A forklift operator’s office is the truck’s cabin, so it’s essential that every aspect of the cab’s design is considered if the operator is going to be kept comfortable and productive throughout the working day, says Toyota Material Handling UK’s Gary Ison
Ergonomics is often defined as ‘the science of fitting a workplace to the user’s needs’. But when something is described as being ‘ergonomically designed’ it doesn’t simply mean that it is ‘suitable for purpose.’ Ergonomic means that special attention has been given to the development of a product to ensure that it is the best possible ‘fit’ for the user, the environment and the task it is expected to perform.
It has long been accepted that reducing worker discomfort by placing greater emphasis on ergonomics has a positive impact on efficiency and productivity. In a modern office environment, for example, the design of desks, chairs, monitors, keyboards and lighting is assessed in some detail when creating a workspace in an effort to reduce the musculoskeletal effects on personnel of long sedentary periods spent staring at a screen.
A forklift operator’s office is the truck’s cabin. It’s the place where s/he spends some eight hours a day, so it’s essential that every aspect of the cab’s design – from the height of the step-in to the shape of the control levers – is considered if the operator is going to be kept comfortable, and therefore productive, throughout his or her shift.
At Toyota we’ve been focussing on how ergonomic design can boost driver comfort for more than a quarter of a century. During that time we’ve introduced some ground-breaking features, such as the unique tilting cab used on the Reflex E-reach truck series which reduces the strain on the driver and allows maximum visibility at height, but we believe that our new range of BT Reflex reach trucks represents the most ergonomically advanced machine we have ever produced.
With no less than 11 points of adjustment, it is no exaggeration to say that the driver’s position in the new BT Reflex collection can be customised in an infinite number of ways to deliver the perfect working environment for any size or shape of operator.
From the ground upwards, the low step-in leads to the cabin floor which is height adjustable while the accelerator and brake pedals can be raised and lowerd as required to suit a range of different operator heights or leg lengths,
All of the new models have the option of a high-quality air suspension seat which has no less than five points of adjustment to let the operator select the most comfortable driving position.
The steering column has three points of adjustment to allow its elevation, length and tilt angle to be switched to suit the operator’s physical needs, while the central control unit can be moved forwards, backwards and elevated vertically.
To further enhance the operator experiece the steering unit’s palm support has been refined for improved touch sensitivity and feel, while the new-style main control console – which is positioned to the right-hand side of the driver – makes the new models highly intuitive to control.
The control levers have been arranged in a contoured pattern to match the way human fingers naturally rest, while a new large colour touchscreen display provides a clear view of critical information and direct access to the truck’s programmable features and functions. Like the main controls, the touchscreen has been designed with ease of operation in mind and its instinctive and interactive functionality guarantees a high level of efficiency.
Other nice extras that make a driver’s life easier include additional storage compartments, a mobile phone charging point and optional Bluetooth connectivity.
Forklift operators are any logistics operation’s most important asset and they are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity in the labour pool. So it has never been more important to treat drivers with respect and a good way of doing that is by ensuring that their working environment is strain-free and enjoyable.
By keeping the operator at the centre of our design thinking, the new BT Reflex range from Toyota offers reach truck drivers the best possible driving experience. Its innovative features guarantee comfort all shift long, which boosts truck performance and optmises intralogistics efficiency. And, of course, that means warehouse and RDC managers can sit comfortably in the knowledge that their forklift drivers are happy and throughput targets are being hit.