Filling the gaps with automation

In today’s contactless world, automation is set to play an increasingly critical role in warehousing and operations. Neil Beveridge, Product Manager – Automation at Toyota Material Handling Australia tells MHD why.

Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) has a number of different automated solutions. One particular vehicle that Neil is seeing an increase in interest in is the RAE Autopilot Reach Truck.

“One of the key benefits of this forklift, is that it is a hybrid manual/automated forklift. It can be used in either fashion,” Neil says.

The RAE Autopilot looks and feels like a regular Toyota reach truck, giving operators a sense of familiarity when they work with it for the first time. “We have found that sometimes operators are overwhelmed by automation. Sometimes they are expected to learn a completely new system when working with an autonomous forklift. A major benefit of this forklift is that its features and general look are similar to that of a manual forklift,” Neil says.

A further benefit of investing in a hybrid forklift is if an operator comes across non-conforming pallets or loads. Usually this would present a problem for an entirely automated forklift as it may not be able to handle them, resulting in a delay in operations. However, with the Toyota RAE Autopilot Reach Truck, operators can override the system and step in when needed.

“There’s greater flexibility with a forklift like this. You can troubleshoot and solve errors in a very timely manner by switching to manual if needed,” Neil says.

The RAE Autopilot provides the opportunity to run a 24/7 operation, something which Neil says we are set to see as demand for e-commerce and online shopping continues to increase.

“A lot of facilities are running eight to twelve hours a day. Within these shifts you see huge peaks in demand and volume. With automation, you have the opportunity to run operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This way you can flatten out your capacity so that you can get very consistent throughput levels. This makes it much easier to plan and predict the activities and capacity throughout your DC,” Neil says.

Furthermore, the forklift offers safety benefits. “The forklifts have a personal protective system, enabling 360-degree personnel protection. They feature safety sensors that detect if anyone is walking around the forklift,” Neil says.

Compared to relying on a human reaction to stop or manoeuvre a forklift, the automated safety sensors offer a higher level of accuracy. The forklifts also all connect with each other, and know where they all are at all times, completely removing the risk of collision.

Royal A-ware case study

In Heerenveen, Netherlands a company specialising in the production, ripening, packaging and transportation of cheese has deployed 12 Toyota RAE reach trucks.

Royal A-ware now runs a 24/7 operation with the help of Toyota’s automated forklifts. The 12 forklifts take care of the cheese transport between the production lines, the ripening rooms and the expedition area.

The forklifts feature a laser scanner that reads the reflectors on the wall, so that they can follow the layout that is programmed in the system manager from Toyota.

Each forklift is equipped with Lithium-ion battery technology. Ordinarily, batteries require a charging room, which takes up costly space. Alternatively, lithium-ion charging stations can be placed in the working area. So, if a forklift has no assignment, it can charge itself.

Implementing automation has allowed A-ware to apply their employees’ knowledge to run operations, and let the automated forklifts do the driving, adding value for the manual workers.

Royal A-ware is so pleased with the automated forklifts that it plans to automate more than 20 reach forklifts at another location.

A new world

The RAE Autopilot Reach Truck requires minimal supervision, this means that while we continue to practice social distancing the site can remain fully operational.

“This automated solution doesn’t require a large amount of labour in a tight space, you can control the system with minimal staff who are spread out,” Neil explains.

As we move to a new norm post COVID-19, Neil says that automation will play a huge role in warehousing and logistics operations.

This forklift is ideal for those looking for a first entry into automation, or those who have already introduced some level of automation.

“Whether you are looking at implementing AGV style automation, or large-scale, they all complement each other. The Toyota RAE Reach Truck is versatile and flexible so plays a crucial role in any sophisticated operation looking for efficiency, safety and productivity gains,” Neil says.

The Toyota RAE Autopilot Reach Truck comes in three different models; 1.6 tonne, 2 tonne and 2.5 tonne and can lift up to 10 metres in height.

For more information.

Freecall 1800 425 438 or visit toyotamaterialhandling.com.au for more information.

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