Over the past couple of decades, the forklift industry has had to keep up with a world that is constantly changing and adapting, pushing forward with innovation to meet the demands that are presented in the modern-day world. With warehouse management progressing in leaps and bounds and pressure to create a more streamlined, forward-thinking way of revolutionising warehouse storage systems, the forklift industry has had to meet this demand
With a changing world and new, more advanced technologies becoming available day by day, the forklift industry is in a unique position wherein there are more efficient, sustainable ways to get the same jobs done without any of the waste or pollution of days gone by. The future of the forklift industry lies here.
The key to streamlining the forklift industry of the future is to first and foremost take practices that have already been proven to work and apply them to new technologies and ideas. The reason the forklift industry has been so successful is because it bases its performance on predictability and consistency, which can be harnessed in new ways without falling short.
In the future, we can expect to see the forklift industry become more adaptable, more dependable, and more eco-friendly.
But how exactly are future forklift industry trends going to manifest themselves?
The first thing we can expect to see changing, and changing quickly, is the switch from diesel/petrol powered forklifts to eco-friendly, electric counterparts. The recent developments concerning electric forklifts are mainly due to concerns over noise levels and exhaust emissions in the workplace.
Warehouses are changing the way they operate, with many warehouses now being indoors, with narrower aisles and higher shelves. All of this is done to increase capacity in said warehouses for maximum efficiency. With warehouses spaces becoming smaller and companies wanting to move towards cleaner energy, a clear trend has been starting to emerge towards a generation of forklifts powered solely by electricity.
There are very apparent advantages to this trend, mainly pointing towards preventing pollution and decreasing noise levels to ensure workers in the industry are as safe as possible while they work. But it is also work noting that electric forklifts are often cheaper to use and maintain, and that there’s a huge amount of choice in regards to the kind of equipment you would like and the purpose the electric forklift will undertake.
It’s hard to ignore the growing popularity of electric forklifts in the industry, especially with many big name brands investing time and money into producing the best possible forklifts to meet the changing standards of the industry. This also means that these forklifts will often come with new and more enhanced features to meet the changing standards of warehouses and their operational systems.
There’s very little reason not to make the change, and you can expect the shift from diesel/petrol to electric to happen at a much quicker rate than you might think – especially given the recent push towards cleaner living and reducing pollution that we’ve seen on a wider scale in recent years.
What other changes can we expect to see from forklifts?
And if you’re wondering what features might be included on a more innovative forklift, you don’t have to look much further than the new age of driverless vehicles. They are already being created on production lines across the world, but the impact they are to have on the industry has not yet been determined.
There are a lot of benefits to driverless forklifts at first glance. There are no humans around who have to stop and rest, nor are they hindered by the physical limitations of humans. They will have the ability to keep up a seamless traffic workflow in a way that only automated systems and machines can. This, in turn, increases productivity in warehouses and can also save companies money as they will no longer need to hire labourers.
It also completely eliminates the risk of injury and death, as well as making it less likely to experience inventory loss, all while completely abolishing the necessity for holidays, shift changes or even stopped operations at all. Driverless forklifts could in theory work into the night, increasing productivity at an exponential rate.
Accidents in the workplace can be an expensive experience, costing money and lives. In the UK, there are statistics that show that forklift accidents can cause injury once every six weeks, making it one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK.
Removing humans from the equation not only boosts productivity, but it also saves lives, especially when you consider that in most forklift accidents it’s an error the driver makes that causes the accident and subsequent injury in the first place.
What are the disadvantages?
But there are some disadvantages to driverless forklifts that make its future in the industry a little less stable than electric forklifts.
The main disadvantage is that human operators can often benefit productivity rates even in an automated warehouse operation. Humans are vital to keeping track of schedules, monitoring operations, and being on board in the event that anything goes wrong. Getting rid of them altogether could be detrimental to the entire system.
There’s also the fact that while driverless forklifts are great at doing the same thing every single day, they don’t react well to sudden changes and ad hoc requests. This means that their efficiency and increased productivity value comes at the cost of flexibility, which is key in the industry as it stands as operations and progressing forwards and making changes to become more streamlined.
Human operators are a must if you want to be capable of identifying any immediate issues with the orders you’re putting out. For example, if an order is clearly incorrect, an automated machine and system will not be able to correctly identify the mistake the same way a human could, leading to complications and dissatisfaction from clients and customers, which could have otherwise been avoided.
In the meantime, it seems that in the future we can expect to see the introduction of some driverless forklifts, but workers in the industry can retain the peace of mind of knowing that their assistance is still going to be required for a long time to come if the industry wants to make sure its warehouses are running as smoothly as possible.
How are warehouses going to change when we look towards forklift industry trends?
In this article, there’s been a lot of mention of changing warehouse operations, and you might be wondering exactly what that entails and how different forklifts are going to benefit these oncoming changes, so let’s break it down.
The biggest change in warehousing that we can expect to see in the future is related to how they replenish retail stores and pick low quantity high SKU orders to keep on top of the fulfilment of eCommerce. Distribution centres for retail are beginning to send retailers more varied and smaller pallet loads up to three times a week to maximise product selection at store level. This presents a new challenge to warehouse operations which will need to be overcome in order to ensure they are as productive as ever.
Warehouses have responded to this shift in operations by creating more warehouses closer to population centres in order to maintain flexibility and move products through the warehouses faster than ever. It’s crucial that they have inventory to hand locally in every region due to the demand of next day shipping and two-day shipping that so many retailers now offer. Orders that used to be handled weekly or even monthly are now being handled daily, and the industry is working hard to keep up with those demands.
This is why new vehicles are being tested to see what works best in an industry that is constantly changed. With the increase in demand and less time to get products out, the system has to become more streamlined in order to be as effective as it can be – which means a lot of changes to old regulations and practices.
Another really important factor when it comes to understanding why operations are changing is that many companies and clients are now more conscious of fleet management and data analytics. Now more than ever people are keeping track of the energy they are using and the way they are using it, using their findings to find new ways to keep energy costs low and maintain higher standards for their operations.
How do all of these changes link?
By integrating these two forklifts, the industry will be able to get a huge amount of work done with only a few well-trained, experienced workers. This means that they can take more time training new employees, ensuring only the safest practices are going ahead and minimising any chance of injury while employees are at work, making forklift driving a much less risky job.
And the rest of the data analysis paired with a new fleet of vehicles can only lead to better order picking strategies, storage utilisation, routing, and matching inventory to warehouse placement and demand in real-time.
In the next few years, you can expect to see the forklift industry undergo what some might describe as a revolution. New technologies and innovation are set to ensure that working conditions become safer from employees and that operations run much more smoothly throughout warehouses across the country.
This change also welcomes in a much more eco-friendly, waste-free way of operating, with machinery allowing the forklift industry to operate in a way that agrees with the changing scope of society and what’s important to keeping society functioning. The forklift industry is well prepared for the future, and you might notice these trends much sooner than you think.
Whilst we’ve been talking about preparing for the future, if you want to start your forklift future today then get in touch to talk about how we can help your business with their manual handling needs.