A company can stand in the growing competition with high quality and low cost production, by increasing the amount of output per unit time. The issue of reducing operational expenses and maximizing profits is always the main concern and research subject in all companies. To achieve success, it is possible to improve the competitive conditions of companies by reducing the costs per unit output. In cost reduction studies of operational activities; purchasing costs, production costs and marketing costs are gaining importance. With the modern material handling vehicles, transport between departments and between processing points depending on automation activities can be provided in a more effective and faster way. So, by the efforts for low cost in production activities it is possible to manage this decrease in the workforce and increase in the production per unit time.
The basis of cost reduction efforts can be achieved by continuously reducing human-related activities, and increasing the amount of output per unit time. Depending on the technology, it is possible to continuously produce products and services in the same quality and quantities with the use of less manpower. Technology here provides convenience in production and storage activities in all industries by offering different solutions and alternatives. Transportation with forklifts is the most common of these applications. The convenience provided by forklifts in lifting and transporting loads, and versatility in usage is increasing day by day.
Technological developments constantly create new products and business lines due to increasing demand. These business lines prefer cost effective mechanical lifting and transportation machines instead of inadequate and costly manpower in the production, storage and shipment stages of raw material, and semi-finished and finished products.
At this stage, the increase in the need for lifting and conveying machines, increase in the amount of utilization provided by these and the increase in the use of developing technology, reveal alternatives that provide advantage against manpower. Additionally, they also facilitate work in all industrial and commercial activities, including production in various business lines, interim storage, main warehouses, and shipment stages. Forklifts are one of the most frequently used technologies due to their diversity and availability in production and non-production environments.
Direct Contribution of Forklifts to Production
Forklifts provide easier, faster and safer displacement of loads than human-oriented transport. Forklifts, used for storage, interim storage and stacking purposes, are more advantageous machines for loading, transporting and stacking heavy materials over other applications.
Forklifts reduce the intervention of employees, reduce ergonomic risks, protect employees from accidents and occupational diseases, and increase productivity. Calculation of labor gain and time factor is sufficient for the benefit to be achieved in forklift use. It is possible to complete a job in minutes using a forklift where considerable manpower, that will take time, might be required to complete the same job. Therefore, forklifts contribute to production by reducing transportation times.
With the increase in the use of standard pallets in activities such as transportation, storage and loading; by ensuring that the loads can be stacked on top of each other, vertical storage methods have been developed which has maximized the use of storage space, thus, gradually increasing the use of forklifts. This claim can be enforced by a study conducted by ReportsnReports, which claimed that approximately 1334 million forklifts were sold globally in 2017 with a year-on-year increase of 15.7%. It is estimated that forklift sales in 2023 will double that in 2018. This increasing usage and the utility that forklifts provide, has led to the development and diversification of forklifts.
Work Accidents vs. Benefits of Forklifts
In addition to their advantages, forklifts have become one of the important elements of occupational safety, considering the accidents caused by the forklifts. They might constantly cause accidents at workplaces. When the necessary precautions are not taken or implemented against this, number of accidents can increase on a day to day basis that may result in deaths.
Organizations around the world classify accidents according to the major accident titles. Accidents described as occupational accidents due to forklifts are seen in main groupings such as being under a tipping load or machine, injury resulted from vehicle overturning, crashing moving loads or machines, stuck between moving loads or machines, and vehicles crashing people.
In Turkey, number of accidents recorded by Social Security Institute (SGK) under "Storage and supporting activities for transportation" between 2013-2017 is examined below.
Figure 1 Graph of Occupational accidents in storage and supporting activities group for transportation by years (SSI statistics, 2019)
It can be observed that the number of accidents has been rising every year with the increasing use of forklifts while there has been a lack of emphasis on safe operation of forklifts in factories.
EUROSTAT claims that 1% of accidents in EU factories was caused by mobile handling equipment whereas these 1% resulted in 10% of all physical injuries. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Agency), 85 forklift fatalities, 34,900 serious injuries while 61,800 non-serious injuries happen on a yearly basis.
A Dutch research compiled and analyzed data of forklift accidents claimed that these accidents mainly occurred because of the lack of safety training given to the personnel regarding forklift safety, who then failed to observe safety procedures required for forklifts. In addition, inadequate knowledge of forklift safety and shortage or unavailability of necessary controls, were seen to be the biggest causes of the accidents. The research classified the primary types of accidents by forklifts in the chart below:
Figure 2 Primary Types of accidents by Forklifts
The manufacturing sector and the associated supporting businesses are areas where fatal forklift accidents are more common. Managers, forklift operators and all other employees must have information about the whereabouts of material location and placement. Informational trainings should be given regarding causes of accidents and how to prevent them.
Forklift Safety Systems
According to the Machinery Safety Regulation, machine manufacturers are obliged to comply with the health and safety rules regarding the design and production of machines and safety mechanisms. In the regulation, the following health and safety rules must be followed in the design and production of machines and safety mechanisms:
- Basic health and safety rules
- Additional basic safety and health rules for certain machine classes,
- Basic health and safety rules to prevent certain dangers caused by the movement of machines,
- Basic health and safety rules to prevent certain dangers caused by the lifting process,
- Basic health and safety rules for machines designed for underground works,
- Basic health and safety rules to prevent dangers caused by lifting or transporting people,
According to the type of forklift used, the following should be available; (i) warning systems for human, machine, plant and material interactions, (ii) the protective structure against tipping, collision (ROPS) and falling objects (FOPS), (iii) safety measures to protect the operator (seats and seat belts, access vehicles) (iv) Safe operating mechanisms and standards of forklift (such as horn, flashing overhead lights)
Safe Solution Against Forklift-based Occupational Accidents: IoT Technology
In such a critical issue for both employers and employees, it has now become a necessity to use a technology that is without human error and that ensures the work in a systematic way and guarantees solutions. The Data Analytics supported "Forklift and Pedestrian Safety System" developed by Trio Mobil using the most advanced IoT and Artificial Intelligence technologies, increases the efficiency of operations and prevents the risks of occupational accidents by automatically slowing down forklifts when they encounter each other or pedestrians.