Forklifts are a key tool in many warehouses, but they are of little use without drivers. And as many warehouse and DC operators are finding, trained drivers are in short supply these days.
In an attempt to expand the labor pool, three industry players are collaborating on a project that would allow off-site workers to operate forklifts via remote control. Tech developer Phantom Auto recently teamed up with third-party logistics specialist (3PL) Geodis and lift truck vendor Linde Material Handling to conduct pilot tests in France of a remotely operated forklift that’s capable of being controlled from thousands of miles away.
Using the new platform, one remote worker can operate multiple forklifts at a number of warehouses at different times of the day, all from one central location. Geodis says these “digital drivers” will be able to “teleport” between different vehicles and between different warehouses with the click of a button, all from a distant location.
According to Geodis, enabling remote workers to operate vehicles can unlock efficiency and equipment utilization gains, and can also expand job opportunities to under-represented groups such as women, people with physical disabilities, and the geographically isolated.
“Phantom Auto’s technology enables dynamic balancing of workforce allocation, safer warehouses, enhanced worker well-being, and employment opportunities to those who otherwise could not physically drive forklifts,” Stéphanie Hervé, Geodis’s COO for Western Europe, Middle East & Africa, said in a release. “This innovation will be of benefit to the wider community and indicates the future of logistics operations.”