ITA Rallies Engineering Troops to Change Regs

Regulation was the hot topic at the Industrial Truck Association’s (ITA) spring meeting. Of particular interest was what’s happening in California. That’s where the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is pondering “the electrification of lift trucks” of up to 8,000 pounds capacity. That’s a polite way of saying “ban propane.” Not even James Moran, senior vice president of Crown Equipment (whose line is all electric) thinks that’s a good idea. He said so while wearing the hat of current ITA president, during his address to the membership.

“The ITA has begun to work with the Propane Vehicle Council and the Propane Education and Research Council to fight what we consider an unrealistic goal of increasing the sales of electric trucks in California,” he said. “I can’t believe I said that. Ordinarily I suppose companies like Crown might be in favor of such a development, but it’s clear to us that the proposal would not meet the needs of customers in California. We want to make sure that any regulation on this issue is realistic.”

After presenting the propane industry’s side of the story during a session on the CARB proposal, Brian Feehan, executive director of the Propane Vehicle Council, told MHM that it’s up to end users to contact their legislators about this issue.

“We need a coordinated effort of writing, faxing and calling,” he said. “A lot of the fleets in California are three to five vehicles. The owners have just as much to lose from this as the owners of big fleets, because they operate on smaller margins. They’ll have to replace their lift trucks and either rent or buy new electric trucks — and absorb all the costs associated with [a conversion to] electrics.”

Gary Cross, ITA’s general counsel, told MHM he doesn’t feel CARB will be inflexible on this proposal. They just need guidance.

“I think they will admit now that they really didn’t understand this issue well enough and they’re somewhat back to the drawing board,” he says. “That doesn’t mean they’re not going to try to regulate some group of lift trucks. But I would be very surprised if they went forward with this ‘everything 8,000 pounds and below,’ guideline. It’s possible that they might say 3,000 pounds. It’s also possible they could abandon that approach but try to squeeze the industry more on the actual emissions from the engines.”

As this issue of MHM goes to press, it appears that the concerns expressed above have been noted by CARB. The latest State Implementation Plan Revision Document (posted May 12th), includes a few additional words regarding feasibility:

“...However, electric forklifts may not be suitable for 100 percent of applications due to operation requirements such as specific terrain challenges or extreme hours of use. Consideration of operational feasibility and economic impact to operations will enter into regulatory development. The regulatory development process will also include careful consideration of diesel forklift purchases and forklift rentals to ensure these categories are not utilized to circumvent the regulation....”

Other topics addressed at the ITA’s 2003 Sping meeting are also in flux at press time:

• OSHA’s proposed change to Compliance Directive CPL 2-1.28A, which gives compliance officers the authority to cite operators not wearing seat belts, was roundly criticized. OSHA, under the advice of auto manufacturers and unions, was considering making seat belt use optional in cases where it’s determined that there’s no tip-over hazard. MHM has since learned that the proposal has been withdrawn. “Common sense prevailed here,” says ITA executive director William J. Montwieler. “We expect to work with OSHA in the future so that we can avoid problems like this.”

• ITA is living up to that promise by participating in a new OSHA initiative that was also discussed at the spring meeting. This OSHA “alliance” program with employers and associations is designed to “foster training and education, outreach and communication, and to promote a national dialogue.”

If you would like to provide written comments on the proposed CARB and federal air quality strategies discussed above, send them to: Ms. Cynthia Marvin, Chief Air Quality and Transportation Planning Branch, California Air Resources Board, P.O. Box 2815, Sacramento, California 95812, Phone: (916) 322-7236, Fax: (916) 322-4264, Email: [email protected]

—Tom Andel, chief editor

Toyota Turns Key On New Truck — And Business Model

There’s an important business lesson to be learned from the recent introduction of Toyota’s 7-Series 3-wheel electric lift truck: to compete in today’s instant-information-driven markets, you have to be quick, customer-sensitive and ready to change at a moment’s notice.

The market for lift trucks has been on the decline for the last two years. So it’s all the more important for competitors in that and many other mature markets to find out what the customer needs and then meet that need quickly.

For example, in retail distribution there’s a need for narrower aisles, both in the store and in the warehouse. At the same time, retailers need to get more product into those aisles. That’s why there’s a trend in retail logistics toward the use of three-wheel lift trucks. They combine maneuverability with compact size.

Brett Wood, national product planning, research and marketing manager for Toyota Material Handling, USA, credits his company’s use of the Catia 3D modeling program for the ability to engineer Toyota’s newest three-wheeler to additional market demands.

“This program allows us to react quicker with new products,” he explains. “If there’s an issue we need to address regarding our products or our manufacturing process, we can communicate with our other sites around the world through the Internet. That will help us react to global changes faster.”

Shankar Basu, Toyota Material Handling’s CEO and president, told MHM that this has also cut product development time dramatically.

“It used to take five years,” he said. “This 3-wheel electric was done in 18 months.”

This product is the culmination of 71 product requests Toyota received from customers. These included greater capacity (4,000 pounds, versus the previous 3,000-3,500 pounds), more leg and head room, and longer shift life. Using the 3D modeling software, Toyota was able to accommodate those ergonomic requirements while still allowing for a larger battery.

The power efficiencies of AC drive also helped make these changes possible. Each AC-powered subsystem either conserves or regenerates power to maximize performance and productivity between battery charges. The motor features a “power keep” function to compensate for battery depletion and corresponding loss of performance. This results in longer run times and more consistent power throughout the length of each battery charge cycle. In addition, energy is continually recovered through three forms of regenerative braking, further extending run times.

