SUMOLevel

Gives a clear and precise indication of the mast tilt angle allowing the operator to accurately align the forks with the load, first time, every-time.

SUMOLevel is an innovative mast tilt indicator designed to be retro-fitted to Forklift Trucks. Mounted in the eye-line of the operator it gives a clear and precise indication of the mast tilt angle.

So even novice operators will be able to accurately align the forks with the load.

SUMOLevel helps businesses to save time, save money, improve safety and lower their carbon footprint.

Introduction

The SafeLevel allows the truck operator to monitor the tilt angle of the truck’s mast to ensure that the forks are perfectly level when entering or retracting from the pallet to avoid ‘snagging’.

Mounted to the mast and quick and simple to install, the SafeLevel tilt indicator is compatible with all makes of counterbalance lift truck as well as all attachments – even the longest extended forks and carpet booms.

Tests have shown that forklift operators consistently level a truck’s forks accurately and quickly when SafeLevel is fitted.

SUMOLevel has many advantages over other indicators on the market, SafeLevel is analogue and extremely accurate, which not only allows the operator to judge when their forks are precisely aligned, but also shows them how quickly the forks are approaching alignment. This feature ensures that the correct tilt angle is achieved smoothly and efficiently every time.  SafeLevel has the added benefit of showing when the forks are parallel to the ground rather than when they are horizontal,  allowing its use outside the warehouse where floors are not horizontal.

SUMOLevel is fully customizable allowing the operator to accurately repeat any predefined tilt angle in addition to level forks.

The SUMOLevel removes fork leveling guesswork which allows truck operators to focus on getting the lift height correct. Even the most experienced truck operators find the system beneficial. This technology improves load handling efficiencies and, by significantly reducing damage to pallets, loads and racking caused by misaligned forks and attachments offers a very rapid return on the user’s investment.”

Why is damage caused by forklifts almost inevitable?

Whether your forklifts are fitted with standard forks, extended forks, roll, carton or barrel clamps, carpet booms, lifting jibs, or any of the multitude of available lifting attachments, their operation relies on your operators accurately aligning the forks/attachment with the load.

Sideways alignment is determined by steering the truck to align with the load. The human visual system, with two eyes mounted at the same height and facing forwards is designed to allow accurate tracking of objects across the field of vision, so sideways alignment is relatively easy to judge. The skills required to steer the truck are quickly learned, and any minor error can easily be compensated for by using the side-shift feature.

Vertical alignment is more difficult, because it is movement perpendicular to the eyes. The accuracy of vertical alignment will decrease as the forks/attachment move away from eyelevel. For heights above 4m it gets very difficult to judge, and the operators typically have to make multiple adjustments to the lift control as they approach the load, for instance when picking from or placing a load into racking or stacks.

The final alignment is angular, and is controlled by the mast tilt. Unfortunately this is impossible to judge accurately from the operators driving seat. The only visual reference for the operator is to try to determine whether the rear of the mast is perpendicular to the floor, but to do this with any accuracy, they would need to be looking at the side of the mast. The human visual system is not designed to judge when an object is leaning towards or away from the observer. If you have ever tried erecting a fence post, you will know that to have any chance of getting the post vertical you have to view it from two sides. The problem for your forklift operators is that they are required to accurately align the tilt angle without leaving the seat.
An added complication for the operators is that any adjustment to the mast tilt angle also alters the height.

As the mast is tilted forwards the end of the forks/attachment will lower, and conversely, as the mast is tilted backwards the ends of the forks/attachment will raise. The amount of the change in height depends on the change in tilt angle; the height of lift. (At higher lifts, the change in height due to change in angle increases) and the length of the forks/attachment (Extended forks or booms are notoriously difficult to align, because any small change in tilt angle makes a large change in height).
So, it is not possible to properly align the lift height until the mast tilt angle is correctly set, but the operator has no way of accurately determining the tilt angle. Instead, the operator has to make a ‘best guess’ of the tilt angle, and then make multiple adjustments of both tilt and lift controls when approaching the load.

