The stalwarts of any distribution operation, forklift trucks serve multiple purposes in today’s fast-paced warehouse and distribution centres, writes Ian Davies, Director of International Sales for Gamber-Johnson on the Panasonic Toughbook website. To ensure that those vehicles and their drivers stay efficient and productive in today’s “want it now” E-commerce distribution world, more companies are using tablets. They enable inventory tracking; assist with cross-docking and put-away; maximise material movement; and reduce the number of empty forklifts driving around the facility.
However, the same technology that helps companies replace their manual, paper-and-pencil inventory management methods also presents new challenges for firms that want to attach a mobile computing device to their forklift. How to create a safe, secure, and ergonomic experience for drivers?
Choosing the right device
Managing the middle piece, where the technology has to be securely mounted to the actual vehicle, can be difficult. The IT team that’s ordering the technology will ensures it connects with the infrastructure in the warehouse or distribution centre, but they are often not so familiar with the equipment mounting and operator training that is required to make the investment worthwhile.
The challenges don’t end there. In the fast-paced fulfilment environment, the technology itself has to be easy to use and include all of the adaptations that users want, for example, will keyboards and scanners be required? Without these peripherals, the technology itself quickly becomes a burden versus an efficiency-booster. There also has to be a place on the vehicle for those extras – something that IT purchasing departments don’t always fully appreciate when placing orders for tablets.
Flexibility is key
Another important consideration is labour turnover. If it’s high, it means you need solutions that can quickly adapt to any worker’s experience, size, weight, and preferences. A 150cm-tall forklift operator who weighs 50kg versus a 180cm-tall operator weighing 115kg will need their onboard computers placed in different ergonomic positions. No matter what type of technology is put on the vehicle, it needs to be ergonomically suitable for any operator with some simple adjustments.
A device-agnostic approach to mounting can be a smart move. As the mounts are vehicle-specific and clamp onto the forklift, the installation process is easier and requires no drilling (in most cases). Standard VESA and AMPS fittings on mounting plates mean that most vehicle docks can be attached with ease. This ensures longer lifespans for the mounts, which can continue to be used even as companies upgrade their technology.
Using an isolated power supply, also ensures that there’s always enough power for the device – and that the power is evenly distributed. At Gamber-Johnson, we have developed a 4.5m wiring harness to enable fast, efficient installation and it also helps to complete the entire mounting solution.
By providing the docking stations, power supplies, and mounts, it provides a one-stop-shop to bring mounted technology up to today’s standards and to update older, bulkier vehicle-mounted devices in favour of lighter tablets that require docking stations.
Questions to consider
When choosing a turnkey vehicle mounting solution for a lift truck fleet, companies should ask themselves these four important questions:
- Which specific devices are being mounted? Identifying your device ensures that you get the right dock or cradle to support your specific need and desired connectivity.
- Which vehicle model is the device being mounted to? This is important because it allows you to select the best possible mounting solution for mounting and installation of your device.
- What is the vehicle’s voltage? Knowing the voltage or power requirement of your forklift vehicle ensures that you can get the appropriate power supply for your specific need.
- What accessories need to be mounted? Barcode scanners, keyboards, printers, cup holders or other peripherals may need to be mounted. This makes a big difference to the ultimate solution.
This simple Q&A goes a long way in making sure companies get the best turnkey vehicle mounts for their specific applications. It also helps IT departments more readily determine what type of equipment and technology they need to be buying for their fulfilment operations.