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Toyota folklifts at the heart of production revolution

Toyota forklifts are at the centre of an innovation that has improved productivity and safety at Toyota Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd’s (TMUK) car manufacturing plant in Burnaston, near Derby.

TMUK has worked with its materials handling supplier, Toyota Industrial Equipment, to establish two unique, world-leading, three-tier battery changing stations for Toyota forklifts at the plant which is currently undergoing a £50 million programme of investment to increase capacity from 220,000 to 285,000 vehicles a year.

TMUK operates a Just-In-Time production process, where every second counts in an efficient production environment that currently sees around 1,000 new cars drive off the production line every single day. The new battery change system will ensure maximum productivity and uptime for the 94 Toyota electric 7FBMF forklifts and 150 tow tractors in use at the site. Currently covering the trucks that operate across two of the assembly lines, the Avensis and Corolla manufacturing areas and parts department, the battery changing stations are being introduced in stages to the Toyota materials handling fleet.

Productivity is enhanced in numerous ways. The sideways exit battery transfer on the electric Toyota forklifts ensures a simple but fast change-over of batteries, of about three minutes, which is a big difference from the old method of using crane lifting equipment to remove the battery, which could take up to 15 minutes

In manpower terms, the battery changing stations are operated by just one person each, rather than the two people required for the overhead system. The two battery bays are sited well apart on the large site, helping to minimise the distance that forklifts need to travel for battery changing.

The use of the new battery changing areas at TMUK have eliminated damage to batteries and significantly reduced damage to trucks, keeping service and maintenance costs down. The Deta battery chargers at the back of the tiers ensure that forklift batteries are used to their full potential, by enabling TMUK to evaluate the efficiency of individual batteries and ensure they are fully used before being replaced, and fully recharged before being installed into a truck. The initiative has also seen a substantial amount of floor-space released, with the two three-tier bays replacing the previous six separate overhead battery changing bays.

Safety has also been improved, as the use of a magnet to extract and replace the batteries eliminates the need for individuals to position or handle the heavy batteries.

Toyota Industrial Equipment UK’s Global Accounts Manager, Peter Walker: “The Toyota forklift fleet has an important role to play in the production process at Burnaston and ensuring optimum productivity, as well as the highest standards of safety, is essential. The battery changing system has brought improvements in both areas in a relatively short space of time, and demonstrates the effective role that high quality electric forklifts can play in the manufacturing process.”

One of the key advantages of battery transfer systems is that the truck is capable of continuous operation. Once a battery is discharged, the truck is driven to the charging area where it is replaced with a spare battery. An overhead LED display informs the operator which fully charged battery to take as a replacement. The used battery is then left to charge whilst the truck leaves to continue its shift. This process ensures maximum productivity, as the operator can continue to use the truck at all times, improving efficiency and reducing potential costs incurred through downtime.

Toyota provides its sideways exit battery transfer on its 24/7 electric counterbalanced, reach, pallet and stacker trucks, helping companies to minimise downtime and optimise productivity.

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