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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Boost Your Forklift Load Times

Regardless of the industry or application, there are certain time-consuming movements and operations that are both frustrating and inefficient for forklift operators.  When considered on an individual basis, such actions are inconsequential and usually completed without a seconds thought. If performed with any kind of regularity, however, the accumulated time spent on minor movements substantially reduces both efficiency and ROI.  

Take the process of repositioning a pallet or load, for example, which requires the operator to line the forklift up with the load, drive forward, lift, reverse, adjust position, drive forward (again), lower the load and back out (I know, I know, overkill right?).  I apologize for stating the obvious, but there’s a point here: imagine performing such an action with nearly every load you lift as a forklift operator?  Think about how quickly that extra minute or two per load would add up for every forklift in a 3 shift operation?  

In these types of situations, simple and cost-effective solutions such as forklift side shifters and fork positioners will improve efficiency, productivity and ROI by completing these movements in a matter of seconds, rather than minutes.  With the addition of a forklift side shifter, for instance, forklift operators are able to shift the forklift carriage and forks (with or without a load) several inches in either direct without moving the forklift.  In doing so, the forklift side shifter dramatically improves load times, and, consequentially, both efficiency and productivity. 

Unlike the side shifter, fork positioners does not allow an operator to shift a load laterally without moving the forklift.  Rather, fork positioners enable the operator to reposition the forks in unison or independently of each other and eliminates the time and manual labor required to adjust the position of the forks when dealing with different sizes of skid entry pockets.

The ability to independently move the forks and carriage of a forklift makes the forklift side shifter and the side shifting fork positioner indispensable attachments in space starved applications, including those with narrow aisles, smaller warehouses and side-by-side pallet storage.  Overall, these attachments help to reduce fuel consumption, truck wear, and pallet damage, as well as improve load handling times, efficiency, and productivity.  For more information on Stärke attachments, please visit us online or speak to a Stärke dealer near you!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What's the Deal with Straddles Anyways?

The internal combustion counterbalance forklift is one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the material handling industry and is what most people picture when they think about a lift truck.  Yet, in more confined narrow aisle applications, standard forklifts are too cumbersome and bulky to move goods and materials in a safe and efficient manner.  

In these constrictive work environments, narrow aisle alternatives to traditional forklifts are favored for their compact and maneuverable designs.  The improved maneuverability of these models – most notably straddle stackers and reach trucks – is often achieved by replacing the ponderous counterweights used in most forklifts with a set of stabilizing outriggers.  

These outriggers, widely known as straddle legs, extend from the front of the machine to prevent it from tipping forward while lifting a load.  This, in turn, substantially reduces the amount of clearance required to operate these units, making them an ideal fit for narrow aisle applications.

Manufacturers have taken full advantage of the straddled design since its introduction in the early 1950's, leading to its widespread use and popularity throughout the material handling industry.  Since then, countless models have incorporated the straddled design, with each new model addressing a new area of need, work environment or application.  With such a large number of possible variations, determining what type of stacker is best suited for your needs can be a difficult process unless you are familiar with what’s available on the market.  Taking that into consideration, we’ve created a list of the basic types of straddle lifts to help guide you through the selection process:

The Manual and Semi-Electric Straddle Stacker

The most straightforward option available in terms of straddled lifts, manual andsemi-electric straddle stackers serve as an ideal entry point for first time buyers.  With either manual (hand or foot operated) or power assisted lift functions, these models are generally used in low-volume applications for their low-cost and ease of upkeep.  Among the most common uses of the manual or semi-electric straddle stacker is in smaller retail operations, where they avoid ergonomically unsound hand-bombing and/or save hundreds to thousands of dollars in tailgate fees whenever trailers are loaded/unloaded without the aid of a drop-down tailgate.

The Walk Behind or Ride On Straddle Stacker

The next step up in terms of complexity, cost and productivity are electric straddlestackers, which feature fully electric lift and push-pull functions, thereby reducing the possibility of repetitive strain injuries caused by strenuous pushing and pulling.  With optional fold-down platforms and greater lifting capacities, these powered units offer a big upgrade in terms of productivity, particularly in applications that involve high volumes or longer distances between loads.  Possible applications include warehousing and retail environments which require vertical stacking of products and/or materials.  

