What You Need to Know About Self-Driving Forklifts - Ace Equipment

What You Need to Know About Self-Driving Forklifts

Automated Forklifts’ Popularity is Increasing

Technology has continued to progress at exceedingly fast rates. In the early stages of the 20th century, society would make advancements with many years in between them. As we enter 2020, the rate at which technology advances is extraordinary. Each year, the world experiences innovative changes designed to improve the lives of people all across the globe. Self-driving cars are no longer just a fun idea in science-fiction movies. For example, companies like Tesla have implanted self-driving computers in all of their new cars.

However, these advancements, while amazing and world-changing, are still far from perfect. There are still too many variables for self-driving cars to safely and efficiently maneuver on roads. However, that same AI technology has been used to aid and assist other industries, such as the warehousing industry.

Automated guided vehicles (AGVs) have taken technology used in self-driving cars to improve the productivity and efficiency in warehouses. This technology has allowed forklifts to operate 100% on their own, providing warehouse owners a host of benefits.

Self-driving forklifts have outpaced their automobile counterparts because the environment they work in is closed and more controlled. For self-driving cars, they operate in an open environment with too many variables. While AI technology is quite impressive, it still has plenty of flaws.

The challenges for automated forklifts in warehouses are far easier and fewer for AI technology to master, and warehouse owners have taken advantage of this opportunity. Self-driving forklifts have begun to find themselves in many warehouses all across the country. Ace Equipment is here to provide you with some important information about these machines.

How They Work

AGVs operate using advanced computer technology and AI. Self-driving forklifts are programmed to monitor their surroundings, tracking and mimicking the actions of human workers. They learn how to move and operate in the safest and most efficient way possible. They can easily move, lift, and stack items as if a human were controlling them.

Automated forklifts are built with sensors that allow them to monitor the environment around them, which also includes human workers. Being able to sense their environment allows them to predict movements that allow them to conduct their job effectively. They are also able to track the fastest and safest route through the warehouse, avoiding any obstacles in their way.

It’s important to note that most self-driving forklifts do have the ability to be manually operated, which allows you to take control when a job requires a more creative solution. They are constantly being updated with data that allows them to safely perform the tasks they are given, reducing the risk of danger while improving productivity.

Benefits of Self-Driving Forklifts

Automated forklifts are quickly finding their place within many warehouses all across the world. While this technology is still only emerging, there are already plenty of proven benefits of implementing them within your warehouse. Here are just a few of the advantages of self-driving forklifts:

  • Helps With Labor Shortage: It’s no secret that the demand for skilled warehouse workers, especially certified forklift operators, continues to grow. Automated forklifts help you keep up with this demand by reducing the need to hire as many workers.
  • Reduces Costs of Labor: To pair along with the previous benefit, these forklifts also help reduce labor costs. While forklifts are expensive, especially self-driving ones, the most expensive part of owning and operating a forklift is paying the operator. While you will still have to pay operating costs, using automated forklifts significantly reduces them.
  • Increases Productivity: All warehouses workers get tired and eventually need a break. That’s just part of being human. Self-driving forklifts can operate constantly without any breaks or slowdowns in operation. They never miss work either. Additionally, they can also work 24 hours a day without anyone on night shifts.
  • Improves Safety: Self-driving forklifts are equipped with obstacle detection and laser guidance systems to ensure that they operate as safely as possible. They will be able to avoid collisions with everything from full pallets to humans.

Common Concerns 

While self-driving forklifts are an inevitability in the future of warehouses, there are plenty of concerns surrounding them. In a recent report, roughly 25% of U.S. employment will face high exposure to automation in the coming years. Automation threatens to substitutes over 70% of the tasks human workers currently do. Understandably, many workers fear that robots will take their jobs.

However, that’s far from the case. While it is likely that automated forklifts will take jobs that have repetitive and routine tasks, when it comes to jobs that require creativity, critical thinking, and responses to the unpredictable, humans cannot be replaced. Forklift operators are at risk but only slightly. With automated forklifts, many jobs still require humans, such as:

  • Manual forklift operation for difficult jobs
  • Managing automated forklift fleets
  • Self-driving forklift service and repair

Other Concerns 

Outside of the obvious threat of lost jobs, there are a few concerns for warehouses and warehouse workers, including:

  • Increased Upfront Costs: While self-driving forklifts will inevitably reduce labor costs in the future, the fact that these machines are so new means that they will be very expensive upfront. If you are a smaller, new company on a tight budget, these high costs may not fit in your budget. However, over time, these prices will likely drop.
  • More Training: People are often set in their ways. They don’t react well to change, nor are they always willing to accept it. As with all new technologies, there will be a learning curve for all employees. They will need to be trained on their new automated machines and the best practices for them.
  • Increased Maintenance: Every forklift needs maintenance every once and awhile. Automated forklifts are much different than traditional forklifts, which means you will need to find someone trained in repairing these forklifts and a trusted supplier of replacement parts.

Automated forklifts are slowly but surely finding themselves in warehouses across the globe. They have outpaced the integration of self-driving cars. While they are still in their infancy in the warehousing industry, they are already becoming a welcome addition. If you have any questions regarding self-driving forklifts or wish to buy or rent a forklift yourself, contact Ace Equipment.