Joining the debate regarding a growing operating trend in cold storage facilities
Some call it the “unsung hero.” Others aren’t so sure. Electric pallet trucks are quickly becoming an industry norm across cold storage facilities, but are they a worthwhile investment for you?
Incorporating this type of equipment into your daily operation and using it to replace manual pallet trucks must include careful consideration and research. Each refrigerated and frozen food warehouse facility should understand the benefits and downsides that come with using electric pallet trucks to decide if implementation is the best solution for their facility.
The good news first
Steve Harris, from Refrigerated and Frozen Foods, states that these devices can greatly increase productivity. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- Safe operations—avoiding the “Electric
slide”: Safety is always of utmost importance. In cold storage environments, floors can be slick and aisles can have limited space. Some of the available electric pallet trucks offer more durable materials in their build, contributing to a physically safer operation on these surfaces. Additionally, there are often settings on these trucks, such as speed and acceleration, which can be adjusted to meet each different operator’s skill level.
- Operator Comfort: The operators in a fast-paced cold storage facility must find and use ways to work in ergonomically-correct fashions. Using an electric pallet truck reduces fatigue with features such as power steering and supportive grips, so the operators are less likely to take shortcuts in their form while working.
- Connectivity: Harris says, “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 can sync and share information regarding battery life, impact history, truck utilization, OSHA compliance, service needs, and more, with several versions of electric pallet trucks.
There’s always a “but…”
There are a few challenges that are presented when considering electric pallet trucks for a facility, including:
- Temperature limitations: It’s important to know that the battery and any battery heater of an electric pallet truck is capable of reliably withstanding the lowest temperature found within your facility. Additionally, don’t forget to consider humidity, along with temperature—the electronics must be protected and capable of withstanding harsh environments.
- Charging Stations: Installation of charging stations for electric pallet trucks in an important consideration. Oftentimes, in retrofit situations, it can be challenging to find a convenient place to charge a pallet truck without it interfering with workflow. It’s also essential for these stations to be located in an area which doesn’t violate any food safety regulations: Remember to consider cross contamination.
- Structural Damage: Is your racking system up-to-date and modernized to withstand the use of an electric pallet truck? The operators of a pallet truck naturally may run into things within your facility. The racking system is likely in danger of suffering from this, while operators are using the pallet trucks to pull and place skids of product. Make sure that your racking is properly bolted to the floor, braced adequately and all parts installed correctly and intact.
- Higher Costs: Aside from the physical limitations, electric pallet trucks can be expensive. Your budget must not only accommodate for the initial purchasing cost, but the ongoing expenses involving repairs and maintenance to their specialized operating systems.
So, if you’re deciding between sticking with the traditional manual pallet trucks versus jumping on board with electric trucks, first evaluate and analyze your cold storage facility’s needs, services, environment, budget, and structure to see what suits your needs the best.
As co-owner of Galbraith/Pre-Design, Inc., Mark Galbraith is responsible for the construction of commercial facilities in nine states. Continuing his family’s tradition of commercial and industrial construction in south central Pennsylvania and beyond, Mark’s experience includes site analysis and selection, pre-construction services, field engineering and project management.