Roadster – the forklift with excellent visibility

The new Roadster is definitely one of the highlights of World of Material Handling 2016. The truck was first presented as a prototype in 2014, but now the Roadster is available and can be tested by customers. What can we say about the Roadster? A great deal!

The idea

Let’s start with the concept. The idea was developed a few years ago in collaboration with customers whose drivers had explicitly asked for a larger field of view in their forklifts. Typically for Linde, the developers got down to work with customers and product managers to make this feedback a reality. The idea was compelling: What happens if we remove the A-pillar and fit a pane of safety glass or narrower supports in the roof? Wouldn’t that fulfil the customers’ wishes? When Linde took an early development model to a large customer’s depot, it didn’t take long for other local logistics firms to hear about it and soon they were lining up to go for a spin in the new Roadster. It was a smash hit! The drivers were so enthusiastic that it became obvious the development of this early design had to be completed. The way forward was clear.

The final product

Before the product was ready for the market it had to undergo numerous tests to satisfy Linde’s extremely high standards, especially when it comes to safety. That is no surprise really, since the red trucks are viewed as the Mercedes of industrial trucks, something which I have already heard several times from visitors at WoMH 2016.

Let’s take a look at the main features. Here we can see the normal view that a forklift driver has from inside a truck:

WOMH 2016 - Roadster

Especially looking upwards, the driver has a rather restricted field of view. The A-pillars also partially block the forward view on the left and the right. In certain situations this is a disadvantage – blind spots can conceal dangerous surprises.

Let’s now look at the contrasting view that presents itself to the driver of a Roadster:

WOMH 2016 - Der Roadster

You notice the difference immediately. The upward field of view is completely open due to the removal of the roof supports. The picture shows a pane of safety glass fitted in the roof instead of conventional wide roof supports (an optional extra). That offers a great advantage, as one experienced driver who visited the fair emphatically stressed: “Boy, that tops everything!”

Since the removal of the A-pillars also enlarges the lateral field of view, the driver can manoeuvre better and much more safely in certain situations. Incidentally, the above-mentioned driver revealed to me that he favoured a bulletproof glas not only in the roof, but also in the front. That is because the airflow severely affects drivers’ eyes after a few hours’ work. Accordingly, the front safety guard contributes not only to passive accident safety, but also generally to the situational driving safety of the driver and his environment.

Let’s see the driver’s view from inside by watching a video:

What does the Roadster look like from outside?

WOMH 2016 - Roadster

The Roadster is sold as E20 R – E35 R. Sales have already begun at World of Material Handling 2016.

Trucks with wings

During a presentation, a Linde Material Handling employee put his hand on the door and announced: “This is our Lamborghini door.” Then he pushed the handle and the door swung upwards to open. This apparently unremarkable feature is called a safety door. It involves an ingenious idea that illustrates rather well how Linde proceeds when customers need a tailored solution. Theoretically speaking, you might think, doors are not very interesting. At most, perhaps, they might excite engineers. In practice, however, drivers can get very annoyed by forklift doors. In fact, what they like most is no doors at all, because they constantly have to get in and out of them. So what happened here? A door has become a bestseller.

No door is better

Who needs this door and why? I asked an expert, who was able to explain in detail how this development came about.

Not all customers need doors for their trucks, especially when their vehicles are mainly used indoors. As I already said, this is about drivers who frequently have to get out of their trucks and would therefore prefer no doors at all. That’s especially true of side-opening doors, which regularly make contact with stored goods or colleagues. In addition, space is something that’s always in short supply in any warehouse. Equally, however, some customers consider safety important, but don’t want to fork out lots of money to fit conventional door models. Cost, operability, safety. How can you best reconcile the different factors involved here? Linde wouldn’t be Linde if it simply shrugged its shoulders at a problem like this. I have already learned enough about Linde to know that it isn’t that kind of firm. After customers consulted Linde about their unresolved door problem – remember, we’re talking here about trucks that are used indoors – Linde took up the challenge.

The solution

Linde looked around the market and eventually found the Sauermann company, which offers a vertically opening door at a favourable price. After making a number of enhancements, which Linde Material Handling realised jointly with Sauermann, Linde had a model that perfectly balanced the three factors mentioned above. It’s quick and easy to open, light, stable and suitable for narrow warehouse aisles. A slightly modified contoured shape also makes it safe for taller employees and, when required, it can be opened sideways with an additional push of a button. Fitted with a proximity sensor for the closing door, the speed of the vehicle can be limited in the event of a fault. (Until a repair is completed, the vehicle can only be used with limited functionality.) The safety door is currently being sold exclusively for Linde E14 – E20 models, but will gradually be offered for other series. I asked different sales specialists whether the door has been well received. Opinions were all positive: “This door sells likes hotcakes!”

