? The benefits of forkless environments

Counterbalance forklift trucks have dominated materials handling environments for decades. However, as technology and operations innovate and develop there will continue to be changes to the equipment and processes used not only the UK but around the world.

One example where Toyota Material Handling has already seen developments is in intelligent operations, with both their automated warehouse trucks and truck management system, Toyota I_Site. Materials handling professionals are striving to improve productivity and safety whilst increasing efficiency and it is a challenge that most operations will face.

Customers are constantly being challenged in terms of quality, efficiency and safety and this isn’t likely to change any time soon. Let’s look at efficiencies and safety first. Our experience shows that efficiency projects are usually related to increasing output which in turn means moving more products and material around a factory. This increases health and safety risk and results in companies needing to risk assess or re-think their material handling operation.

This shift is leading to a growing trend to take forklift trucks out of the manufacturing area altogether by creating a ‘forkless zone’. Forklift trucks can operate in all other areas of the operation for example goods in and warehousing but are excluded from the identified zone.

One solution is to ensure that all material carriers are changed to be moved on wheels. Once this is achieved the material handling method around the operation can move to a forkless towing method using towing tractors and wheeled trailers.

Towing solutions can be used for different scenarios in different industries. However, from our experience, we have seen that the manufacturing and e-commerce industries are switching over from traditional fork handling to forkless or towing solutions for various reasons but mostly the continued improvement in operational safety and the efficiency of moving more materials at one time.

In manufacturing tow tractors are also used for what is known as ‘milk runs’, one description to explain this is a continual route which a tow tractor takes around the factory stopping at designated points either dropping off trailers or collecting trailers to be transported to another designated point. As a ‘milk run’ it is a constant ongoing route and process, many improvements can be made on material movement and related efficiencies.

In e-commerce, tow tractors can be used for both order picking and stock replenishment processes as they provide the flexibility to transport quantities of large and/or small items stock to various locations. The order picking variant, in particular, can offer a fast response for last-minute order collation and allow for working areas to be tighter –increasing storage potential in the right application. Order fulfilment and service times are critical (Amazon Prime for example) so having a product that can move quickly and do so safely, increases the chance of meeting consumer demands.

For more information on the Toyota Material Handling tow tractor range or to book a free demonstration call 0370 850 1409.

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