<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=1467122&amp;fmt=gif">

Automated Forklifts: Driving Safety and Efficiency

June 14, 2022  |  Seegrid

In part one of this two-part blog series, we cover manually driven forklifts, otherwise known as powered industrial trucks, and the inherent dangers that these vehicles pose. Despite ever-present safety regulations in the workplace, manual forklift accidents are one of the most common categories involved in workplace fatalities.

According to Safety in Numbers, there is a 1 in 10 chance that a manual forklift will be involved in an accident each year with 1 out of every 6 workplace deaths being manual forklift related. For facilities where these vehicles are commonly utilized, this can result in severe setbacks that can easily be avoided by using automated material handling solutions to move products from one area to another.


Infographic: Driving Safety Every Day

Download the infographic to discover how leading companies are improving safety and efficiency.

Download the Infographic

Material handling automation reaps benefits that go beyond safety, especially for manufacturing, logistics, e-commerce, and warehousing facilities that incorporate autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) into the lean production process. In facilities using manual forklifts for horizontal transport and vertical handling, mobile robots can be implemented to provide end-to-end, hands-free flexibility. Autonomous forklift trucks, pallet trucks, and tow tractors can work together to reduce risks and accelerate productivity.

AMRs Drive Benefits

Corporate safety and lean initiatives drive momentum for AMR systems. Although safety training and legislation are instrumental in managing some degree of risks associated with manually driven forklifts, statistics reveal numerous accidents occur every year, providing reason to adopt a safer, more effective material handling system. This motivation towards manual forklift-free environments paves the way to adopting AMRs as a more efficient form of transport and material handling, resulting in benefits that go beyond safety and profitability.

To protect workers, agencies in the United States and abroad, such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and EU-OSHA, provide analysis, research, and prevention information, which policy makers use to regulate workplace safety and health. Various groups focus on standardized training and encourage continuous process improvements in workplace safety.

Even with legislation and training enforcement, there is no evidence that these preventative methodologies ensure verifiable best practices and safe behaviors among forklift operators globally. In highly dynamic, fast-paced facilities, humans can easily be distracted, fatigued, or not have full visibility when operating a vehicle. Companies concerned with forklift safety are proactively seeking alternative solutions with automated guided vehicles (AGVs), AMRs, and manual forklift-free environments.

Manual Forklift Incidents Bring Cause for Safety Initiatives

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that manual forklifts have resulted in more than 7,290 non-fatal injuries involving days away from work in 2020. Additionally, according to Optimum Safety Management and Safety in Numbers:

  • Of the 855,900 forklifts in operation in the US, 11% will be involved in an accident
  • 42% of forklift accidents occur from vehicle overturn
  • 90% of forklifts will be involved in at least one injury or fatality during its service life

There are a number of reasons why a manual forklift accident can occur. One such reason is a distracted forklift driver. Visibility is also an issue as operators don't often have a clear overhead view. Rough terrain, improper handling, and simple human error are all factors that can lead to forklift overturns and accidental run-ins with pedestrians or objects.

Proper training, forklift safety protocols, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) have not eliminated the dangers that manually driven industrial vehicles impose. For that reason, automation in material handling continues to gain momentum in the drive for a safer process in manufacturingwarehousing, and logistics facilities.

Complex Environments Require Safe and Reliable AMR Solutions

Reliability and safety are essential for material handling. With various automation solutions available today, it’s crucial to select a vendor who prioritizes safety, providing proven solutions that will protect your workforce while boosting productivity. 

Automated technologies, like Seegrid Palion™ AMRsincluding Palion Lift, Palion Pallet Truck, and Palion Tow Tractor—provide a simple, flexible, and cost-effective solution that is easily integrated into existing processes to keep production running smoothly and aisles free from excess product, producing a more profitable business. These solutions navigate and operate based on intelligent technology systems that enable safe, precise, accurate, and reliable material movement.

Seegrid Palion Lift brings together Seegrid’s breakthrough 3D vision-based navigation technology with best-in-class situational awareness capabilities to create the only lift truck in the market with industry-leading 3D perception. Seegrid IQ autonomy technology fuses data from cameras, LiDAR, and machine learning models to enable Seegrid’s autonomous forklift and other Palion AMRs to excel in complex environments, providing a balance of reliable and adaptable autonomy.

With millions of production miles driven and zero personnel safety incidents, Seegrid is the market leader in robust navigation, going above and beyond ANSI B56.5 safety standards, as well as satisfying all applicable safety requirements of ANSI/RIA R15.08.

Our sensor coverage is simply unmatched in the AMR industry. By fusing sensor data, Palion AMRs have an enhanced understanding of their environment with the ability to comprehend and make decisions across a greater number of situations.

Autonomous Forklift Trucks Boost Lean Efficiency

Coupling automated material handling systems with lean principles is a step in the right direction for a more efficient operation. However, to really drive improvement and augment a lean operation system, this means enforcing a manual forklift-free environment and implementing a properly designed AMR solution to reduce potentially hazardous human touchpoints. Fundamentally, this model eliminates waste and non-efficient processes, ensuring quality products are available on time by removing non-value-added activities, safely and accurately. 

Properly designed automated systems can reduce manual forklift traffic, creating immediate lean process improvement. In the case of long-haul transport, an autonomous tow tractor solution with dollies, trains, or carts can easily move the right amount of product, keeping inventory levels low and aisles free from excess product. Autonomous lift trucks can seamlessly close the loop by also integrating vertical pickup and placement of goods for a true end-to-end solution. Ultimately, this process eliminates waste and enables a smoother flow of materials, thus streamlining the production workflow and creating a safe, productive, and lean process.

Read More:
AGV Safety Future of Automation Benefits of Automation