Let’s look at in detail. First, the closed driver door:

WOMH 2016 - Safety Doors

The door can be opened with an easy accessible opening mechanism:

WOMH 2016 - Safety Doors

The vertically opened door:

WOMH 2016 - Safety Doors

Here is a video of the safety door mechanism, which Linde developed in collaboration with Sauermann:

This optional feature will be available for all truck models in series E14 – E20 and H14 – H20 from the summer and for models H20 – H50 and E20 – E50 from the end of 2016.

The smart safety belt

You put your safety belt on to get precisely that: safety. There’s really not much more to say about it. In the course of practical operations, however, things can sometimes be a little different. It has been known for Max, for example, to go zooming around a corner at 20 km/h followed by his warehouse supervisor shouting: “What do you think you’re up to? Put that safety belt on!” When it comes down to it, it’s quite simple: wearing a safety belt is mandatory in Europe if you’re not driving inside a closed cabin. Many drivers ignore this rule – with a corresponding impact on the accident statistics. Not to mention how many insurance claims are paid and at whose expense.

The development of the Orange Belt

On the one hand, we have some careless drivers and, on the other, safety is not just an annoying obligation. How do we reconcile these? I asked various Linde experts to explain the history of the Orange Belt – that is the name of the company’s smart safety belt.

It soon became clear that a brighter colour was required to enable supervisors to immediately see whether their drivers are strapped in. That’s why orange replaced black. The next point is more interesting, because you should never underestimate human ingenuity or laziness. In collaboration with its customers, Linde developed a system that detects whether drivers have buckled up their belts. A vehicle can drive normally once the belt is locked. If it isn’t, it will only move at a maximum speed of 2 km/h.

The drivers soon worked out how to get around the annoying compulsory seat belt rule: they first buckled up the belt and then sat on it to fool the system. That eventually led to an enhanced version, which also represents the state of the art in belt technology. The driver first has to sit on the seat. This activates a pressure sensor. Green light? Not yet. After all, the driver might be pushing down on the seat with his hand. So he has to move the belt in such a way that it rolls a certain distance. A special sensor actually measures the movement of the belt. And only then – as the third step in the sequence – is the belt locked. So far no driver has been able to fool this belt system. Some try undoing the belt while driving, but they soon discover that the vehicle automatically brakes to the 2 km/h speed limit. No chance!

Incidentally, someone asked during a presentation whether it would not be better to completely stop the truck moving if its driver were not wearing the safety belt correctly. Linde has made a very important decision about that: “We never stop a vehicle!” There are actually safety reasons for that. Imagine a vehicle is standing in a danger zone and the driver has to move a truck out of the way immediately. Every second then counts. Moving a forklift by hand is impossible. That’s why a driver can start the vehicle and drive away at a maximum of 2 km/h – without wearing the safety belt.

WOMH 2016 - Orange Belt

This goes much further than the situation on public roads, as I know only too well because I also regularly test new cars. Not even the latest models have anything more than an irritating repetitive warning tone (intended as an educational measure for our own protection). To that extent we can describe Linde’s Orange Belt as the smartest safety belt there is. I personally have to admit I was impressed by the effort that has gone into this system. It is rather strange that some drivers feel that wearing seat belts is a tiresome obligation. I can still well remember a visit to the Allianz Research Centre in Ismaning. Various crash tests were carried out at low speeds. Even then a heavily built driver has absolutely no chance of preventing the upper part of his body suffering a very painful impact using muscle power alone.

Four megatrends in intralogistics

World of Material Handling 2016 got off to a successful start and is now offering an expected 6,000 visitors from all over the world an abundance of information about the latest challenges in intralogistics. Linde Material Handling has recognised four major trends here – Automation, Connectivity, Individualisation and Power Systems – which will be presented in detail during the fair under the motto “linked perspectives”. How did Linde discover them? The answer is almost too simple to be true: close customer relations!

Close customer relations – an empty phrase?