Although Toyota made a big media splash with this product’s introduction, Basu wanted journalists attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony to know that there’s a change in how his and other leading companies must compete from now on.

“The emphasis for us is going to be on visiting the customer’s location, analyzing their material handling needs, then providing, as an added benefit, the hardware,” he concluded. “Our mission in the next three years is to become the world’s largest supplier of material handling products and services with world class performance.”

— Tom Andel, chief editor

Companies Making News

Vertical Systems International, LLC has acquired the assets of Vertical Systems Inc., manufacturer of vertical lifting equipment as well as pallet stacking and dispensing systems. Daniel J. Quinn, most recently with HK Systems, will be president of the new company. Other executives with the new company are Steve Templeton, manager of distributor support and Randy Haas, manager of OEM support.

AAntec is now the exclusive North America distributor of packaging equipment for Tissue Machinery Corp. (TMC America).

Psion Teklogix and Zebra Technologies announced they have entered into a product partnership agreement. Under the agreement, Psion Teklogix will sell printers from Zebra Technologies.

eBay, calling itself the world’s online marketplace, has opened a new version called eBayBusiness. Its Web site, ebaybusiness.com, will bring together all the business-related listings on eBay into a single destination. There are more than 20,000 listings in the metalworking category, and more than 500,000 listings of business items every week.

Kardex Systems Inc. has been acquired by Rack Enterprises Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company that began acquisition discussions two years ago. Rack’s objective, according to senior management, will be to grow the business through new investment, product development, new marketing opportunities, acquisitions and increased dealer and customer interaction.

Ronald J. Miller, who will become the chairman at Kardex, and his family, have been associated with Kardex Systems and Remington Rand, the Kardex predecessor, for two generations as Remington’s top management. Miller also owns REM Automation & Custom Engineering Inc. located in Baltimore, specializing in factory automation.

IFCO Systems announced it has signed a long-term pallet supply and management agreement with Exel, the largest third-party logistics company in North America. According to the agreement, IFCO Systems will supply various sizes and styles of pallets to Exel’s more than 150 operating locations and subsidiaries.

Swisslog, a global provider of integrated supply chain solutions, has selected an iBaan for Supply Chain Management (iBaan for SCM.) solution from Baan — an enterprise application provider for industrial enterprises and part of Invensys plc — to support its major new consultancy service. Swisslog will use the iBaan supply chain designer application as a key part of this new service to provide customers with comprehensive network design capabilities.

Managers Making News

John C. Cullen has assumed the role of president of Versa, LLC. Cullen joined Intelligrated in February 2002 as the senior marketing executive for Intelligrated and Versa. He will continue to oversee these and other marketing strategies as part of his overall corporate responsibilities.

Cattron-Theimeg has reorganized its executive staff, including creation of two new business units; marketing and sales, and operations. Jim Kingerski has been named vice president of marketing and sales; and Frank Rudge will oversee operations.

Zebra announced the promotion of Robert Danahy to general manager of the mobile printer operations.

Tres Wiley has been appointed president and COO of SAMSys.

HighJump Software has appointed Daniel Mayleben chief financial officer. It has also expanded its board of directors with the appointment of Jay Coughlan.

Bosch Rexroth Corporation recently announced three changes in its leadership. Steven D. Roberts was named senior vice president — corporate finance. In the company’s Linear Motion and Assembly Technologies business unit, Ernst Iseli assumed the role of vice president and general manager, and Bill Demuth was named director of controlling and administration.

Exel announced that Michael Steen is joining the company as senior vice president of sales and marketing for technology and global freight management in the Americas.

Dr. Corey Billington, one of the leading voices for the integration of academia, business and technology, has joined Four Soft International’s Board of Advisors.

Liberty Diversified Industries announced the retirement of Bill Kovack, group vice president of LDI’s Paper and Packaging Group. He has been active in industry organizations, including the Fibre Box Association board of directors. LDI’s President and CEO, Mike Fiterman will temporarily assume responsibility for the paper and packaging group.

Intermec Wins Best Solution Award

A free public internet access project developed by Intermec Technologies Corp., in conjunction with the city of Long Beach, California, and its technology partners, was been named an Exhibitor Best Solution at this year’s GTC West Technology Conference, in Sacramento.

Exhibitor Best Solutions are awarded to companies that develop solutions designed for a specific customer to help solve a particular problem. The solution must have resulted in significant benefits.

Long Beach’s wireless Hot Zone district uses Intermec access points based on the 802.11b standard to allow almost anyone with a laptop computer or PDA equipped with a standard 802.11b wireless card to lunch or dine on the sidewalk patio of their favorite Pine Avenue restaurant and browse the Internet or answer e-mail. Unlike other wireless “hot spots,” which typically require monthly or per-minute access fees, Long Beach provides the high-speed access at no charge.

“We wanted to make sure that we provided easy, hassle-free connectivity with no gaps or dead spots,” says Bruce Mayes, project manager for the Long Beach wireless HotZone. “Intermec’s expertise in wireless network design was one of the keys to making that happen. And since the Intermec MobileLAN 2100D access point is designed to withstand harsh environments, we know people will be able to rely on the wireless network even on the rare days when it rains in Long Beach.”

The Hot Zone affords the city an opportunity to promote itself to visitors via the portal site, which is designed to give local businesses and organizations an opportunity to reach an audience that is already in the area. The network is the first step in a plan to develop wireless districts in selected business areas throughout the city.

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