The Forkover Straddle Stacker

Although the straddle stacker was originally developed in an effort to increase storage density in warehousing applications, the straddle leg itself has since fallen victim to same concern it initially address.  With an increasing need to maximize available storage space, the development of the forkover straddle stacker and its interlocking fork and straddle setup eliminated the need for additional spacing in between loads to accommodate the side-mounted straddles.  When used in conjunction with bottomless skids or bins, the forkover straddle stacker allows for side-by-side stacking, and, as a result, provides an additional 6 inches (or more) of storage space per pallet and a 15% (or more) increase in horizontal storage density. 

The Counterbalanced Stacker

In contrast to the straddle stackers profiled above, the counterbalanced stacker forgoes stabilizing straddle legs in favor of a heavy counterweight.  This design eliminates the need for wider shelving and uniform pallet sizes, but also eliminates the need for a crossbar setup beneath the shelving to accommodate the straddles while picking up loads. Similar to the forkover design, the counterbalanced stacker is widely used in warehousing applications where loads are stacked side-by-side to increase storage density.   

As you can see, countless iterations of the straddle stacker exist, with models specifically suited to most applications.  If you're still confused about what type best suits your needs, or would like information on Stärke comprehensive line of straddle stackers and reach trucks, contact your local Stärke dealership or visit Stärke online for more information. 

Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352

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Friday, January 20, 2017

The Forklift – A Productive History in Innovation

Unbeknownst to many, the powered lift truck has a history dating back over 100 years to the early 1900’s and the railway industry.  Despite differences in technology, the impetus behind this development still drives innovation today as manufacturers continuously develop faster, safer and more efficient means of handling materials.  While changes have occurred on the margins over the last 80 years or so, the defining characteristics of the modern forklift were originally developed during the first 30 years of the 20th century, with few fundamental changes occurring after the 1930’s.  To better illustrate this point, let’s consider a brief timeline in the history of the forklift:

1906 – The Development of the First Powered Platform Truck

It was in 1906 that the modern materials handling industry truly began to take shape.  Fittingly, the roots of the industry began in supply chain logistics with an adapted platform truck at a rail yard in Pennsylvania.  In order to efficiently handle baggage and loads, a railroad official decided to add a battery to a 4-wheel baggage cart, thus creating the first powered platform truck (which, as forklift123’s blog points out, makes the forklift older than sliced bread!).  What followed was the birth of an industry as rapid innovation lead to more complicated and efficient machines. 

1915 – The First Modern Lift Truck

Less than 10 years later, increased demand for efficiency during WWI resulted in the combination of the horizontal capabilities of the powered baggage cart with the vertical lifting power of the portable elevator.  When a power source was added two years later in 1915, the modern lift truck was born.  Similar in operation to a modern pallet truck, these lift trucks used an extended platform, which could be driven beneath a load, to lift and transport loads.  

1919 – The Introduction of the Cantilever and Forks

Shortly after the end of WWI, the modern forklift truly began taking shape with the introduction of the cantilevered forklift and front mounted forks.  With the addition of the cantilever, forklifts were capable of approaching a load directly from the front without requiring additional clearance for protruding front wheels.  Meanwhile, the introduction of forks and rams expanded the types of loads that could be handled. 

1920’s – The Final Touches

From 1920 through 1929, the fundamental form of the modern forklift was more or less completed.  Here, the final form forklift truly took shape with the shortening of the wheelbase through the rearrangement of the counterweight and operator’s cabin to the center of the forklift.  This innovation improved the stability of the forklift by moving the heaviest component of the forklift to the rear of the vehicle and at a maximum distance from the fulcrum and paved the way for the introduction of the independently tilting mast.  

By the end of the 1920’s, the basic form of the modern forklift was set.  After this point, few changes occurred to this basic form.  Instead, changes occurred at the margins to expand the versatility of the forklift.  At Stärke, we’re proud to take up the mantle of innovation, always introducing products with an eye towards efficiency.  And, with a full line of material handling products from Class II through Class VI, we take advantage of the full history of the forklift, truly a history of productive innovation.

What's next for the forklift?  Where do you think the industry is headed?  Leave a comment below and join the conversation!

