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The right lift
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Supplying forklifts since 1976

What we do

Since 1976 H&F Trucks have provided local business with high quality materials handling solutions. For nearly four decades we have achieved steady growth year on year, enabling us to provide superior service to our customers from a stable & sustainable business platform.

Are Robot Forklifts the Future?

Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been working on advancing the way that we do, well, almost anything. We’ve moved into a more streamlined, simplified and often automated way of working, especially in business.

Industrial workplaces such as warehouses demand this kind of efficiency which is why talk of robot forklifts has inevitably arisen. Certainly, since around the 50s, automated systems have been a part of day-to-day activities –  such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

AGVs already require no human interaction and can move stock and such things around the warehouse without assistance. They can load and unload materials without the need for human intervention and can complete horizontal and vertical movements. These types of vehicles can work in extremely complex environments and employ highly engineered solutions to intelligently move mobile equipment around. They’ve come a long way since they originated and some even have forklift attachments that use laser technology to retrieve pallets.

But will we see a progression to driverless forklifts?

Well, obviously, we don’t want to see a world in which a forklift driver job may be obsolete; gone the way of cassette tapes, floppy disks and personal pagers. However, the technology has already been developed.

Seegrid, a company in Pittsburgh, has pioneered a vision technology which takes 3 pictures per second to develop a comprehensive map of its route, as well as storing up to 25 miles of travel paths in its memory. This technology can be applied to industrial mobile equipment to automate horizontal transport of materials.

This would allow costs to be reduced but can only manage a relatively low complexity of repetitive horizontal movements. With order picking processes or stock management, human forklift drivers would have to perform the vertical putaways so there is still a high degree of human interaction with the machine.

There are some other issues that are being faced too.

Logistical problems can arise due to the high level of human, machine, software, and wireless communication integration and interaction that is needed. Ensuring the whole process is working at 100% efficiency and safety can be tricky.

Finding a solution to enable multiple vehicles to pass each other on the same aisle whilst in operation is tough and current warehouse measurements may not allow for it in some cases. Again, a human override system would need to be put in place in the event that vehicles needed to pass each other and couldn’t.

With any system that you implement, you can expect to experience some latency. But this can see a drop in productivity. Just a 5-second delay could result in a decrease in productivity by around 20%. So even though you could cut costs by implementing the system, it may end up costing more in the long-run. Absolute certainty of no latency would need to be established.

 

To summarise, there is obviously a big difference between AGVs and driverless forklifts and whilst the technology is still quite new, it seems to be promising. The great thing about the technology is that even if “robot forklifts” do become the new norm, there will still be jobs for people who will need to be trained to control them – just not drive them.

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Testimonials

H&F Lift Trucks are a pleasure to deal with. All staff, Technicians, Sales and Directors have hands-on experience of all ranges of vehicles they supply. From initial assessments and listening to all users of a potential new vehicle requirement, they keep us informed of all aspects of specification and lead times through to delivery. Their maintenance service is superb – they organise suitable times around our busy working day with our Yard Managers. Any accidental damage or operator error faults are always discussed with me and dealt with fairly – not like some unscrupulous suppliers who seek to profit at every service visit! In a cut-throat market, where we are offered “good deals” a few quid cheaper every day, we are never tempted to stray.

James Hipkins, Managing Director
Emerys

H&F have supplied us with all our fork lift equipment for in excess of ten years now, and have maintained it in accordance with our stringent operation requirements. During this time they have provided a consistently high level of service (including short term hire when required) whilst never failing to support us in a totally honest and professional manner.

Ashley Basset, Director
R G Bassett & Sons Ltd

Pym and Wildsmith have been working closely with H&F Fork Trucks for many years. Their service is excellent, ranging from prompt callouts to breakdowns through to the supply of new trucks. We would not hesitate to recommend them.

Ian Pym, Operations Manager
Pym & Wildsmith

We cover a 30 mile radius