I’ve really noticed it in all my discussions with the employees I’ve met so far during the event. They fill the idea of close customer relations with life in a way I’ve never experienced before with other firms. Many companies make pronouncements about their closeness to customers in their brochures, but how many of them actually live this idea? If all firms were like that, there would be far fewer bad products and less poor service. Without close customer relations, a company cannot realise good products or keep up with the times and its customers. It is therefore no coincidence that I have heard more than once in discussions with visitors that “Linde is the authority when it comes to forklifts!” This should be understood as an honour, an acknowledgement of the attention to detail and high quality standards shown in realising products and services. People abroad probably describe this as “made in Germany”.

Andreas Krinninger on close customer relations

Andreas Krinninger (CEO Linde Material Handling) explicitly acknowledged these close customer relations when he welcomed a large number of visitors with the words: “Supporting our customers in optimising their material handling performance is our key priority! Our target is to be the company that best understands our customers’ material handling challenges and performance improvement opportunities.”

He said the following about the four trends – Automation, Connectivity, Individualisation and Power Systems: “These four trends suggest a high growth momentum for the intralogistics sector. The four trends will largely determine the further development of our offering. We need a broad-based approach to help our customers optimise their ever more complex process chains.”

What do the four trends mean in concrete terms?

Christophe Lautray, Linde Material Handling’s Chief Sales Officer, outlined them in greater detail for visitors. Let us sum up what he said here:

Visitors at linde womh 2016

Connectivity

The key to increasing efficiency is no longer only the vehicle itself, but its integration in processes. Based on an increasing number of sensors and communication systems, the world of intralogistics is increasingly becoming an interconnected operations system. You could even regard it as a kind of operating system. No matter which machine is being operated or which software is being used, the operating system ensures all the components are connected.

Automation

The steadily growing range of autonomous industrial trucks capable of driving and lifting without an operator is accompanied by a clear paradigm shift: the boundaries between manual and fully automatic operation are becoming increasingly fuzzy. What’s more, the concept of the “smart factory” already indicates where things are heading. Automated vehicles communicate not only with WMS and ERP systems, but also with other devices, roller conveyors and gates as well as machines and equipment.

Power Systems

Ultimately, dwindling resources, stricter emissions regulations and higher sustainability and efficiency standards are leading to the introduction of alternative power systems. Today, customers like BMW are already relying on vehicles powered by fuel cells or lithium-ion batteries to put the principle of sustainability into practice throughout the production process. More and more customers are asking about alternatives to lead-acid batteries. A significant proportion of vehicles will use lithium-ion technology in the foreseeable future.

Individualisation

The growing e-commerce market is resulting in a steady decrease in batch sizes while simultaneously bringing about a fundamental change in the requirements for order picking and product handling. As a result, there is increasing demand for larger numbers of models, options and custom manufactured products to be able to keep up with competitors while simultaneously increasing efficiency, improving safety and reducing costs.

What comes next?

So now we know the four major trends. But what do they mean in practice? So much for the theory. Next, during the event, I will illustrate all four areas with practical examples and applications, and also interview fair visitors – customers, experts and partners – to make this as lively and concrete as possible.

An abundance of possibilities

With roughly 85 different models of industrial truck and 6,000 equipment options, Linde Material Handling’s standard range already offers an abundance of solutions to meet every customer’s conceivable needs. In the section on Individualisation, experts introduce the subject and present an incredibly diverse range of options. Visitors also discover that over half of Linde vehicles are equipped with highly specialised solutions. Linde achieves this by using a variety of partner products to configure the complete system precisely according to the customer’s wishes.

Let’s look at a few examples of retrofit solutions for existing vehicles: Have the legal requirements changed? Then equip vehicles with Orange Belt. Do you need improved control in traffic flows? Then implement Linde Speed Assist. Would you like to avoid damage and simultaneously improve availability? Then connect:ac, the retrofit kit for access control, is the perfect solution, ensuring not only that operators drive more carefully, but also that equipment and warehouse fittings are taken better care of.

Another highlight is also shown in the Individualisation section: the new Roadster boasts a significantly improved field of view as a result of the removal of A-pillars. As I learned, this is only possible because of the overhead tilt cylinder exclusively found on Linde forklifts. I was able to experience for myself the very tangible advantage of the new Roadster on the outdoor demonstration area. Simply get in and be amazed!

WOMH 2016 - Linde Roadster

The other key topics are: Automation, Connectivity and Power Systems.