Forklift Tracking Using Bluetooth LE Improves Intralogistics

Warehouse management gets a lot easier with a little help from smart, but relatively simple sensors called Bluetooth tags in forklift tracking.
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Keeping a warehouse buzzing requires safe drivers

Running a fleet of forklifts and material handling equipment (MHE) is all about keeping things moving. Even with increased automation, warehouses and distribution centers still require plenty of drivers and operators. Getting all those operators up to speed means training is an ongoing story.

Training forklift drivers properly is not only time consuming, it’s expensive. A forklift license can take as little as two hours in the US to complete and a few days in the UK. One would hope that lessons on safe operation would sink in. But unfortunately, that is often not the case, as businesses are pushing to move forward and workers want to get on their feet (or forklift) fast. More in depth trainings can take days or weeks and cost a few hundred dollars.

Once on the job, drivers tend to get a mind of their own. The pressure of quotas and dreams of bonuses can lead to sloppy work. Cutting corners when no one is looking means assets get misplaced and working conditions become unsafe. Unfortunately, while little mistakes are bound to happen in any industry, they are much more dangerous when driving a forklift around heavy and sensitive equipment. Little mistakes also add up to slower processes, lower workplace moral, and of course, added costs. But don’t worry, there’s a light at the end of the supply chain.

How digitizing your MHE fleet leads to safer forklift drivers

This is where the power of digitization comes in – when you start leveraging the Internet of Things to build smart facilities. Sounds fancy, right? But it can actually be pretty easy to improve intralogistics with a little help from smart, but relatively simple Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sensors.

Now you you may have heard of Bluetooth beacons and Bluetooth BLE tags. They are both devices that continuously transmit a radio signal that says, “Hey, I’m here”. The only real difference between the two is that Bluetooth LE tags move, while beacons are stationary.

By tracking vehicles and assets with Bluetooth LE tags, you can improve processes, reinforce training, and encourage safe operation of equipment.
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Bluetooth beacons put the brakes on unsafe operators

Not only can expensive, hard to replace goods can be damaged, but serious physical injuries can also result. Some estimates show forklift accidents cost roughly $3.7 billion per year in the U.S. and are the cause of 20,000 serious injuries including 100 deaths
Mitigating that risk

Once Bluetooth beacons are incorporated into your warehouse management system, you can set all sorts of safety for vehicles. Beacons can easy be installed on walls and shelving to define a space. Once a tracked vehicle enters that space, operational systems can be triggered to enforce rules.

In defined areas, a forklift could be forced to slow down with as automated speed limits. Warning messages on screens can also be triggered. Collisions can be avoided. In the end, the goal of safety and less wasted resources and time go hand-in-hand. Not only can you comply with safety regulations, you have real time tracking to prove it.

forklift tracking system problems and solutions

Solving multiple problem by understanding forklift movements

Managing an industrial operation is sometimes as much an art as science, right? It can be difficult to understand all the moving pieces, common mistakes, and bottlenecks. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Data and automation should make it easier to put a number value to these common problems.

  • Improve efficiency and ensuring safety
  • Reduce accidents
  • Efficient workforce rotation
  • Return tools back to their designated place
  • Reduce the need for workforce training and process improvement

Forklift usage is a strong contributor and factor in these problems. They’re heavy but commonly used machinery that needs to be accounted for, managed by multiple employees, and tracked for efficiency data. Simply by putting a solution to track forklifts in place, positive results appear in a number of ways. Real-time tracking supports LEAN processes and efficient operations and telematic data provides the foundation for a safer workplace.
Results available through forklift tracking:

  • Identification and reduction of inactive or non-productive time
  • Reduction in need for ongoing workforce training
  • Reduction in mishandling of goods
  • Decrease in accident-related costs

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Simply by understanding how often and how your assets move can lead directly to actionable information. Start by noting how many drivers you pay each week and how long they need to move certain assets. You now have a clear numerical value of how much your drivers should be working. When the numbers don’t add up, it should be easy to find the problem in the data. Similarly, when it comes to safety and physical security, it should be easy to digitize equipment and remove the possibility for mistakes to be made.

Even for those businesses who aren’t yet ready for the full “smart” factory, tracking forklift movements in particular makes sense. It’s not simply about optimizing overall operations, but zoning in on specific safety issues and common problems that occur in all kinds of warehousing and logistics settings. The forklift is a classic tool for intralogistics. Maybe it’s time to modernize it.

 width=Enjoyed this blog post? Interested in Bluetooth-based solutions in the Supply Chain industry? Make sure to check out our complete guide Bluetooth Beacons in Supply Chain Management.