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Material Handling Insights

Apr 28, 2022 11:12:00 AM // 6 min read

How Electrification Can Enhance The Efficiency of Material Handling

By Marcus Turner
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As fuel prices rise and the climate crisis deepens, companies working in all industries may be looking for new solutions like electrification to enhance the efficiency of their material handling operations. Investing in electrification has the ability to offer both short and long term benefits, including enhanced efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and an overall reduced TCO (total cost of ownership).

Read on to discover the ways in which electrification can enhance the efficiency of your material handling operations.

7 key benefits of utilising electric vehicles in the material handling industry:

 

1. No exhaust fumes


Electric vehicles don’t release exhaust fumes. As opposed to engine trucks, an electric truck does not release harmful emissions which is why they’re typically associated with indoor use only (we’ll get onto why that is not the case later on). Many businesses use engine trucks in their warehouses, but those who do have to implement things like ventilation systems to counteract the effects of exhaust fumes. 

If you do have warehouse doors open for ventilation purposes, the building won’t retain heat which increases your heating bills, particularly in most warehouses where the heating is kept at an ambient temperature in order to ensure warehouse operators are working in comfortable environments.

Without an efficient ventilation system in place, companies will be infringing on laws such as the COSHH Regulation 9 UK legislation that requires employers to prevent or reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous substances. Electric vehicles emit zero emissions, working towards a healthier way of working for both employees and the wider environment.

 

2. Easier and quicker refuelling 


Compared to an engine truck, it’s a lot easier and quicker to refuel an electric vehicle, especially those machines that utilise lithium. To ‘refuel’ electric vehicles that use lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, you simply park the machine and plug it in. With an engine forklift truck, the operator would have to drive it somewhere, likely outside where fuel is typically kept, for safety reasons, all of which takes time.

This is a strain on the operator and increases downtime. Li-ion-powered forklift trucks offer the opportunity to be plugged in when an operator is on their break – allowing time for them to recharge the machine and then drive back to the workspace when the break is over or once it’s sufficiently charged. 

 

3. Less noise


Electric vehicles are quieter than traditional engine-powered forklift trucks. The lack of noise pollution makes for a more comfortable working environment for operators which increases productivity. If you can create a quieter workspace where your staff are happy, they will work more efficiently.

In terms of operators being aware of the machines around them, whilst electric forklifts generate less noise, they are equipped with safety features such as fitted lighting and backup alarms that highlight those in the vicinity of their presence.

Our new electric counterbalance forklift, the FB/FTB14-20(L)-E3 is fitted with a low-noise gearbox that improves the noise conditions for drivers and those around them. Learn more in this article.

 

4. Advanced technology


Electric vehicles are now designed with advanced technological elements that are directly built into the truck. For operators to feel happy and truly be productive, their safety and comfort are key. Many electric forklift trucks are now equipped with ergonomic features and systems such as: 

- Spring-force-optimised hydraulic controls

- Floating steering wheels

- Thumbwheel throttle for speed control

- Low-noise gearboxes

- Tilt-levelling

- Pre-programmed driving modes

And more.

These built-in features make their usage a lot safer and more efficient for operators which reduces the risk of injury, increases uptime, and works towards reducing a company’s TCO.

Discover the advantages and disadvantages of lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries in this overview article.

 

5. Lower maintenance 


Electric forklifts have fewer mechanical components than their engine counterparts. That means they require less maintenance, they’re easier to service, and money can be saved due to the expense that additional parts can bring.

Additionally, electric forklift trucks do not require as many fluids – such as oils and coolants which are necessary for engine-powered vehicles. A reduced need for maintenance and servicing means the vehicles can spend more time in operation – reducing downtime.

To learn how to protect your equipment, take a look at this article which details 5 electric forklift maintenance tips.

 

6. Cost-effective

Energy prices are rising, that’s no secret. At the point of purchase, electric forklifts generally have a higher upfront cost than engine-powered vehicles. Despite this, an electric truck, if it's properly cared for and specified for the right application, it’s still more energy-efficient and cost-effective than an engine truck which requires time-consuming fuel refills and expensive installation of ventilation equipment.

Once the initial cost is paid and charging stations are installed, organisations utilising electrification can enjoy benefits such as reduced downtime, reduced maintenance costs, and improved employee productivity which all work together to reduce your TCO.

Take a look at this guide and discover how your forklift fleet is really contributing to your material handling costs — and how to reduce them.

 

7. Versatile application

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Contrary to what some may think, electric trucks can be used both indoors and outdoors. The narrow chassis of electric forklifts makes manoeuvring around the tight aisles of a warehouse seamless. And with electric counterbalance forklifts like TCM’s 80V FHB 2.5-3.5 and FHB 4.0-5.5 four-wheel counterbalance, their responsive and ergonomic design, optimised visibility, advanced power, and all-wheel steering system enable agile manoeuvering of the truck both in warehouses and on various outdoor sites.

 

It’s time to seriously consider electrification

The ban on diesel engines is set to come into play by 2030. That means it will be illegal for automakers to sell new gas, diesel, and even hybrid-powered vehicles in the UK. There’s no time like the present, but making the switch to electric vehicles doesn’t have to happen overnight. By making incremental changes, learning more about electrification and incorporating electric-powered vehicles into your operations, you can be confident that you’re doing your bit to improve the bottom line for your business, the working conditions for your team, and the global environment.

If you want help navigating your electrification journey, whether it’s advice on battery type or answering questions about battery charging or fleet management, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local TCM dealer today.

 

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