Mhlnews 1219 Pallet Protector

Powered Vehicles: The Swiss Army Knife of Load Handling

Nov. 1, 2008
Attachments transform conventional lift trucks.

Although forks are standard on traditional lift trucks, they aren’t always the best choice for every situation. In fact, forks represent just one option in a long list of tools that enhance the capabilities of powered industrial trucks.

Whether an application calls for pulling, pushing, clamping, rotating or moving loads side to side, quick ROI is well within reach when each vehicle is customized for the job. The right equipment will increase productivity, reduce product and pallet damage and enhance employee ergonomics. Additionally, attachments allow trucks to reach higher into racks and move heavy or odd-shaped items from stock to dock and back.

Today’s high-tech attachments are capable of real time, automatic grip adjustments and intelligent load weighing. They streamline the handling of virtually every material, from heavy drums to paper rolls.

Thanks to continuing advancements in lift truck attachments, tasks that used to call for several lift trucks and operators now require just a single truck and operator.

Ronnie Keene, vice president of sales and marketing at Bolzoni Auramo, says more of his customers are considering single-double pallet handlers because they allow one lift truck operator to move two pallets. “Operators can make one trip instead of two,” Keene explains. “It’s easy to see the quick ROI they can get from these attachments.”

Companies are also using weighing attachments to boost productivity. “When those of us in material handling think about attachments, we typically think of slip sheets, clamps and rotators because, historically, mobile weighing systems and scales have been marketed and sold through scale dealers,” says Thomas E. Murphy, sales manager at Ravas USA.

“There is a growing importance of weighing goods and products quickly and accurately because of rising fuel costs, labor costs and increased costs of prime distribution real estate. This has resulted in more salespeople being asked to source and sell accurate weighing systems retrofitted on lift trucks. As attachments, weighing systems allow operators to weigh materials during transport, saving time, space and labor.”

Damage reduction is another factor driving the popularity of attachments, according to Brad Vandehey, product manager at Cascade Corp. “We’ve seen a resurfacing of the need to reduce builtin costs allocated to damage,” he says.

For example, over-clamping of a load can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. “While traditionally, companies have just accepted scrap as a cost of doing business, today, they want to find a way to get rid of that cost,” Vandehey says. “Reduced product damage will result in increased profits.”

Here’s a roundup of some of the latest lift truck attachments that can turn an ordinary lift truck into a versatile, productivity-enhancing tool for efficient load handling.

Pallet Protector

The Pallet Dawg, developed by Raymond Corp. with input from CHEP USA engineers, reduces pallet damage by limiting hard contact with lift trucks. CHEP is now offering its own Blue Guardian device to accomplish the same goal.

Both the Blue Guardian and the Pallet Dawg are frames with energyabsorbing bumpers that attach to the front of lift trucks, behind the tines, to redirect impact force away from where valuable product is located to the more durable center of the pallet. They work on all block or stringer pallets and can be installed simply by requesting a dataplate change from the lift truck manufacturer.

Intelligent Clamp

Cascade Corp.’s brand-new electronic force control (EFC) clamping system applies customer-specific clamp force automatically to each product being handled. EFC is one of the company’s Smart Clamp technology products.

EFC is a computer-controlled, information- based, clamp-force system that controls lift truck hydraulic pressure to provide the proper clamp force on each unit load. It continuously monitors electronic input sources, and when the driver actuates the clamping circuit, the EFC sets the proper clamp force based on the information it has gathered. If product information is not available, the driver can activate an override system to clamp the load manually. EFC can be configured to interface with a warehouse management system.

Grip-Force Regulator

The Force-Matic from Bolzoni Auramo automatically adjusts grip force in real time to prevent over-clamping, the most common source of lost revenue in operations such as paper handling, according to the company. After a technician calibrates the load parameters of the valve, Force-Matic operates like a mechanical calculator, automatically and continuously “tweaking” the hydraulic pressure required to clamp the load securely. Force-Matic has no electrical connections; it integrates into a lift truck’s hydraulic system.

Weighing System

The RCS Plus from Ravas USA is a hydraulic weighing system that offers a maximum error rate of 0.2% of the weighing capacity of a 5,000-pound lift truck, according to the company. A heavy-duty, hydraulic valve block with pressure sensor is mounted behind the mast, and the weight on the forks is shown in five-pound increments.

According to Ravas, the RCS Plus can be used for check weighing on counterbalanced trucks to determine shipping weights, prevent overloads and enhance stock control. The sensor mounted on the valve block measures the pressure in the lift truck’s hydraulic system to weigh, sequence and sum 99 cycles.

