When it comes to cold storage applications, there is an important workhorse that is often an unsung hero—the electric rider pallet truck.
The electric rider pallet truck has become a vital piece of equipment for refrigerated and frozen food warehouses looking to increase productivity. With capacity ranging from 6,000-8,000 pounds, the truck is an ideal solution for dock work, transporting products and order picking.
Electric rider pallet trucks are more than capable of handling the performance challenges presented by operating in low-temperature environments. They are more compact, and boast a smaller footprint than counterbalanced forklifts. Operators can easily get on and off pallet trucks, and they enable multiple pallets to be moved at a time. Performance is a price of entry, so it is the productivity improvements made possible by this forklift that help cold storage warehouses keep pace with growing consumer expectations for product availability and variety.
If these trucks are already a part of your fleet, take a moment to appreciate the delivered value. If they are not, perhaps it makes sense to consider the role they could play in your facility. Below are some of the features and factors you should consider as part of the evaluation process.
Safety is – and should be – a top priority for every organization. So, it is no surprise that it should take a lead role when forklifts are being considered for cold storage environments where aisles can be narrow and floors can be slick. The best electric rider pallet trucks offer features that help improve the physical safety of forklift operation, including a more durable, industrial design with steel frame and panels.
Another important feature is the ability to set operational parameters, such as travel speed and acceleration, to match the skill level of individual operators. This helps ensure new operators safely gain the experience needed to become better and more productive members of the team.
Outside of personal breaks and maintenance stops, operators spend the majority of their day on or around the truck. It is a big part of their workspace. The way they interact with that equipment has a big impact on comfort, which can ultimately impact performance in the form of productivity and safety. Fast-paced cold storage environments can be especially hard on operators. Fatigued operators can be less focused and more inclined to take shortcuts.
There are a few features found on certain electric rider pallet trucks designed to help operator comfort. Power steering, for example, can alleviate strain by reducing operator fatigue. Make sure the handle provides a comfortable grip and allows operators to maintain an ergonomically-correct stance. A cushioned or suspended floorboard, if available, can absorb shock and vibrations when the truck travels over cracked or uneven floors and dock plates, which helps reduce stress on knees and joints.
Cold storage environments can be hard on the pallet truck. The cold temperatures alone can have an impact on trucks that are not specifically designed for the application. Given the quick turnover of perishable products in refrigerated warehouses, it’s important that managers evaluate the reliability and durability of the forklift to help decrease the possibility of downtime.
Make sure the electric rider pallet trucks you bring into your facility are built and engineered to operate in harsh environments without any negative impact on performance levels. Certain features to look for include metal handles, heavy-gauge steel fork assembly and frames, heavy-duty caster assemblies, rugged undercarriage and an adequately protected power unit.
It is important that the pallet truck be specifically outfitted by the manufacturer with a cold storage package to help components stay lubricated and prevent from freezing. This can include such features as heated switches and low temperature oils and greases. Battery choice, in regard to amp hours and voltage, is also important to ensure performance levels in harsh conditions. New battery monitoring devices provide data on battery activities, enabling better understanding of battery performance and health.
It’s one thing to view the pallet truck as a machine that moves product throughout the facility. It’s another view to see it as a connected, mobile information technology hub. When considered through the latter lens, facility managers see real opportunities for improvements and avoid time guessing at possible solutions.
A forklift fleet and operator management system offers visibility into an array of information, such as battery usage, impact history, truck utilization, OSHA compliance, service needs and more. If you currently utilize one with your fleet, make sure the electric rider pallet trucks connect to the system. This allows managers to see exactly how and when the trucks are being used, so they can evaluate operator productivity and safety and analyze overall fleet performance. And, of course, it is important to consider integration with your warehouse management system.
While electric rider pallet trucks offer a number of benefits for cold storage, you need to choose the forklifts deemed the best fit for your organization and business goals. It is critical to engage forward-thinking forklift manufacturers early in the process to maximize new technology benefits and ensure you have forklifts and technology that are a good match with your application, facility and operational strategy.