Unsurprisingly, novice and inexperienced drivers find it very difficult to get the vertical and angular alignment right. Their initial guess of tilt angle is likely to be very variable, and they will then struggle to make the required multiple adjustments to both tilt and lift. Errors are inevitable, and often very costly.

Experienced drivers will tend to be more consistent in their initial tilt setting, and will become more proficient in making the required corrections, but even the most experienced of drivers cannot know for sure when the forks/attachment are correctly aligned. Whilst experienced drivers will make fewer mistakes than novices, there will still be occasions when they cause damages.

These recurring damages can be drastically reduced by fitting a mast tilt angle indicator to your counterbalance trucks. All of your operators will know when the forks/attachment are correctly aligned with the load. By removing the guesswork all they then have to do is concentrate on is getting the lift height correct. This will greatly improve load handling efficiencies as well as eliminating damage to pallets, loads and racking caused by misaligned forks/attachments.

The SumoLevel is the most accurate mast tilt indicator on the market, capable of achieving accuracies of 0.02 degrees of tilt angle. This incredible accuracy means that SumoLevel can be used with all attachments, even the longest extended forks and carpet booms. For example, a 3m long boom can be adjusted to within 1mm of level along its length.

Because SumoLevel is analogue, it allows the operator to not only judge when the forks are aligned, but also how quickly they are approaching alignment. This is important for the smooth and efficient setting of tilt angle, and is not possible with digital indicators.

The SumoLevel is mounted onto the mast in front of the driver’s line of sight, so its use quickly becomes instinctive and tests have shown that all operators can consistently level the forks accurately and quickly. No more guesswork.

Don’t drive faster, drive smarter.

It is widely accepted that increasing forklift operating speed increases the likelihood and potential severity of accidents, so is it possible to work faster without compromising on safety?

One major issue for counterbalance operators is that they have insufficient view of the forks/attachment to get the mast-tilt accurately aligned with the load. This inevitably leads to wasted time and the risk of damage every time a load is picked or placed. Training cannot eliminate this, because it’s a fundamental problem with the operator’s seating position and limitations of the human visual system.

Typically, trainees are taught to bring the forks to eye-level to adjust the mast-tilt. Not only is this highly inaccurate, it is very time consuming. The push for higher productivity will inevitably put pressure on operators to either abandon this method, or drive faster to make up for lost time.

The SumoLevel mast-tilt indicator gives the operator constant feedback on mast-tilt position. Operators can accurately set the required tilt angle first time. The SumoLevel allows operators to significantly improve load handling times whilst also greatly reducing the risk of damages and injury.

Working faster doesn’t always mean driving faster

 

Cost Savings

Accurate handling of pallets reduces damage and the costs associated with damage:

  • Fewer damaged pallets and packaging materials to replace and dispose of
  • Reduced re-palletisation
  • Less damage to racking systems
  • Fewer instances of declined shipments due to damaged packaging
  • Less wear to forks, controls and hydraulic systems

Without SUMOLevel, drivers are required to guess the required tilt angle, and then micro adjust the tilt and lift controls as they approach the load.  This causes wear to the controls and hydraulic systems and can ultimately lead to expensive repairs.

With SUMOLevel, the correct tilt is set first time, so this wear is reduced. SUMOLevel will pay for itself over and over again!

 

Time & Movement Study

SumoLevel benefits analysis.

SumoLevel allows forklift operators to align the angle of the forks with the load first time every time, eliminating the need to micro adjust the tilt and lift controls when picking and placing pallets.  The potential benefits are:

  • Faster pallet handling times, since delays caused while aligning the forks are eliminated
  • Reduced damages, since incorrectly aligned forks are likely to cause damage to the pallet, its load, the forks or the vehicle being loaded
  • Reduced fuel consumption, since each adjustment of the mast tilt requires fuel
  • Reduced wear to tilt and lift controls, since the number of times the controls are operated is drastically reduced
  • Reduced packaging waste
  • Reduced likelihood of spillages of hazardous materials
  • Improved health and safety

Example;

During a recent warehouse field test movement across the pallet network, each pallet is moved at least 6 times by forklift truck.

