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Three Tips to Improve Electric Forklift Battery Life

The majority of warehouses are making the switch from internal combustion forklifts to electric forklifts in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Electric forklifts, such as the Linde 346, produce zero emissions, have a longer economic life and more precise truck control than typical internal combustion forklifts. However, while electric forklifts are more efficient, they require proper maintenance; especially when it comes to the battery. Here are three ways to improve your electric forklift battery life.

Don’t over-charge

Flooded, lead-acid forklift batteries have a limited number of charge cycles. You should charge the battery after an 8-10 hour shift, or when it’s discharged more than 30 percent. Don’t charge the battery during lunch break, or “when it’s convenient” because it will reduce the battery’s lifespan. This kind of opportunity-charging requires a specific battery and charger combination that also needs formal training.

Check the water level

Water plays a pivotal role in the life of the battery, so make sure to check the fluid level of the battery every five charging cycles. The water should only be refilled once the battery is fully charged. Also, keep in mind that you only need enough water to cover the plastic battery element. For additional details, refer to the manual provided by your battery manufacturer.

Keep the batteries cool

Temperature is important in keeping your forklift battery healthy. For optimal operation, keep the temperature in the charging rooms below 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). If the battery is overheated, the lifespan will be decreased, so you need to make sure that the battery is well ventilated when it’s charging and in use.

Follow these three steps to ensure a long battery life for your electric forklift. Check out our Linde and Baoli products if you’re looking to purchase an electric forklift, or contact your local authorized dealer. At KION North America, we understand the importance of an efficient forklift. Please contact us if you have any further questions at 843-875-8000.

Combating the Manufacturing Labor Skills Shortage

The manufacturing industry boomed throughout the 20th century, providing 19 million jobs during its peak in the 1970s. Today, however, manufacturing is experiencing a labor skills shortage, despite the prevalence of jobs in the field. With many baby boomers retiring, manufacturers are struggling to recruit millennials.

Manufacturing jobs appear not to have the same appeal to the latest generation to enter the workforce, forcing companies to find new ways to recruit talent.

Partnering with colleges

Millennials grew up in the digital age, so they’re comfortable withand interested in technology. To match millennials’ interests and promote manufacturing, colleges are starting to invest in manufacturing programs. The programs prepare students to work with manufacturing systems and develop the skills required of the field. Colleges across the country are participating by creating programs and degrees in manufacturing, dedicating millions towards training, offering certification from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council, and more.

Redefining “manufacturing”

Many millennials are deterred from a career in manufacturing because they perceive it as hands-on work that’s “grimy and dangerous.” However, leaders in the field are changing the public’s perception of manufacturing through education. Millennials are the most educated generation, with around 61% having attended college, so they’re looking for a job where they can apply their knowledge. Manufacturing offers career opportunities in a wide array of fields, including but not limited to biochemistry, aerospace, industrial engineering, and supply chain management.

Embracing technology as a communication tool

While technology is advancing manufacturing, hands-on work is still necessary, which is where the majority of millennials lack crucial experience. This absence of apprenticeship among the next generation of manufacturers is called the skills gap. However, the gap can be filled through the use of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. The system allows all employees to access important supply chain management information anytime they need it on any electronic device. The ERP will help reduce training time and close the skills gap.

Through education, embracing technology, and redefining common notions of manufacturing, it’s possible to reverse the existing labor skills shortage. Like the rest of the world, the manufacturing field is evolving with new, advancing technologies and practices every day. At KION North America, we not only want to recruit the next generation of manufacturers, but also get them excited about the industry and its plethora of opportunities.

Interested in a career in manufacturing? See if working at KION North America might be right for you.

7 Ways Fulfillment Centers Help Sell More Products

In a highly competitive market where customers expect to receive online orders with same-day or next-day shipping, fulfillment centers have become a smart solution for lowering costs. Both small startups and giant corporations can benefit from outsourcing shipping and handling to a quality fulfillment center. The center can take over the logistics of storing, labeling, sorting, packaging, and shipping your company’s inventory. Here are seven ways fulfillment centers can help your business sell more products and reach a broader base of customers.

