The Time to Automate Is Now, and Hybrid Mode Can Help, Notes Crown Equipment

Warehouse and factory operators hesitant about robotics can get ahead with semi-autonomous mode, noted Crown's Jim Gaskell.

Crown Equipment

Crown offers hybrid manual and automated modes for its trucks.
Crown Equipment has published a series of e-books to demystify the process of adopting automation and to help warehouses review forklift safety.

As a major provider of new, used, and reconditioned forklifts, Crown Equipment Corp. is a leading material handling provider. The New Bremen, Ohio-based company is also a proponent of automation—when it makes sense.

“For instance, load is a big variable,” said Jim Gaskell, director of global automation and emerging technologies at Crown Equipment. He sat down with Robotics 24/7 at ProMat to talk about how end users should approach robotics for materials handling.

“Depending on the load, a warehouse may want to go with reach trucks, AGVs, or tenders,” Gaskell noted.

Crown determined to demystify robotics

Estimates of how many North American warehouses use robots and automation vary from 15% to 25%. Why hasn't the technology spread more yet? One answer is that operators are uncertain about how to begin and are concerned about the risks.

James Gaskell, Crown Equipment

James Gaskell, Crown Equipment

Crown Equipment is on a mission to “demystify” the process of evaluating, selecting, and deploying robots, explained Gaskell. His company, which has more than 18,000 employees and regional headquarters in Australia, China, Germany, and Singapore, also offers automation and fleet management systems in addition to forklifts.

“Crown recently put out an e-book titled The Time to Automate Is Now: Overcoming the Hurdle of Getting Started,” Gaskell said. “It's important to understand what benefits you're looking for, what tasks you want to automate, and how you currently use your forklift fleet.”

“Taking shortcuts can be costly in the end,” he noted. “If only one part of a product flow is made more efficient, stuff can stack up in a space.”

Reference customers show the way

DHL deployed a fleet of nine Crown pallet trucks in one-way aisles between double-deep storage, recalled Gaskell.

“The vehicle scans the pallet, and the WMS [warehouse management system] buffers the data,” he said. “The robot tender knows what's going on quickly.”

The automated fork truck can lift and load faster than a manually operated one, and a remote operator can see through its camera,” Gaskell added. “That way, it doesn't have to be perfect.”

Semi-autonomous or hybrid operations make remote interventions easier, he said. It also gives large customers such as UPS more confidence in adopting automated package carts, according to Gaskell.

Safety is another major consideration for forklift users, according to Crown Equipment. Last week, the company published an e-book on An Integrated Approach to Forklift Safety.

DHL Supply Chain has deployed Crown’s DualMode automated reach trucks to help ensure resiliency in the supply chain, with reach trucks available 24/7.

About the Author

Eugene Demaitre's avatar
Eugene Demaitre
Eugene Demaitre was editorial director of Robotics 24/7. Prior to joining Peerless Media, he was a senior editor at Robotics Business Review and The Robot Report. Demaitre has also worked for BNA (now part of Bloomberg), Computerworld, and TechTarget. He has participated in numerous robotics-related webinars, podcasts, and events worldwide.
Follow Eugene:    
Follow Robotics 24/7 on Facebook
Follow Robotics 24/7 on Linkedin

Email Sign Up

Get news, papers, media and research delivered
Stay up-to-date with news and resources you need to do your job. Research industry trends, compare companies and get market intelligence every week with Robotics 24/7. Subscribe to our robotics user email newsletter and we'll keep you informed and up-to-date.

Crown Equipment

Crown offers hybrid manual and automated modes for its trucks.

Robot Technologies