Each movement requires correct fork alignment for picking and placing, therefore each pallet requires 12 correct fork alignments.

If the facility handles 25,000 pallets daily; therefore there are 25,000 x 12 = 300,000 instances per day when the forklift operators have to correctly align the forks.

It is estimated that forklift operators can only correctly align the forks 30% of the time*, therefore 300,000 x 70% = 210,000 times they need to make adjustments to correctly align the forks.

*Tests during field trials showed 30% probability of getting the forks aligned to within +/-  0.5 degree (see next page)

If these adjustments take 1 second to make, then SumoLevel can potentially save 210,000 seconds per day = 58 hours per day across the network.

This saving is also reflected in 58 hours less fuel use per day, and in 210,000 fewer operations of the tilt controls.

Half of these savings are attributable to the hub operation; the other half is shared by the members.

As part of the field trials, a test was performed to assess the effect of SumoLevel on the operators’ ability to set the forks to horizontal- ‘The SumoLevel challenge’.

Test Procedure:

  • Park the forklift truck on a level surface.
  • Raise the mast to its highest lift position.
  • Adjust the mast tilt to the fully back tilt position
  • Adjust the mast tilt until the forks are level
  • Lower the mast until the forks are approx 1m from the ground.
  • Measure and record the distance from the ground to the top surface of the fork tip and fork heal.
  • Repeat ten times from 1 to 5
  • Fit and calibrate SumoLevel
  • Repeat ten times from 1 to 5

Results:

Without SumoLevel:

6% probability of achieving +/- 0.1 degree            (equivalent to 2mm along 1200mm fork length)

30.5% probability of achieving +/- 0.5 degree      (equivalent to 10mm along 1200mm fork length)

58% probability of achieving +/- 1.0 degree         (equivalent to 20mm along 1200mm fork length)

With SumoLevel:

99.5% probability of achieving +/- 0.1 degree

Report – Results of Fork Alignment Challenge

Attached is a report produced for a leading UK building materials supplier in their distribution centre, Warrington, UK.

The Fork Alignment Challenge was conducted as a challenge with 4 of the company’s FLT drivers comparing results with and without the assistance of the SumoLevel. Note the report was conducted prior to a name change from “Fork Angles” for marketing reasons to “SumoLevel”.

The report clearly shows that drivers using “SumoLevel” were both more accurate and faster.

It also demonstrates that without “SumoLevel” there is a wide variation in driver performance, but with it they are all consistently good.

SUMOLevel Performance Trial Results

 

Time Savings

SUMOLevel Reduces Pallet Handling Times

With SUMOLevel, the correct tilt angle can be set first time, which eliminates the need to micro adjust the tilt and lift controls when approaching a load.  This can significantly reduce pallet handling times, particularly when working with awkward loads and in racking systems.

SUMOLevel improves the performance of all drivers from novice to experienced but is especially beneficial for inexperienced and/or infrequent drivers.

In addition, SUMOLevel can greatly reduce driver training times and improve productivity.  Even novice drivers can quickly set the correct tilt angle, so instructors can concentrate on other aspects of driver training.

 

Double Stacking

Why do double stacked pallets tend to lean and often topple?

Double stacking of pallets doubles the effective storage area and transport loading density so there is a massive incentive. However, incorrect double stacking greatly increases risk.

Successful double stacking relies on the base pallet load being sufficiently strong to carry the load of the pallet above. In palletised carton loads all the strength is provided by the walls of the cartons, which are only strong in compression. Any sideways forces will cause the cardboard to deform and ultimately collapse. Once one carton wall starts to collapse the other cartons are sharing a greater portion of the load, so adjacent cartons are also likely to collapse. Added to this the upper pallet load will start to lean applying further load to the already weakened side of the carton stack.

Successful double stacking therefore requires the upper pallet to be placed squarely and level onto the pallet below so that the weight is evenly shared by all sides of the bottom stack.

