Amigo Mobility International
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A Look at Motorized Material Handling Vehicles

Feb. 18, 2022
Mid-size motorized vehicles fill a need where other material transport equipment cannot.

When an industrial manufacturer or warehouse operation needs to move large and heavy items, they typically rely on the traditional forklift. For smaller, lighter loads, a pallet jack or even a pushcart might be just the perfect solution.

But somewhere in between lurks a middle-of-the-road void that neither forklifts, pushcarts—and dare we say electric golf carts—are the best approach. Traditional forklifts are not always able to maneuver in tight spaces or down extremely narrow aisles. And for expansive operations—involving long distances due to their huge footprints—workers relying on manual pallet jacks or pushcarts for an entire eight-hour shift will gradually fatigue the fittest of employees over time.

And as with any industrial manufacturer or warehouse operation, there's always something that needs to be moved. From scrap cardboard in shipping and receiving, spare parts to fix a broken piece of machinery, to transporting janitorial supplies that help keep work stations as well as lavatories clean and sanitary, the need to move things is seemingly endless.

One proven approach that’s quickly gaining traction in a variety of industrial environments, filling the large void between forklifts and manual pushcarts, is motorized material handling vehicles.

What Exactly is an Industrial Motorized Material Handling Vehicle?

In large part, the concept behind today’s industrial motorized material handling vehicles can be traced to similar vehicles originally designed to provide a dependable mobility solution for disabled individuals. For example, motorized shopping carts are commonly seen every day across the U.S. providing ease of mobility for the disabled in grocery stores, department stores, and a variety of other retail environments.

Also, not to be confused with the rising trend in automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), motorized material handling vehicles are still very much human-operated. However, due to their extremely simple design, relatively low-tech operation, durability, and reliability, they’re much less costly and easier to service than their high-tech counterparts.

Motorized material handling vehicles also utilize a variety of detachable cart and/or trailer designs to accommodate loads of different weight capacities. Typical loads range from parcels delivered for distribution throughout a manufacturing floor to tools and heavy spare parts for machinery repairs.

Among some of the key features to consider in a motorized material handling vehicle are:

• high-quality tubular steel frame construction

• an ergonomic low-deck platform for repetitive step-on/step-off activity

• the need for minimal operator training

• on-board batteries that can be recharged via a common 110V outlet

• tires that stand up to the sharpest metal shards

• a tight turning radius for areas with limited space

Types of Motorized Material Handling Vehicles

Motorized material handling vehicles are available in several different variations depending on how they’ll be utilized to perform specific jobs, including:

Burden Carrier: Burden carriers offer either a detachable trailer option for a drop-and-go applications solution along with the capability to pull multiple trailers for increased efficiency. They’re also available with an affixed trailer for transporting smaller loads.

Industrial Tugger: Also known as tow tractors, Industrial Tuggers primarily serve as personnel carriers when operated alone. Adding a simple hitch accessory then enables the vehicle to tow trailers, carts, or any other transport platform with wheels.

Platform Truck: An excellent piece of equipment that’s ideal for order picking as well as a variety of other jobs, personnel walk behind powered Platform Trucks to quickly transport materials while reducing strain on the worker and providing tight radius maneuvering in small or confined spaces.

People Mover: Designed for operation while sitting down, People Movers are especially helpful to employees who are mobility challenged and need to regularly traverse long distances in manufacturing operations or warehouses during their workday.

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Because motorized material handling vehicles are relatively compact in size, simple in design, and have a limited number of operating parts compared to other types of material handling equipment, don’t let their appearance fool you. They're a lot more durable and powerful than they might appear on the surface. In addition, a simple design with fewer operating parts means a higher degree of dependability and a product that's easy to service.

Able to handle pulling loads (including driver) of up to 2,500 lbs. based on extensive weight capacity testing, motorized material handling vehicles provide the capability to handle a variety of demanding applications safely and efficiently.    

Right-sizing Your Fleet

Today, “forklift-free" is a growing buzzword in manufacturing facilities and warehouses around the U.S. But implementing forklift-free plans can be extremely challenging. There aren’t many existing plants that can halt operations to design a completely new layout that eliminates the use of forklifts. 

Instead of complicated logistics and a new layout, first, consider looking at gradually implementing small changes. Right-sizing material handling equipment based on the need of the job can be a more manageable plan than going completely forklift-free. 

The result is using a smaller, more agile option, such as motorized material handling vehicles. They not only increase employee job satisfaction but help employees perform their jobs more efficiently while safely moving materials throughout their facilities.

By right-sizing your fleet of material handling equipment, you'll further improve safety by containing forklifts where they’re most needed (and appropriate) while using motorized material handling vehicles for other dedicated purposes, such as for intra-facility transport.

Using the Right Equipment for the Right Job

When you need to fasten a screw to hold two pieces of material together, you certainly don’t reach for a  hammer to get the job done. You reach for the appropriate tool: a screwdriver, of course.

Likewise, if you’re finding that your employees are inappropriately using forklifts to move small items around, or they're straining to move heavy and awkward loads using a manual pushcart, the in-between answer very well could be a motorized material handling vehicle.

When considering investing in such highly useful and versatile material handling equipment, identify your most pressing material handling needs and applications. Next, ask your employees for feedback to gauge their interest level.

And most importantly, once you decide to talk to a motorized material handling vehicle vendor, not only ask them for a demo of their various products but take the time to find out how the vendor’s customers are using their motorized material handling vehicles in their own facilities. That will provide you vivid examples of what such versatile and handy pieces of equipment can do for your own company and your valued employees.

Scott Chappell is industrial sales manager with Amigo Mobility International Inc., a manufacturer of motorized shopping carts, material handling carts, burden carriers, tuggers and personal mobility vehicles.
About the Author

Scott Chappell

Scott Chappell is industrial sales manager with Amigo Mobility International Inc., a manufacturer of motorized shopping carts, material handling carts, burden carriers, tuggers and personal mobility vehicles.

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