Warehouses are busy places these days. Whether it's the growth of e-commerce, global trade, or shrinking lead times, material handling environments are dealing with more traffic and more volume.
All that hustle and bustle can lead to some serious safety concerns as workers scramble to meet these growing demands.
Safety is one of the reasons many companies are considering compact, customizable solutions for their material-handling needs, says Ryan Blesi, vice president of material handling and a design engineer at Nu-Star, Inc.
"The more forklift traffic you have in a plant or facility, the more potential there is for accidents to occur," Blesi says. "The forks stick out, which can be a hazard. There are entire safety programs focused on reducing forklift traffic and being safer. A walk-behind piece of equipment gives you a better line of sight to what's going on around you."
Specifically, Blesi is referring to a battery-powered cart that can move boxes, tools, and heavy components with fewer safety issues that some plants and warehouses may experience with forklifts.
Nu-Star manufacturers an electric cart called the Power Pusher ET-100 Transporter, which can transport loads weighing up to 1,100 pounds. While the cart can transport heavy loads, its footprint is typically much smaller than a forklift, and unlike lift trucks, users don't need to be certified to operate them, Blesi says.
One unique feature is an onboard battery charger. The integrated charger means operators don't need to store a separate unit to charge the cart.
Other features that increase flexibility in industrial environments include:
- A front-wheel transaxle drive designed for simplified turning and maneuvering regardless of load weight
- A top speed adjustment that allows for the most appropriate settings based on individual applications, settings, and needs
- The option for a free-wheel mode that provides unrestricted wheel rotation when necessary
In addition, the cart includes safety-specific features that may reduce the potential for major accidents or injuries, such as an emergency stop bump switch for immediate stopping and automatic brakes that help prevent collisions or damage.
The automatic braking system is built into the logic of the motor controller, Blesi says. If an operator takes his or her hand off the throttle, the cart will slow to a stop.
Ready for Lift-Off
Some carts also provide lifting capabilities similar to forklifts with fewer potential risks. Nu-Star's ET-105 powered lift table is a mobile table with an adjustable height.
Like the ET-100, it has a 1,100-pound drive capacity and also features an 800-pound lift capacity, and serves multiple functions. It can operate as a temporary workstation or it can hold and raise equipment and parts.
One of the unique features of the ET-105 is the combination of a powered platform and a scissor lift in a single unit, Blesi says.
"A lot of equipment out there will have a manual scissor lift on it that you have to raise up and raise down by hand and will have a powered deck or it might have a powered raise-and-lower scissor lift, but you have to manually push it around," Blesi explains. "This has a powered drive and a powered scissor lift."
The powered lift offers significant ergonomic benefits, Blesi says.
"People don't have to bend over and lift, so they have appropriate working height if they're building or unloading something onto a shelf," he says. "They can easily raise it to whatever height they're working with."
The ET-105 also includes a max throttle adjuster for additional safety benefits. Operators can adjust the throttle for a slower or faster maximum speed depending on their environment.
"If you're in a small area, for example, you might not want the unit to go very fast, but if you're in a bigger warehouse environment you might want to increase your speed," Blesi explains.
Other key features include:
- A fingertip release for simplified lowering at any weight within the table's capacity
- Two swivel casters equipped with brakes and two rigid polyurethane casters provide for more efficient movement over multiple surfaces
- Rust-resistant frame and platform are made of powder-coated steel for increased durability
In addition, companies can customize the cart or lift to meet their unique needs, which is becoming increasingly important as industrial environments evolve, Blesi says.
"For example, if someone needs a larger table to fit pallets on it, we can do that," Blesi says. "We'll engineer a solution to what they want to do with it."