Our May 2012 article on forklift automation ["Leave the (forklift) driving to us"] noted that a number of equipment vendors have developed lift trucks that can operate without a human driver. So far, though, few warehouse and DC operators have bought these futuristic trucks. That's partly because they're unsure whether the automated equipment would be appropriate for their facilities. It's also because the technology is changing so fast that it's hard to get a handle on the risks and rewards of implementation.
Those who are still on the fence may find answers to some of their questions in two new white papers from manufacturers that offer automated trucks.
The first, The State of Forklift Automation: Are We There Yet? from Crown Equipment Corp., reviews the current state of the technology and examines the challenges associated with automated forklifts today. It also identifies four attributes that can serve as the basis for evaluating automated trucks: reliability, flexibility, scalability, and safety. The paper concludes with six questions companies should answer before deciding whether to move ahead with the current generation of forklift automation technology or wait for the technology to evolve. The paper can be downloaded here.
The second paper, Determining the Right Lift Truck Navigation System for Your Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) Warehouse from Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA), discusses the lift truck navigation technologies that are available today and factors to consider when evaluating these systems. It also looks at some best practices for improving warehouse productivity and order picking accuracy. In conjunction with the white paper, MCFA has released a video demonstrating the Jungheinrich Warehouse Navigation System, which uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) navigation technology for VNA trucks. The paper can be downloaded here.