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What to Know About Automated Forklifts

Posted by: admin on January 19, 2021

Forklifts and their operators are the lifeblood of warehousing. But the forklift as we know it is about to undergo some dramatic changes. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, computer vision, and automation have all contributed to the progress of automated forklifts

What are Automated Forklifts?

Sometimes called automated guide vehicles (AGVs), tomorrow’s self-driving forklifts will use computer vision technology and AI to plan their route through the warehouse. They’ll detect and predict the movements of the human warehouse workers they encounter. Since they work with humans, these robotic lifts are sometimes called “cobots”. They can also communicate with and operate devices like warehouse doors and roller tracks, all without the help of humans.

How Automated Forklifts Work

Wondering how do automated forklifts work? Advanced computer technology and AI are at the heart of all self-driving forklifts . Automated forklift trucks are programmed to track, monitor, and mimic the actions of human workers. They learn where to move and what to do next, just as if they were being operated by humans. They can move, lift, and stack items and do similar tasks the same as if they were being driven by humans.

Automated forklifts sense every detail of the area around them. This includes the presence of human coworkers. They can predict the movements that are needed for certain jobs. They’ll also come up with the fastest and safest route to avoid obstacles while moving around the warehouse.

Although most self-driving forklifts can also be operated manually, each is continually updated with data gathered over time. This enables them to safely perform tasks without a human operator. The result is fewer accidents and damages to workplace property and equipment. There’s also an increase in productivity and less chance of injuring an employee.

Advantages of Automated Forklifts

There are a lot of benefits of this emerging technology. There are also a few concerns. Here are some of the advantages of automated forklifts:

Smaller Workforce

Self-driving forklifts will reduce the number of warehouse workers needed to operate regular forklifts. The result is a huge savings in payroll and payroll taxes, employee benefits, and workman’s comp insurance. Human workers will, however, still be needed to carry out tasks such as wrapping and packaging certain products by hand before they’re ready to be stored or shipped.

Easy to Phase-In

Automated forklifts can be added to your workforce with minimal interruption to your ongoing operations. You don’t need to add a bunch of these machines all at once, either; it’s simple to add them to your warehouse as they become necessary. This can help ease the expense of the high initial investment associated with AGVs. 

Less Jobsite Risk

Since there will be fewer humans driving forklifts, warehouses will become safer places to work. There’s no need for workers to worry about hurting their necks or backs through forklift mishaps like collisions and tip-overs. Automated forklifts will do the heavy work.


Unlike human operators, autonomous forklifts won’t get tired or need coffee breaks. They can also work around the clock, which will increase productivity without overtime or shift differential pay.

Fewer Errors

Errors can’t be totally eliminated when forklifts are operated by humans. Even with proper operator training, mistakes will be made and errors will occur. As automated forklifts are brought into the workplace, the risk of those errors will be greatly reduced. When properly programmed, self-driving forklifts will know exactly where they need to be and what needs to be done.

Some Downsides of Automated Forklifts

Along with the advantages of automated forklifts, there will be some drawbacks. Here are a few of them:

 how do automated forklifts workTemporary Reduced Productivity

In the long run, efficiency and productivity will be increased. It will take a while, however, for humans to get used to working with their automated counterparts. At first, there will be training and safety issues to overcome that will affect output.

Increased Costs

Because it’s new, there’s a price to be paid for this state-of-the-art technology. If you’re a new company or a startup on a tight budget, you might find the costs of automation to be too much. Over time, costs will come down, which will make self-driving forklifts available to more small and medium-sized businesses.

Training and Maintenance

As with all new technologies, there will be bugs to work out. At first, these might be costly. You’ll need to train one of your workers or hire someone with experience to perform routine maintenance on the automated vehicles. You’ll also need a source that can provide replacement parts in a hurry when they’re needed to keep the lifts up and running. Both of these can be costly since there will be downtime involved that can affect output and profits.

Decreased Flexibility

A forklift operator can jump between tasks and operate other equipment beyond their lifts. Automated forklifts, on the other hand, aren’t suitable for non-repetitive tasks. They work on preset systems and processes, so switching tasks can be more challenging than you might expect. 

How Much Do Automated Forklifts Cost?

This is the million dollar question for warehouse managers weighing their options for the future. Automated forklifts can be incredibly expensive. The typical automated pallet jack/stacker lift starts at around $45,000 but can run upwards of $70,000. Automated fork trucks range between $80,000 and $120,000. Self-driving reach truck lifts typically cost at least $95,000, while Very Narrow Aisle lifts can top $200,000. Of course, all of these figures vary based on load capacity and lifting height. Though these prices may eventually come down as self-driving forklifts become more in demand, they remain quite expensive. 

These initial figures are just the beginning of the costs associated with autonomous forklifts. In addition to the base price, ongoing maintenance costs should also be expected. Before your organization invests big bucks into this new technology, make sure you account for ongoing expenses. In many ways, it remains more affordable to employ real, live workers instead of splurging on self-driving forklifts.

When Will Self-Driving Forklifts Become Commonly Used?                    

There’s still a long way to go, but we’re gradually moving toward a world where automated forklifts will become popular for use in manufacturing, warehousing, and construction. As technology continues to evolve, demand is likely to increase while prices are likely to go down. 

There will, however, always be a need for humans to operate conventional forklifts, especially in smaller businesses. That’s why it’s important for you to receive forklift operator training and certification through’s OSHA-approved Online Training Courses just as thousands before you have done. 

Get Convenient, Affordable Online Forklift Training Today

Whether you’re a warehouse manager, construction site safety manager, or interested in becoming a forklift operator yourself, is the solution to all your training needs. The training is fast, convenient and affordable. Using a desktop or laptop computer, smartphone or tablet device, your training can be completed in as little as one hour. All training materials are available online 24/7, so you can take the course at your convenience anywhere there’s an internet connection.

Need to train a whole team of workers? We also offer an affordable Train a Trainer option which allows you to bring the forklift certification process in-house. While preparing for the rise of automated forklifts is smart, it’s always a good idea to invest in the workers you have on staff today. Regardless of what the future has in store, employees will need to be OSHA certified every three years in order to avoid expensive penalties and fines. Protect and advance your career by calling us today at 888-699-4800 or contact us online to get started. You’ll be glad you did!

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