Choosing the Right Computer for Forklift Automation

July 15, 2019 Sam Liao, Winmate Inc.

Introduction: Supply Chain and Logistics Automation Trends

Automation is a growing trend that is transforming operations in many industries. Supply chain and logistics is an industry that is the most susceptible to changes. The need for 24/7 real-time track and trace solutions from dispatch to delivery forces logistics companies to adopt new technologies and modernize facilities and equipment.

Forklift Automation

It is calculated that forklift automation increases productivity by 25 percent. To optimize efficiency and flexibility of warehouse operations, modern forklifts are equipped with RFID tags and readers to identify load, and sensors to monitor speed and detect load weight. All the information on product location, placement, and order priority is displayed on a vehicle computer. This computer usually features Wi-Fi or 4G capabilities for real-time communications and data exchange. Technologies simplify warehouse management and speed up warehouse operations.

Choosing the Right Forklift Computer

Here are several key factors to keep in mind when searching for a forklift computer:

  • Ruggedness – The device must be rugged enough to handle any industrial environment from extreme cold to dry heat, potential drop and strong vibration from the moving vehicle. To withstand these conditions, industrial grade computers have a high IP rating indicating water and dust resistance, fanless thermal solution and industrial-grade internal components.
  • Mounting solution – In the warehouse environment, the ability to mount mobile devices and computers to forklifts, trucks, taggers, and inventory pickers, is essential. Vehicle mounted computers are compatible with various mount types including RAM mount. Designed with forklift construction in mind, these computers support drill, no drill and external keyboard installation methods. Mounting solution for forklift must be able to withstand strong vibration and shock.
  • Ease of service and maintenance – When installing a computer to a forklift it is important to consider repairs and the need for software updates. Vehicle mounted computers with a filed-replaceable front panel is one of the solutions for accelerating service time. If a screen is broken, which happens very often in industrial environments, simply take off the front part and place a new one on a docking station. Modular design saves maintenance time.
  • Power supply from the forklift – Computers powered by a vehicle are subject to power surges. Forklift computers must have wide range power input, DC-to-DC converters and also power ignition control that delays power on the computer after the vehicle is on.
  • Driver’s safety and security – Nothing should distract a forklift operator driving around warehouse facilities. Screen blanking is a function that automatically disables the screen while the vehicle is moving. Also when the computer is left idling, the screen will automatically lock itself for security reasons.
  • Wireless connectivity – Vehicle mount computers should have wireless capabilities, such as built-in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4G/ LTE and external antennas to increase the signal strength in remote locations for real-time communications and data transfer with no delay.
  • Ability to connect multiple peripherals – Barcode scanners, mobile printers, USB drives, external PC and monitor, all of these peripherals need to be connected to forklift computers from time to time. Various input and output interfaces onboard open more possibilities for the vehicle computer.  
  • User-friendly interface – Computers should come with responsive touchscreens for the convenience of the operator. Either resistive or projected capacitive deepening on the usage scenario. Resistive is usually more resistant to scratches while projected capacitive offers multitouch capabilities for more responsive applications.

Summary

When looking for computer hardware that can survive the warehouse and cold storage environment while providing capabilities for business needs, it is important to consider not only the price, but also durability and design. Winmate offers a full line of rugged vehicle mounted computers designed to fit seamlessly onto forklifts and other warehouse vehicles to help minimize errors, streamline ordering and inventory management, and improve operational efficiencies. Tailored for forklift automation, these vehicle mounted computers bring a new level of convenience to warehouse operations.

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