1. Add new sales channels

Most small businesses start with a sales channel that delivers products directly to the customer from the store. Although less expensive, this practice is extremely limiting to businesses. It is difficult to grow the company and expand into new markets if the product must be stored in short supply at the business’ premises. However, a fulfillment center allows your business to enter the E-commerce market and reach broader customer demographics. To increase profit margins and to sell more products, your business must add new sales channels. Fulfillment centers are the most cost-effective strategy for increasing your customer base.

2. Protect against market fluctuations

As in almost any industry, prices are subject to dramatic increases and decreases. Fulfillment centers are a buffer against the market fluctuations that might otherwise harm your business. By storing a portion of your product in one of its warehouses, fulfillment centers can meet fluctuating consumer demand. Fulfillment centers are also experienced in the industry and can help new businesses plan ahead. Preparing for market fluctuations, which can occur at any time of the year, gives your business an edge over competitors and protection against profit loss. During times of peak demand, shipping costs will skyrocket for individual businesses. However, a fulfillment center can hold prices at a steady rate regardless of increased or decreased demand.

3. Grow your business

For small startups, entering the online retail market or expanding from regional to national can be extraordinarily difficult. Shareholders may hesitate to take on an increased risk of bankruptcy and prevent startups from becoming successful national or even global companies. Fulfillment centers allow businesses to access a wider base of consumers and retailers who are eager to support your products. By controlling the shipping, handling, and other additional logistics for your online and brick-and-mortar store, fulfillment centers can help your business grow exponentially.

4. Handle new inventory

Fulfillment centers have access to a wide pool of resources that can efficiently label and process your inventory. Updates are made in real time to meet consumer demand. A quality fulfillment center is also capable of handling customer returns and exchanges that might stymie a smaller company. By letting a fulfillment center handle complicated shipping logistics, you can focus on growing your business and satisfying customers. Outsourcing to a fulfillment center can help you efficiently distribute new products to an expanded customer base.

5. Create loyal customers

Instead of stretching your company thin to meet the demand for fast shipping and the cost of expensive storage units, hire a fulfillment center to free up more of your time. With this headache taken care of, you can focus your efforts toward developing a brand identity that connects with customers. Fulfillment centers help you retain the integrity of your services and products in a way that can impress customers. By quickly meeting shipping deadlines and processing returns and exchanges, you will satisfy consumers and create a loyal customer base. Sending customers a damaged product or the wrong item can harm your company’s reputation and prevent you from reaching new customers. A fulfillment center can keep up with shipping demand and cost with experienced methods for sorting, packaging, and sending your company’s products.

6. Reduce shipping costs

A fulfillment center can provide cheaper shipping rates to your business than if you tried to send products on your own. Since your products can be shipped faster at a lower cost, you can expand into new markets, sell more products, and earn more profit. With the money left over, your company can innovate new products, make investments, or hire additional employees. Reduced shipping costs help your business expand from national to international. With the help of a fulfillment center, the world is your company’s oyster.

7. Meet customer expectations

In the past, customers expected items to arrive at their doorstep in one to two weeks and were satisfied with this timing. Since industry giants such as Amazon have popularized same-day and two-day shipping, customers are expecting products to arrive faster than ever. When a customer sends an item back for a return or an exchange, they expect to receive a refund or a new product within days. Many customers will become anxious if a product seems to be taking too long to ship, especially if they have ordered from a new company whose reputation they are uncertain about. A customer may take to social media to complain about your company’s slow shipping which could dissuade other consumers from shopping at your business. Avoid these brand management crises with a fulfillment center that is equipped to ship products within days and include the proper tracking information to customers.

At KION North America, we are innovating the strategies and technology that will help businesses expand into new markets and reach more customers. With our high-quality Linde and Baoli forklift lines and tailored supply chain solutions from our sister company, Dematic, companies have the tools required for maximizing both productivity and profits. For more information about how our forklift models can revolutionize your warehouse operations, contact our expert team at (843) 875-8000.

Where to Recycle Pallets

Although pallets are essential for warehouse management, some businesses struggle with regularly disposing of them. Pallets can accumulate in storage rooms or outdoors, presenting an occupational hazard and a waste of valuable space. Here are four methods for recycling pallets and clearing out the back room once and for all.