Operators lift the load on the forks to a fixed reference height and press a button on the indicator. The load and forks are automatically lowered approximately eight inches. During this controlled descent, the RCS Plus repeatedly measures the pressure in the hydraulic circuit, while adjusting for the effects of roller and mast wear and ambient temperature. The indicator software translates these measurements into an accurate weight of the load. The weight is shown on the indicator located inside the cabin and can be printed via the RS 232 port for reporting and tagging.

Portable Scales

Intercomp offers twin-beam and U-Beam scale configurations in various lengths and capabilities to accommodate diverse environments and applications.

The company’s twin-beam TB830 scale features an independent, twinbeam design to aid in positioning for portable weighing applications. Floormounting tabs allow for permanent installation in conveyor lines.

The U-Beam US840 scale is a portable, lightweight device that can be used in hard-to-reach areas. The portable design allows the lift truck operator to handle oversized pallets and crates not normally weighed on a conventional floor, pallet truck or lift truck scale. Capacities of 10,000 pounds and multiple- length designs are available.

Fork Rhino

Automation Devices Inc. (ADI) released a new version of its Fork Rhino ball hitch adapter, a device used to enhance the versatility of a lift truck. The Fork Rhino allows the truck to move hitch equipment, such as ball hitches, goose necks and pintles, by eliminating the singlefork method o f moving trailers, which can result in fork sag and uncontrolled fork swing.

The device evenly spreads the load to both forks, serving as a smaller, lighter alternative to a trailer spotter. According to ADI, the Fork Rhino is one-third the size and weight of most trailer spotters. It fits forks up to six inches wide, and the handles are located at the top of the device to encourage a higher turning radius and easy storage.

The Fork Rhino comes in four models: the shackled Fork Rhino, shackled Fork Rhino receiver, pinned Fork Rhino and the pinned Fork Rhino receiver.

Drum Handler

The L4F-QC lift truck attachment from Liftomatic Material Handling Inc. is equipped with an automatic cam device that locks the attachment to the lift truck. The company says this feature eliminates the need for safety chains and for the operator to dismount the truck to secure the attachment. The cam system automatically locks the attachment to the forks when the L4F-QC is raised and automatically releases when the attachment is lowered to the floor.

The mechanical attachment can handle four steel, fiber or plastic-rimmed drums weighing 2,000 pounds each, for a total capacity of 8,000 pounds.

Visual Fork Cues

Hyster Co. offers a fork laser and fork camera as attachment options for its ZR reach truck. The fork laser emits a beam that provides lift truck operators with a guide for correct fork placement when retrieving product. Useful in lowvisibility environments, the laser can be displayed as a dot beam or line beam.

Hyster’s fork camera option provides a “fork eye view” at elevated heights, allowing operators to retrieve and replace product more efficiently and help reduce accidents caused by inaccurate fork placement. Mounted to the fork carriage, the camera sends a digital image to a 7.5-inch, color monitor located in the operator compartment.

Laser Guide

U.S. Lasers Inc. recently introduced its Tine-Guide, a device equipped with an electronically controlled laser diode that projects a red laser dot or line to highlight placement of fork tips on pallets or materials.

The laser is mounted horizontally and can be adjusted vertically, giving the operator a visual guide for placement of the tines. When the laser dot or line hits the opening, it disappears, indicating that the forks are correctly aligned with the pallets.

Telehandler Tools

JLG Industries Inc. has launched new attachments for its JLG, SkyTrak and Lull telehandler brands. Grapple buckets, eight-foot towers and fork-mounted work platforms, as well as material buckets, truss booms and carriages are now available.

The company notes that quick-attach couplers on its telehandlers allow for application flexibility and fleet crossutilization.

Powered Vehicles News

Safety Gets Exciting
PITTSBURGH—Etcetera Edutainment has launched National Safety Council (NSC) Safetyworks Lift Truck, a 3D simulator that enhances lift truck safety education programs.

Operators drive in a virtual warehouse environment, guided by a series of task-based practice lessons on lift truck safety. They execute everyday tasks, respond to common obstacles and conditions and receive feedback in real time. After taking a final exam, qualified game operators receive an NSC certificate.

The video game uses a standard keyboard and runs on common PC platforms, according to Etcetera Edutainment. A steering wheel may be purchased to create a more realistic experience.

NSC Safetyworks Lift Truck is distributed through the NSC. Check it out at

Cat Revamps Site
HOUSTON—Cat Lift Trucks, a Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. brand, has spruced up its Web site at

In addition to product information, the site offers tips on avoiding lift truck abuse, choosing the best truck for an application and managing fleets.

It also includes customer testimonials as well as parts and service information.

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