Innovation often comes from finding ways of combining existing equipment, ideas, and technologies in new and exciting ways. At first glance it might seem strange to combine a forklift with a lift table but that is precisely what Linde Material Handling did, with help from Hymo, and with somewhat surprising results. The forklift and lift table combo started as a small custom project but has since developed into a solution that is used in a great number of contexts and has become a true success story.
The Best of Both Worlds
One of the main challenges in intralogistics is to maintain speedy operations while ensuring sound ergonomics for operators. Repetitive actions and procedures are often required and, if not well executed, can easily lead to repetitive strain injuries or worse. The forklift and lift table combo takes the best from both worlds and creates a much more ergonomic solution for filling pallet racks or moving goods from one rack to another. “Our forklifts are recognized all over the world but a forklift with an incorporated lift table used to be an unusual sight,” says Henrik Bergsten, R&D Manager at Linde. “Now though, what started as a custom solution for special cases has become a market standard all across Europe,” he adds.
High Flexibility and Mobility
Forklifts from Linde are used 24/7/365 to, among other things, fill or empty racks with pallets. In some cases, when transporting goods shorter distances between buildings or production areas the forklift is superior due to its flexibility, mobility and accessibility.
In a typical environment loading and unloading the pallets require the operator to reach, pull or bend to securely place the pallets on the forks or at the designated unloading area. Even if the pallets are not heavy it puts the operator at risk for strain or injury, especially their shoulders, neck and back. By installing a lift table with a protruding area that can be moved sideways, forwards and backwards, the pallets always fit snugly and require minimal effort from the operator to place appropriately.
“By allowing the operator to work more closely to the pallets the actions can be carried out in an upright position which is much more lenient on the body,” says Anders Bäcklund, Technical Project Leader at Linde. “He or she can adjust the position of the basket and lift table to fit the task at hand and empty most racks in a way that is much more ergonomically sound,” Anders explains.
From Custom Solution to Standard
To fit a forklift with a lift table used to require a lot of work and hours, but, as demand for the new solution increased, the pace at which to standardize the new combo increased too. “Nowadays when the forklift arrives from our factory in Italy it is prefitted to have a lift table installed,” Henrik Bergsten tells us. Knowledge of and demand for the solution spread across Europe quickly and today both forklift and lift table can be ordered straight away.
“It is easy to only focus on your own product when looking to improve your offering but if you think outside the box, and of the end user, you might just find new and innovative solutions to existing problems, which is precisely what happened here,” Henrik adds.
Further Improvements and Ergonomics First
Linde has been a champion for improving ergonomics for very a long time but is eager to find further improvements going forward. “As industries and distribution centers develop and improve, we need to prioritize the safety and well-being of workers and operators,” Henrik proclaims. “Repetitive strain injuries are, apart from being devastating for the individual, also very costly for a company. There is no room for complacency – Every improvement, big or small, can have a major impact on the end user,” he adds.
“Hymo has been a huge help and asset who has been with us every step of the way in this project and continues to help us come up with better and safer solutions. We are extremely happy with our collaboration and look forward to finding further improvements together in the future,” Henrik says in conclusion.