Intelligent Forklifts and the Internet of Things (IoT)
Posted by: admin on October 30, 2018
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the billions of devices throughout the world that collect and share data through the Internet. Called by some the “fourth industrial revolution,” the IoT merges the digital and physical worlds by letting devices communicate intelligently with each other without human involvement.
While still in its early stages, the IoT is huge, and it is growing rapidly. There are already more than 8 billion IoT devices in use worldwide. Industry analysts predict that the number of connected devices will exceed 20 billion this year.
To date, popular IoT devices include smart TVs, thermostats, and home security systems – and, of course, Alexa, Siri, and other digital home assistants. IoT technology is also being used to improve operations across industry sectors, and one such example is how modern warehouses are being run with smart technology.
Is Smart Technology a Must-Have for Warehouse Workers?
The demand for warehouse space by giant online retailers is substantial. Amazon, Walmart, Target, and others all need large amounts of space to receive, store, pick, package, and ship their products to consumers. For these businesses to remain competitive, customer orders need to be filled and shipped promptly. To achieve their desired results, warehouses need to be run more efficiently. Smart forklifts are helping to provide the solutions.
IoT technology helps streamline warehouse procedures. It does so by bringing workers and forklifts together through the facility’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Using intelligent, self-driving forklifts to unload, store, pick up, and ship items is one example of how companies are using IoT to streamline warehouse operations. In addition to using warehouse space more efficiently, smart forklifts save time and money by completing routine tasks quickly, while also lowering their labor costs.
What Is a High-Tech Forklift? Here’s What You Need to Know
Sensors, onboard intelligence, and radio frequency identification (RFID) are at the heart of today’s smart forklifts. Intelligent forklifts use these to automate tasks that were performed by human workers before. They also provide better control over inventories and make the workplace safer.
Labor is a big expense in warehouse operations. Using self-driving smart forklifts lets warehouses operate around the clock with less human involvement. This is one of the ways IoT helps to keep labor costs as low as possible.
Smart Forklift Features
Here are smart forklift features that can help businesses save time and keep their workplaces safe when integrated into a warehouse control system (WCS) and warehouse management system (WMS):
- Automatically alerting the WMS when the vehicle needs to be serviced or requires repairs
- Using robotics to limit driving speeds in areas of the warehouse where there is a lot of foot traffic
- Avoiding collision by using anti-slip technology to automatically improve traction on slippery floors
- Detecting potential hazards to avoid collisions that could injure workers and damage equipment and inventory
- Raising, positioning, and lowering the lift’s forks much faster and more safely than by a human operator
A smart forklift can deliver long-lasting benefits for businesses across a variety of industries. To enjoy the full benefits of a smart forklift, an employer must educate its workers about forklift safety.
Other Smart Forklift Applications
Picking items to fill mixed case orders has been a slow and inefficient process until now. Intelligent forklifts have made the task much simpler. The warehouse management system sends a signal to a smart forklift telling it to go to a picking location to get an item. The signal also includes how high up the rack the item is stored. When the operator pushes a button on the lift’s console, IoT lets the lift travel at the maximum safe speed. While the smart lift is in transit to the pick location, the forks are adjusted to the optimum height for the picker to safely and efficiently remove the item from the rack. This reduces risks of injury to the picker, such as pulled muscles and back injuries. It also eliminates the need to climb up and down the forklift at each stop. When a picker uses a voice system, the smart lift will go to the dock where the pallet or pallets will be unloaded and shipped.
Most intelligent forklifts also include real-time location systems. These allow the operator to pick up or drop off an order without having to scan the location to confirm that the right pallet has been picked up or delivered. This can be used both in bulk warehouses where pallets are stacked on top of each other or in warehouses with rack storage systems.
The IoT will continue to evolve and change the way businesses are run. We know that intelligent forklifts are here to stay and will reduce or eliminate the need for humans to operate them. There will, however, always be a need for humans in warehouses. Technicians will be needed to see that smart forklifts are operating safely, and to adjust or repair them when needed. Entry-level warehouse workers will also be needed to fill customer orders. Stowers will be supported by intelligent forklifts to keep shelves full. Pickers will also be needed to pull items for filling orders. Packers will be needed to put the pulled items in boxes for shipping to customers. Even if IoT and intelligent forklifts will play increasingly bigger roles in warehouse operations, there will always be a need for certified human workers.
Smart Forklift Safety Technology Examples
A smart forklift can help businesses simultaneously reduce the risk of lift accidents and injuries and improve workplace productivity. In fact, smart forklift safety technology is already in use at businesses around the world.
Some of the smart forklift safety technologies in use today include:
- Speed Controls: RFID tags installed in worksite floors can ensure that smart forklifts won’t exceed a speed limit.
- Lift Access Control: Forklift operators can use an RFID tag to log into a smartphone on their lift and verify that they are authorized to drive it.
- Collision Detection Systems: Smart forklifts feature collision detection systems that provide visual or auditory warnings any time a forklift operator is approaching traffic or susceptible to an accident.
Innovative smart forklift safety technology is under development as well. This technology can be beneficial, due to the fact that it can help forklift operators minimize the risk of accidents and injuries. Yet, employers must still continue to provide their workers with forklift safety training.
Sign Up for Forklift Safety Training from CertifyMe.net
Regardless of what the future holds for smart forklift and forklift safety technology, employers must do their part to prevent lift accidents and injuries. With training from CertifyMe.net, your business can educate its workers about all aspects of forklift safety. Our training is 100% OSHA-compliant, and it ensures that workers can complete their training on their smartphone, tablet, or other IoT-enabled device. To learn more about our forklift safety training, please contact us online or call us today at 888-699-4800.
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