Welcome to the August 15th edition of Warehouse & Logistics News. Industry 4.0, the shorthand term for the trend we’re seeing to increased automation and IT, amounts to a revolution in the making, with wide-scale implications for warehousing and logistics. Smarter working in the warehouse is a recurrent theme in this issue, with the focus on finding new ways of improving efficiency, reducing downtime, improving intralogistics and becoming more environmentally friendly.

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In our news pages SSI Schaefer is expanding its product portfolio to meet the increasing demand for Automated Guided Vehicles by cooperation with, and investment in, Austrian AGV specialist DS AUTOMOTION. As our Conveying and Sortation feature bears out, automation is increasingly being adopted in many different sectors, for repetitive and menial tasks, with automation solutions offering the flexibility to cope with variability in the products being handled.

Forklift trucks have been doing the heavy lifting in warehouses for decades. Today’s fleet operators have an increasing number of energy options to choose from, each with specific benefits. In our cover story, Linde Materials Handling talk through the choices, starting with the prototype reach truck on show at their recent World of Material Handling exhibition, which can be refueled in under five minutes, making fuel cell technology a practical alternative for multi-shift operations. Another option, lithium-ion technology has gained ground in recent years. Its numerous advantages include rapid charging, consistent performance, longer battery life and lower maintenance requirements. Even so, ‘classic’ lead-acid batteries still remain an attractive choice for businesses using trucks less frequently or for light duties. In today’s increasingly tough business environment, ‘smart working’ also means equipping warehouses and other business premises to be as efficient as possible in their use of space. We have an interview with Westgate Group, experts in factory dividers and doorway solutions. As they explain, when designing and refurbishing working areas, the arrangement of the internal walls has a profound effect on the space’s efficiency and how easily it can adapt as the business changes. The key is enabling the workspace to be as flexible as possible from the outset, with semi-permanent space division solutions from a trusted partner.

Even with the trend to automation, many industrial operations still rely extensively on manual handling because their processes cannot be standardised sufficiently to justify it. In our second interview Swedish-owned lifting specialist TAWI (pronounced ‘TAR-VEE)’ is improving workplace conditions here and around the world with a range of lighter lifting equipment providing safe, reliable and efficient alternatives to manual processes. TAWI’s CEO Thomas Bräutigam sees his company as bridging the gap between manual handling and automation, the first step in switching material handling processes from man to machine.

And finally, going back to forklifts, however your forklift trucks are powered, fleet operators of all sizes must strive continually to maintain safety standards in their workplaces. “Forklift safety is a journey – not a destination” is the theme for the FLTA’s 15th annual National Forklift Safety Convention on 3rd October at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre, Coventry. Put it in your diary now.