Contact the shipper

One of the easiest strategies for disposal is to contact the shipper to pick up empty pallets. If you can’t contact the shipper directly, you can arrange for pallet disposal with a third-party company such as CHEP or PECO. Pallet retrieval is a mutually beneficial arrangement since it clears unwanted pallets from your shipping deck while lowering the cost per trip for shippers.

Find a local recycling company

You may be able to find a local recycling company who is willing to come and retrieve your used pallets. Depending on the size and condition of pallets, a local recycling company can either pay you for desirable pallets or charge a fee for picking up undesirable ones. A benefit of a local company is that they can usually schedule regular removals that save your business the time of finding a new disposal service.

Reach out to hobbyists

Hobbyists interested in clean and unweathered wooden pallets for craft projects are often willing to take unwanted pallets away for free, but there are a few legal and health risks to consider. If a member of the public is wandering around your warehouse, you will need an employee to provide oversight and hopefully prevent any accidents. If someone is injured while on your premises or as a result of your pallet, you may find yourself tangled in legal difficulties. Managers should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of reaching out to hobbyists.

Prevention

One method of solving the logistics of wooden pallet disposal is switching to a more durable material. Heavy duty wooden or plastic pallets require less maintenance and repairs and can still be recycled when needed. Corrugated paper pallets can be recycled with other cardboard materials and are easier to dispose of than their wooden counterparts. Large companies such as IKEA have recently replaced their wooden pallets with corrugated paper, eliminating a significant logistics problem.

KION North America’s line of Linde and Baoli forklifts can help your warehouse manage inventory more efficiently. Visit our website or contact us at (843) 875-8000 for personalized service and more information about our products.

5 Important Tips for Warehouse Efficiency

Warehouses often manage thousands of dollars worth of inventory that must be sent and received under tight deadlines. To ensure maximum efficiency, inventory must be labeled, sorted, and retrieved with speed and accuracy. An unproductive warehouse can damage customer or business relationships by wasting time and money. Thrive in today’s highly competitive environment with these five tips for warehouse efficiency.

Stay organized

Organization is key to smooth warehouse operations. A large team of employees managing a wide variety of inventory can quickly become disjointed if managers aren’t careful. Labeling all inventory is the first step of organization. Forgotten or lost items are wasting money and storage space if they cannot be easily located. All inventory should be organized in a way that is understood by employees and safe to access. When scheduling shifts, give employees half an hour at the end of their day to clean up and finish order processing before leaving. This helps your warehouse stay organized and keeps workers on the next shift from becoming confused.

Prioritize high volume inventory

Top-selling items should always be located near the front of the warehouse and within easy reach of the picking team. If a new item becomes a top seller, make sure your team is aware of its location to save time searching through the warehouse. Consider storing less popular items toward the back and relocating them if performance continues to diminish. Color coding orders or pick lists to reflect high- or low-volume inventory can help employees quickly locate and package the materials that are valuable to customers.

Train managers in quality control

If a customer receives the wrong item, it could potentially damage your business’ reputation and can cost time and money fixing. Quality control is a safety net that all managers should practice. Double-check all orders by comparing the picked item’s SKU number and quantity against the order the customer placed. Quality control also involves evaluating the item for damage to make sure the customer receives an order in the expected condition.

Utilize technology

Radio-frequency identification tracking has become integral to many warehouses. It allows you to digitally track all incoming and outgoing inventory while dramatically saving labor. Another option is voice-enabled technology that is incorporated into your warehouse management without any modifications to your WPS. Voice enablers improve inventory control and can be used in various operations including shipping, returns, and receiving. Other technology such as digital twins can help you manage your warehouse more efficiently and provide better customer service.

Designate a damages bin

To prevent damaged items from returning to shelves and accidentally getting sent out to a customer, make sure that employees have designated a section to dispose of damaged items. It is also important to make sure that this section is accessible to the managers or employees who are running quality control on inventory. The more simplified this process, the more quickly inventory can be checked and disposed of if needed.

