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Pedestrian stackers provide alternative to forklifts

Pedestrian stackers provide alternative to forklifts

Combilift’s pedestrian stackers provide a range of benefits, including making the manufacturing space safer and more efficient. Food & Beverage Industry News reports.

Forklifts and industrial lifting trucks critical to mobilising bulk goods and heavy equipment in many industries, including food and beverage.

For all intents and purposes, conventional forklifts have long been considered the most practical solution for lifting, stacking, and transferring loads in warehouses, factories, shipping yards and freight terminals.

Despite this, and according to a Federal Government study, forklift operation can pose persistent challenges for businesses by hindering the productive handling of goods, limiting warehousing space and accounting for a disproportionate amount of workplace injuries each year.

As a result, many Australian businesses have started to investigate alternatives to traditional forklifts to address these concerns.

This change in approach is already leading to companies converting their forklift fleets to pedestrian stackers – also known as ‘walkie’ units – as their chosen carrying solution for handling loads on site.

Combilift, a leading provider or forklifts, elevated work platforms, cleaning equipment, and fleet management, is seeing this change in the wind firsthand.

Combilift’s range of pedestrian stackers are providing safer alternatives to traditional forklift models while boosting productivity and conserving warehousing space, again, addressing some of the historical downsides around forklift use.

“Safety advantages are one of the reasons that we are seeing more customers utilising our pedestrian trucks in Australia,” said Chris Littlewood, country manager Australia, Combilift.

“But there has also been a notable shift in attitude within the Australian market.

“Customers are beginning to recognise the inherent value of opting for pedestrian vehicles, including efficiency gains, cost savings, and productivity advantages.”

Conventional forklifts provide added risk in a facility or factory setting, simply because it’s a large piece of machinery being moved around active work sites, particularly in smaller and high foot traffic areas.

One of the key benefits of pedestrian trucks is that they operate at walking pace.

“One of the biggest challenges with conventional forklifts is their rigid and inflexible mobility, particularly when they are carrying heavy loads,” said Littlewood.

“A further issue is that the driver is in a cab, so physically as well as psychologically distanced from other people nearby.

“This results in a lower level of awareness of their surroundings, and it is all too easy to drive at inappropriate speeds, increasing the likelihood of accidents and injuries to co-workers.”

Foot injuries are by far the most reported incidents around the use of forklifts.

In September 2021, SafeWork NSW released an astonishing figure representing more than 598 forklift injuries– five of which were fatal– that had occurred over the previous two years.

According to the figures several of these incidents included collisions between forklifts or other vehicles, rollovers, and objects falling off forklifts when loading or unloading.

“Whether it be at a hardware site, a steel distribution centre, a timber wholesaler or a food production facility, foot injuries are a major forklift safety issue associated with operational downtime and worker compensation,” added Littlewood.

“This is why one of our key focuses when designing and developing our range of pedestrian stackers was minimising the risk of operator injuries.”

These were all key drivers behind Combilift’s desire to develop something which could mitigate the risks associated with traditional forklifts.

This idea was the basis for the all-wheel drive multidirectional forklift concept that would later become a feature of Combilift’s range of forklift products.

“After broadening our focus to include warehousing and efficiency modelling that required our engineering team to interact more closely with our customers and analyse their operational models, we soon recognised that customers had several other high priorities needs to be addressed, including mitigating the risks of forklift operation,” said Martin McVicar, CEO and co-founder of Combilift.

While developing what would ultimately become the pedestrian stacker model, engineers began exploring ways to innovate their materials handling solutions, ensure greater operational safety, and eliminate the need for forklift operator qualifications that were hindering productivity for many businesses.

While doing this the team was also keenly aware of the need to maintain an emphasis on optimising spatial efficiency and productive handling methods so as not to lose out on other benefits in place of new benefits.

The pedestrian stacker has continued to grow in popularity since its inception, and Combilift credits the early success of the product to its partnership with Bunning’s Warehouse.

A case study shows how after years of using Combilift’s C Series forklifts the company approached them about the development of a pedestrian stacker vehicle as an alternative.

“We went to the drawing board with a clean slate and set to work developing a forklift alternative that would truly innovate Bunning’s unique material handling needs,” said McVicar.

The result was the first Combilift pedestrian reach vehicle, which would become the prototype for the Combi-WR in Australia.

With new versatility and reach, the unit is able to operate in an aisle as narrow as 2m pallet-to-pallet, demonstrating great versatility.

The addition of Combilift’s patented multi-position tiller arm has also allowed operators to reach side to side– removing them from the dangerous ‘crush zone’ when navigating pallets through narrow aisles. Addressing the major areas of incident around forklift work place health and safety.

In addition to the significant safety and productivity benefits offered by Combilift’s walkie models customers can also increase the efficiency of their space by consulting with Combilift, an important aspect for companies looking to adopt the vehicle type for the first time.

“Space saving capabilities have always been an inherent feature shared among all the vehicles Combilift has brought to market, and we are really invested in solving spatial challenges for our clients,” said Littlewood.

“So, offering a spatial design service was the next logical course of action for us.

“Offering this service gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in the area, as well as gain further insight into the varying spatial problems that our customers and potential customers may encounter.

“Furthermore, it gives us the opportunity to connect with and engage businesses on a more personal level and build those relationships.”

The size and versatility of the pedestrian stackers also mean they can be used in areas where forklifts have not been able to reach, which can result in a string of benefits for a user, including not having to upscale warehousing space just for forklift use.

The Combilift pedestrian units handle loads from 800 kg up to 16 tonnes, but as Littlewood reaffirms, operational safety was of paramount importance during the design stage.

“The range incorporates a number of features to ensure utmost safety, not only for the operators but also for other personnel and members of the public who may be in the vicinity,” he said.

“Depending on a customer’s lifting requirements, the Combilift range of pedestrian units are ergonomically designed to allow for smoother lifting action and improved operator control, stability, visibility, and efficiency.

“The operator’s position allows a greater level of control over the products when moving them around, with four- way capability in even the narrowest aisles.”

Combilift’s range of pedestrian pallet trucks and stackers is extensive, 30 models and counting, which means there should be a solution for just about any company with a requirement.

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