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Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Easy to Implement Warehouse Optimization Tips

Generally speaking, it's not easy to achieve a high level of productivity in a warehouse.  One way to approach such a goal, however, is to implement measures that encourage a consistent level of focus and organization throughout your operation.  By doing so, your operation will be more productive, less costly, and provide a better working environment for employees and management alike.

Reduce Error Rates

An operation that suffers from high error rates is bound to suffer from lower productivity levels and excessive labor costs.  To help eliminate these issues, accurately track frequent errors, inform employees about which mistakes are made most frequently, and provide the training necessary to avoid those mistake in the future.  To encourage commitment and accountability, you can offer an incentive by posting a monthly commendation for employees who commit the fewest errors each month.

Promote a Clean and Tidy Workspace

Having a dirty and disorganized warehouse is not only bothersome, but it also reduces productivity and presents a safety hazard.  The first step to maintaining a clean warehouse is ensure all the necessary tools and equipment are easily available to all employees.  Be sure to take a quick stock of your cleaning supplies and make sure these are readily available when needed.  Potential cleaning supplies include mops, sweepers/brooms, cleaning supplies, squeegees, oil cleanup kits, and trash bins. 

Next, make sure each employee is aware of their individual responsibilities and encourage them to take ownership and accountability for their area of responsibility.  You can take this a step further by posting a monthly list of cleanliness awards, given out to those employees that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to their cleaning duties.  Finally, be sure to review the overall importance of maintaining a clean working environment with all employees so that they understand the benefits and dangers associated with their responsibilities.

Facilitate Organization

Without the proper organization, a warehouse operation are likely to become chaotic and counterproductive, so it’s important that all employees know where and when they should be at all times.  Begin this process by posting proper signage throughout your warehouse to help pedestrian and equipment operators navigate the warehouse in a safe and efficient manner.  Clearly labeling and assigning designated paths for pedestrians and equipment helps to streamline the flow of products and people, thereby eliminating potential safety hazards and increasing productivity. 

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Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Key Questions to Ask When Purchasing Material Handling Equipment

Selecting the right forklift or lift truck for your business is a complicated process that requires more than a simple comparison of models, specifications and/or prices.  The appropriate fit depends upon the application and environment in which the lift truck will operate, so it’s important to carefully consider the unique needs of your business, the details of the application and the work environment. When properly selected, a forklift or lift truck is capable of increasing productivity, throughput and storage efficiency, as well as lowering overall operating costs.  So, with that in mind, let’s consider 3 areas of importance for selecting the right forklift or lift truck for your business:

1. Work Environment

The situational conditions of your work environment are key determining factors when it comes to selecting an appropriate lift truck as the surface of your floors, location and layout will all influence model selection, especially in regards to vehicle fuel and tire type.  Is the surface of your floor smooth or rough?  Is it littered with debris?  Will the vehicle operate indoors, outdoors or a combination of the two?  What are the dimensions of your aisles, shelving, entrances and ceilings?  Is your building equipped to filter out additional internal combustion emissions? 

2. Application

Within each category of lift truck, whether its forklifts, reach trucks, order pickers, dock stockers, straddle stackers or pallet trucks, there are a variety of configurations and subtypes, each of which are suited to specific tasks and applications.  To determine what model type best suits your business, be sure to consider load composition (solid or liquid), load dimensions (length, width, height, shape and weight), pallet and container types (standard, short or long pallets, bottomless pallets or bins, drums, etc.) and the distance traveled between loads.   

3. Operating Costs

The cost of purchasing a lift truck go well beyond the purchase price, so it’s important to consider the total cost of ownership, which refers to sum of all the expected expenses over the lifetime of the equipment.  A variety of factors influence a given model’s total cost of ownership including the purchase price, financing fees, fuel costs, overall productivity, the frequency and cost of regular service and maintenance, and the possibility for unexpected repairs and downtime.  

One way of determining a model’s total cost of ownership is to calculate its CPM or its cost per pallet moved, which offers insight into the relative value of each model while controlling for differences between facilities.  To calculate the CPM, divide the daily operating costs by the number of pallets an operator is capable of transporting per shift with a given piece of equipment.  An alternate method of cost calculation involves calculating adding up the total cost of operating the equipment and dividing it by the total hours used to determine the cost per hour.  