The team at KION North America is helping businesses grow and operate more efficiently by providing warehouse managers with outstanding forklift models from our Linde and Baoli product lines and tailored supply chain solutions from our sister company, Dematic.

How to Invest in Material Handling Equipment

Although necessary for manufacturing and warehouse operations, material handling equipment can be expensive and overwhelming. However, taking the time to research equipment and choose the right investments can help your business grow exponentially. Your facility has individual needs and preferences that will determine the appropriate material handling equipment. Identifying the type of forklift and engine needed, purchasing from a reputable dealership, and strategizing your financial commitments will help you make the best investment.

Choose the type of forklift needed

In the material handling equipment market, there are many forklift models available. When choosing the best machine, you’ll want to consider the size, load capacity, and height limit. If you are operating indoor forklifts, choose machinery that is the right size for your facility. For example, if your warehouse has narrow aisles or tight spaces, you’ll want to invest in a forklift that can operate safely. When determining the load capacity for your forklifts, overestimate rather than underestimate to avoid a potential accident.

Pick an engine

Forklifts usually run on either an internal combustion or an electric engine. When determining which is right for your operations, first ask if the forklift will be operated inside a building or outdoors in the elements. Forklifts with electric engines are typically used indoors. The machines burn cleaner and run more quietly, making them better suited for operating in a busy, crowded environment. An electric counterbalanced forklift is energy efficient while an internal combustion truck has the advantage of lower maintenance expenses.

Purchase from a reputable dealership

Once you are confident in the type of forklift you need, you’ll have to decide who to purchase it from. You’ll want to choose an internationally recognized, experienced company with an excellent reputation. Next, verify that the machinery comes with a warranty that the dealer will honor. Most dealerships are willing to help you choose the right machine and ensure that the transaction runs smoothly.

Strategize financing

When adding new or used forklifts to your fleet, you have several financing options: purchase, lease, or buy in bulk. When purchasing a new forklift, you may be able to negotiate a monthly payment plan that fits in with your budget. To test out a machine or to hire one for a quick job, consider leasing a forklift from a reputable company. If you decide to buy a fleet of forklifts at wholesale price, you may save time and money. Selling outdated or unwanted machinery for extra funds can help you finance your next investment.

At KION North America, we provide high-quality forklifts at reasonable prices. Our widely acclaimed dealership network can help you invest in the material handling equipment that will save your warehouse time and money. Call (843) 875-8000 or visit our website to find the authorized dealer nearest you today.

The Essential Forklift Safety Checklist

Every year, forklifts are involved in 11% of accidents and are responsible for 100,000 injuries worldwide according to OSHA Safety Management. Forklift safety is essential for protecting the health and well-being of your employees. Accidents also result in costly lawsuits that are damaging to your brand’s reputation. Here are five tips that you should always include in your routine safety checks.

Check protective gear

Although the specific standards for safety equipment may vary slightly depending on your employer, protective hard hats, glasses, and reflective clothing will likely be a part of your uniform. You should always refer to the official employee dress code since safety equipment such as face shields or gloves may also be part of the requirements.

Refer to safety guides

The safety guidebook for forklift use and the operator’s manual should always be accessible to employees. Managers should also be available to answer any questions regarding safety. Make sure that employees are up-to-date on the latest forklift technology and safety requirements. Although certification programs are available online for forklift operation, managers should also include a job-specific safety course for all new and existing employees.

Measure fluid levels and tire pressure

It is important to ensure that forklifts have enough battery fluid, water, and hydraulic fluid to operate safely at all times. When forklifts are driven in an industrial environment, there is also a risk of punctured tires. Since daily wear and tear can cause tires to deflate, measure the tire pressure and watch out for any slashes or nails.

Perform a visual inspection

Next, carefully look over the entire forklift for any cracks, leaks, or defects. If anything seems amiss, call someone to repair it. Ignoring a leak and operating the forklift isn’t worth the risk of injury to an employee. Don’t forget to check the overhead guard, lift chains and rollers, forks, mast assembly, and hydraulic cylinders at the start of each day. Finally, check the load-handling attachments to make sure they aren’t loose.

