This June 8 will mark the ninth annual National Forklift Safety Day, sponsored by the Industrial Truck Association. We’ve all watched and chuckled at those countless YouTube videos of forklift drivers smashing their way to the unemployment line. With great power, as Keegan-Michael Key once said, comes great “respronsitrilitrence.”
Removing the human from the equation will make forklifts safer, and every industry is struggling to find “respronsitril” workers; forklift drivers are no exception.
As robotics extend past e-commerce, logistics and warehouses to more manufacturing environments, items such as car parts and engines are now being moved by collaborative robots. And autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have made their way into factories around the globe with 82,000 of them shipped in 2021, according to a report from Interact Analysis. Compare that to the mere 18,000 automated guided vehicles (AGVs) shipped over the same period.
By 2025, AMR shipments will reach 640,000, while AGV shipments will reach just 43,000, according to Interact Analysis. China remains the largest market for mobile robots (40%), but the United States is not far behind as the second largest purchasing country with 25% of shipments.
Otto Motors introduced its Lifter autonomous forklift at MODEX in Atlanta in March. While it’s not the first of its kind, it’s a tangible example of technology being employed to compensate for the lack of skilled workers, an ongoing predicament in industrial environments. An interesting development with Otto and other autonomous forklifts is that the dealer network for the new forklift comprises the same companies that sell the traditional forklifts, designed to keep buyers in their existing relationships as they bring autonomy to their sites.
The Otto Lifter has the ability to pick up and drop off pallets autonomously, and it’s compatible with the entire Otto fleet of AMRs through Otto Motors’ Fleet Manager.
“Our customers have made it clear that there was a missing member of the team, one that could pick up a pallet on its own,” says Otto Motors’ CEO Matt Rendall. The forklift’s autonomy software makes intelligent, real-time decisions. With dynamic path planning, lane tending, intelligent pallet detection and stretch wrap piercing, it navigates traffic and obstacles to deliver materials to the right place at the right time.
“Otto Lifter can make real-time decisions in complex environments,” says Otto Motors’ VP of Product Jay Judkowitz. “Unlike other autonomous forklifts in the market, Otto Lifter can find a pallet if skewed, adapt behavior in highly dynamic environments and choose the best route on its own.”