As you can see, it's extremely important to find a competent dealer with the knowledge and experience needed to appropriately answer all of these questions.  For help finding a Stärke dealership near you, please visit Stärke's find a dealer page today!

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Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Get the Most Out of Your Equipment

At this time of year, everyone's bank accounts are starting to feel a little tight as the holiday season fast approaches.  With that mind, let's look at a few ways you can save your business some money and make your account happy by getting the most out of your forklift heading into 2017:

Improve your fuel efficiency 

Checking Tire Pressure 

One of the simplest ways of boosting your fuel efficiency and improving safety is to ensure your forklift’s tires are properly inflated.  With under-inflated tires, a forklift can suffer from poor traction, a hazard which increases the chances of workplace accidents and reduces productivity.  On the other hand, over-inflated tires may result in blow outs that cause injury and product/property damage, and increase downtime.

Reduce Fuel Waste 

For many businesses, a lack of standardization and an inefficient floor layout are the primary causes of wasted fuel.   Here, lack of standardization causes additional idle time while waiting for loads while an inefficient layout causes operators to drive further between loads than necessary.  To address these issues, examine day-to-day work processes and consult with your employees to determine an effective means of standardizing work flows and optimizing your layout to minimize unproductive actions and wasted fuel.

Improve Productivity 

Software Options 

Through fleet management software, employers now have access to detailed information on equipment usage and productivity.  This information allows employers to identify process inefficiencies, eliminate idle time, and make more accurate labor and inventory projections.

Regular Maintenance Schedules 

By following a regular maintenance schedule, managers can schedule work to accommodate for unavailable equipment and minimize disruptions.  Additionally, regular maintenance protects against unexpected downtime due to equipment breakdowns and extends the service life of the equipment.

Equipment Options

For some equipment owners, there’s a great deal of confusion about the difference between a forklift’s functional life and its reasonable economic life.  Even though a well-maintained forklift can remain in operation for over 20 years, its economic life is far shorter as it becomes harder to justify the expenses required to maintain the unit or the opportunity costs associated with lower levels of productivity.

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Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

7 Years of Change - One Warranty: Stärke Manual Pallet Jack

What does a warranty say about a manufacturer’s faith in its products?  At Stärke, we believe a well-backed warranty provides a strong indication about the quality of our equipment and the strength of our commitment to customers and dealers alike.  Without this commitment, we wouldn’t offer an industry-leading, 7 year warranty on our manual pallet jacks.  This is something we do without concern for lost revenues or profits. 

Just to illustrate this point, I would like you to think back and consider all that’s occurred over the past 7 years, beginning with the year 2009.  What was going on in the world?  What were we watching in movie theaters?  What was happening on television?  What music were we listening to?

If you’re having difficulty remembering, let’s consider a few points:
  • With the 2016 election cycle in full swing, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t until February of 2009 that Barrack Obama finished his first 100 days in the White House after taking office in November of the previous year as the U.S. made history by electing the first African-American president in U.S. history.
  •  In 2009, a housing crisis in the U.S. combined with financial instability brought about the greatest economic recession since the Great Depression.
  • H1N1 or the “swine flu” was seen as the next great pandemic causing a panic and fear across North America.
  • Theatre audiences flocked to see the latest film in the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince while the adults watched a worthy Best Film of the Year winner in The Hurt Locker.
  • In living across the North America, captive television audiences watched the first full season of Breaking Bad and the beginning of the end for Walter White, looked on as the Draper family began to disintegrate on Mad Men, and scratched their heads in confusion as the mysteries of Lost were finally revealed.
  • In the world of sports, two of the most iconic franchises in North American sports – the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers – won yet another championship to the delight and dismay of many. In the NHL, Sydney Crosby finally fulfilled his potential and won his first Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins while boxing fans saw Floyd Mayweather, Jr. return from retirement for a second time to face Juan Manuel Marquez.
  • Both Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber were beloved symbols of youthful innocence.
  • Teenagers and celebrities had yet to become hooked on the social media phenomenon that has become Snap Chat.  
As you can see, a lot can happen and change over a 7 year period.  So, if you're in need of a manual pallet jack, choose a Stärke, where you'll find that some things never change.  The holds true for all of our equipment, where our warranties stand above the competition.  

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Local: (905)-227-7554  |  Toll free: 1-877-435-4352