Evaluate safety equipment

After the visual inspection, you’ll want to examine the safety features in the forklift. Seatbelts should fasten securely and be free of any tears or fraying. You’ll also want to test the brakes, steering, horn, and front, tail, and brake lights. Any problems with the safety equipment could put the lives of your employees at risk.

At KION North America, we understand how important safety is to your operations. Discover how our lines of Linde and Baoli forklifts are the leading brands in safety and technology.

What You Need to Know About Warehouse Automation

As a warehouse manager, your aim is to maximize productivity and profits while best serving your customers. Warehouse technology is rapidly advancing and automation is more cost-effective than ever, making 2018 the perfect year to incorporate robotics into your warehouse operations. Here are five reasons why investing in warehouse automation can be a strategic business move.

1. Automating repetitive tasks

The original assembly lines at Ford Motor Company were notorious for mind-numbing, monotonous tasks as workers assembled the first vehicles. The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was characterized by dull and sometimes dangerous work as a manufacturer. However, vast improvements in robotics and machinery have replaced these repetitive jobs. As the warehouse industry continues to grow to meet the demands of an increasingly global customer base, automating picking strategies, inventory collection, and barcode scanning are becoming essential.

2. Protecting from human error

Unfortunately, humans are prone to mistakes. When something goes wrong in a fast-paced warehouse that is struggling to meet the demands of two-day or overnight shipping, even a small mistake can cost the company big money. Although automation isn’t perfect, it has a higher rate of accuracy than human employees. A shortage of skilled labor coupled with the expense of hiring and training a new workforce has pressured managers to seek out automation. Although the initial cost is high, the machines have an excellent ROI. Plus, they won’t leave your warehouse for a competitor’s. The most common human errors occur when documenting, shelving, or retrieving inventory, so automating these processes can vastly improve your warehouse’s efficiency.

3. Saving time

While forklifts continue to be a staple of warehouse operations, automated forklifts are becoming widely available. Unlike their more traditional counterparts, these self-guided forklifts and pallet carts rely on programmable digital pathways instead of human operators. The automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can save time and increase productivity. Since some AGVs can be leased or taken for a trial run, they don’t require as much up-front investment as other automation. Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) also saves time and labor by using wireless signals to track and locate inventory.

4. Providing real-time data

Without access to real-time data about incoming and outgoing inventory, employees may incorrectly count the number of items in stock or make other potentially catastrophic mistakes. Real-time data allows warehouse operations to run more smoothly and can help discover inefficiencies in picking or slotting strategies. Excess inventory wastes money and space, whereas a shortage of inventory causes delays and can anger customers. Today’s warehouse managers have the opportunity to automate replenishment, ensuring that items are available when needed but not overstocked.

5. Optimizing software systems

The age of automation is driven not only by machines but also by sophisticated systems that increase productivity. A wide variety of Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) are available for purchase. The best software will depend on your business’s individual needs, but most systems will be capable of controlling the warehouse receiving, storing, and shipping strategies for maximum efficiency. Any automated machinery you buy for your warehouse will likely require integration with a WMS. The WMS guides and simplifies the transactions by efficiently managing inventory. Even if you decide to wait to incorporate automation into your warehouse, you should still consider investing in a WMS. The system can quickly train employees and help them discover the fastest, most efficient pick paths while providing real-time data about inventory.

KION North America is a member of the KION Group–a global leader in industrial trucks, related services and supply chain solutions. Our team is committed to helping you grow your warehousing operations with the best technology and forklifts available. Discover how our equipment can revolutionize your warehouse.

Collaborating with Robots in Manufacturing: Industry 5.0

Set aside your dystopian fears about machines replacing man in the near future. Robotic technology is more sophisticated and accessible than ever, but this has also given skilled workers the opportunity to collaborate with robots. Industry 4.0 involved digital communication and automation while Industry 5.0 merges human knowledge and skill with artificially intelligent and highly productive machinery.

Humans will be in charge of guiding the production process, while collaborative robots, called cobots, will do the literal heavy-lifting. This connected workforce will enable vast improvements in output while continuing to value human contribution. Industry 5.0 has the potential to combine the best talents of machines and people to create jobs, customize new products, and improve working conditions.

