The elimination of forklifts has been an increasing trend in manufacturing plants. While it may seem hard to imagine a plant operating forklift free, many plants have implemented this policy and are very pleased with the outcome.
One of the leading drivers for this trend is safety, every year approximately 100 workers are killed and about 20,000 more are seriously injured due to forklifts. Another driver is cost reduction, an old industry adage applies the “80/20 rule” to the cost of forklift use. Over the life of a forklift, 20% of the total cost is ownership, the remaining 80% is operating costs. Additional benefits to a forklift free plant include, reduced inventory, improved material flow, reduced line-side handling equipment and floor space, improved ergonomics, and cycle efficiency(1).
Forklifts are being replaced with AGV’s and tuggers, (some existing carts and dollies are being retrofit with our Drive Caster™) and achieving significant benefits that are easily identified. The easiest to identify, is a reduction in injuries and accidents due to forklifts, followed by a reduction in maintenance and operating costs. Companies that utilize Lean production, realize an improvement in the movement of products creating a reduction in inventories and related costs.
A concern that may arise is the capacity of the load, as forklifts are optimized for full cases or pallets. Larger loads like a full pallet, reduce the visibility of the operator, creating a greater risk of calamity. Also full pallets require significant floor space and often require workers to extend or bend beyond normal range of motion, which increases the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Furthermore, there is increased demand for split case picking and that is not efficient for forklifts. Rest assured if your application calls for large loads, material handling carts can do the job without exceeding commonly accepted ergonomic standards (ex: Snook Push/Pull Tables) for initial push force.
At a Ford plant that switched to forklift free operations, material handling carts move 3,000lb loads and achieve the stringent ergonomic requirements of Ford, thanks to the casters and wheels used on the cart. Load weight and casters have the greatest impact on push force required to start and keep a cart rolling, and to turn and maneuver.
That is why we offer a complete ergonomic solution for carts, racks and dollies. We have developed a complete line of products including TWERGO® and TWERGO® Lite wheels, ERGOXCEL™ Rigs and ErgoTread Polyurethaneto reduce energy exerted by cart operators, and energy consumed by powered applications. So make sure to ask your cart manufacturer to use Caster Concepts ergonomic casters, wheels and tread material.
If your application has unique challenges, including extremely heavy loads, specific height requirements, unique top plate configuration or any other custom need, we will build a custom caster to your exact specifications. We offer our online design tool (configurator) to design a caster and download a 3D model.