Operators of factories and warehouses increasingly are seeking to integrate industrial lift devices with other components of their spaces. No longer do lifts operate in relative isolation. In that way, lifts are “a piece of the overall machine now,” said James Johnston, director of engineering at MHI member Autoquip and chair of Lift Manufacturers Product Group (LIFT), an MHI Industry Group. With that push to integration, new safety opportunities and challenges arise.
Industrial lift equipment still largely performs the same tasks it always has—lifting, rotating and positioning materials in a factory or warehouse. However, lift equipment’s place in its environment has changed—it has become more distinctly connected to the broader operation of the facility.
“Every factory is going to the Internet of Things,” Johnston said. “They want everything to be connected, so we believe that’s where the future is. For a hydraulic scissor lift you still need a cylinder and a pump, but what they do with it has changed a lot. And that forces you to figure out innovative solutions.”
Collin Prock, general manager for OSCO Controls by Autoquip, said as lift equipment is integrated into a larger system, it is necessary to consider the variety of possible use cases when determining safety efforts that need to be in place. Instead of “islands of automation,” where a system was contained and operated within itself, equipment today is being connected in larger and larger networks, Prock said.
Every facility has a unique approach to that integration. Some may have people interacting with the lift, for instance, while others operate it solely from a remote system.
“Those are all safety aspects that we have to consider as the integration of these machines occurs within the factory floor,” Prock said.
Collaboration with the client is key, including communicating to identify each of the different possible ways someone may interact with lift equipment in a facility, Prock said. Ron Mack, chief sales officer for MHI member Bishamon Industries Corporation and vice chair of LIFT, said the most common safety issue associated with integration is the awareness of workers who are operating close to the machinery but not working with the lift equipment itself.
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For more information on Lift Manufacturers Product Group, visit mhi.org/lift.