Combining machine and man

Although machines are more efficient at performing monotonous tasks, human possess two important attributes that robots lack: empathy and common sense. Despite enormous strides in artificial intelligence during the last decade, even the most advanced machines cannot compete with our analytical problem-solving and cognitive thinking. Industry 5.0 warehouses combine these human attributes with the dependability, productivity, and quality of robotics.

Create jobs

Although some have expressed concern over the potential of job loss for low-skilled workers as a result of automation, the ability to produce more output at a lower cost can vastly improve the global standard of living. For example, if automation makes the production of cars cheaper, then this reduction may be enough to offset slight decreases in wage or provide new jobs in fields such as taxi driving. Cobots will replace monotonous and dangerous jobs while freeing up higher-skilled individuals for better employment.

Customize new products

Robots are well-suited for assembly line production, but the human employees are much more capable of product customization and personalization. Art, design, and innovation are three uniquely human qualities. Robots can only perform the tasks which they are programmed to do over and over again. Without a spark of human creativity and ingenuity, we could never see improvement or deviation from these repetitive actions. Cobots’ purpose is to enhance the human labor force by specializing in fields we are unwilling or unable to work in.

Improve safety

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was marred by the grievous injuries suffered by assembly line workers. However, improved safety regulations and better machinery have systematically eliminated these dangerous jobs. Robots are not at risk of losing life or limb in a workplace accident, and they are relatively indestructible. While robots are performing the difficult and strenuous tasks, their human co-workers can practice ingenuity and creativity while monitoring multiple robotic systems.

KION North America is a member of the KION Group–a global leader in industrial trucks, related services and supply chain solutions. We offer an impressive line of industrial forklifts including Linde and Baoli. Our sister company Dematic offers a comprehensive range of intelligent supply chain and automation solutions. For more information visit our website.

How “Digital Twins” Are Revolutionizing Manufacturing

Technological advances have come a long way in helping warehouses operate more efficiently. The latest software promising to shake up the manufacturing industry are “digital twins,” a virtual representation of a product, machine, or factory. Sensors in the physical warehouse are linked to a virtual model and generate real-time information about the factory. The ability to simulate, analyze, and control the factory or product, as well as test alternate strategies, will radically change warehouse operations. Deciding whether or not digital twins are the right fit for your warehouse operations could put you ahead of the latest technological curve.

Business Applications

Digital twins have numerous applications for manufacturing industries and warehouse operations. Linking the digital twin to each stage of warehouse production, beginning with designing and testing a new product, will help managers release the best model to customers. Businesses are more productive when they can control the entire production chain from start to finish. NASA was the first company to develop and test digital twins for their space exploration programs, but many other industries are adopting the twins. The software is also able to improve customer service by modifying existing products to better suit customer needs.

Advantages of Digital Twins

Digital twins have many advantages for business owners. The simulation feature allows managers to test potential improvements or changes to the system. Real-time monitoring of the warehouse can lead to safety improvements and could prevent accidents before they occur. Pairing a virtual model with a physical asset can help train new employees and allow technicians to operate or fix machinery remotely. In some cases, a digital twin may not even need human management. High-functioning AI units can observe the digital twin and order maintenance accordingly. Creating a digital twin for each existing product can help managers compare data. Based on data comparisons, managers can make informed decisions that account for a range of otherwise-unknown factors.

Disadvantages of Digital Twins

Although existing warehouses can benefit from the implementation of a digital twin, startup factories will have an advantage. To create even one digital twin, businesses will need a sophisticated IT system. Although the Internet of Things has helped drive down the cost of digital twin software, developing a twin for machinery with a lifespan of 30 to 40 years can still be prohibitively expensive. During this timeframe, the virtual interface will need to be updated along with the machines. Training employees or purchasing AI systems to manage the digital twins presents another expense. Before investing in digital twins, managers will have to ensure that the rest of the factory’s systems are compatible. Companies that can incorporate this technology into a warehouse from the start will benefit more from the system than a late-comer.

At KION North America, we are committed to providing facility managers with information about cutting-edge-technology with the products to match. To modernize your factories, check out our material handling and supply chain solutions.