The problem for FLT drivers is that they cannot see to accurately set the upper pallet level before stacking. Any error in tilt angle as the upper pallet is lowered will apply more load to one side of the lower stack. Any attempt to correct the tilt once the loads are touching will impart lateral forces to the lower pallet, which is likely to cause the carton walls to deform.
The collapse of double stacked pallets can occur days or weeks after the stack was created, and without any warning.

Changes in atmospheric conditions, especially humidity have a large effect on carton wall strength. Often final collapse will occur overnight when the temperature drops and condensation levels increase.

Similar stack collapse is also common with palletized bagged granular products, where unbalanced forces due to uneven pallet stacking cause the granules to shift inside the bags. The contents of each bag act like a slow moving fluid that is being squeezed by the load above. If the load is more on one side of the pallet, then the contents will flow away from this load point causing the upper pallet to lean, which increases the load to the same side of the pallet.

Guide to successful double stacking:

  • Correctly applied stretch or shrink wrap helps to stabilize the carton side walls as well as holding the cartons into a close stack.
  • It is important that only the correct pallets are used as not all pallets are suitable for double stacking.
  • Ensure Forklift trucks have a suitable mast tilt indicator so that the pallets can be accurately stacked.
  • Double stacked pallets should generally not be moved as a stack.
  • The extra forces applied whilst tilting and moving the stack can cause its collapse.
  • Be very careful when forming a row of double stacked pallets. If these are pushed close together there is a build up of forces down the row which can cause the whole row to collapse.

There are strict rules relating to the correct stacking and restraining of pallets for transportation due to the additional dynamic forces experienced during shipping.

 

Safety Improvements

SUMOLevel is a great aid to safer working

“Every year, hundreds of people are seriously injured working on and around forklift trucks. Statistically, a person is killed every six weeks.” FLTA

Unfortunately, operating forklift trucks remains a risky business, not only for the driver, but also for people working nearby.

SUMOLevel can reduce the risk to employees in the following ways:

  1. By reducing instances of damage to pallets, the quantity of scrap pallets is reduced.  Broken pallets are a health and safety risk, with many minor injuries caused handling them.  They are also a significant fire hazard.
  2. By ensuring the forks are level before entering and leaving racking systems, instances of racking damage are minimised.  Damage to racking systems can be a major health and safety risk.  Incorrect fork alignment can dislodge pallets from racking and cause structural damage to cross members.
  3. By reducing damage to goods on pallets, which can result in spillage of hazardous materials.
  4. By eliminating the need for the driver to concentrate on micro-adjusting the tilt and lift controls to get the correct fork alignment, the driver can concentrate more on his surroundings thereby improving the safety for himself and work colleagues.
  5. By presenting the operator with the information they need to align the forks, the temptation to lean out of the cab for a better view is reduced.

 

Environmental Impact

Accurate fork alignment reduces damage to pallets

Every day millions of pallets are moved using forklift trucks.  It is estimated that the UK alone requires 50 million new pallets to be added to the supply chain annually.  For the whole of Europe the figure is 350 million, globally 1.5 billion*.  Most of these new pallets are to replace older pallets that have reached the end of their useful lifecycle (typically between 6 and 10 journeys).

Currently 20% of all the timber grown in Europe is consumed in producing pallets and packing cases.

The costs associated with producing these new pallets and in scrapping the old pallets are staggering, but much of it is absorbed by the supply chain as a running cost.  Companies up and down the country having a pallet graveyard tucked out of sight and out of mind.

Most damage is caused to pallets when they are being moved, and most of this movement is performed by forklift trucks.  Every time the forks hit or rub against the timber they stress the pallet structure.  Every time loaded pallets are lifted or lowered with unlevel forks they experience large twisting and bending forces.

To minimize pallet damage, forklift forks should be parallel with the ground as they are lifted and lowered, but this is very difficult to judge from the driver’s position.

SUMOLevel makes it possible for the forklift operator to set the correct tilt angle first time every time, which will reduce the amount of damage caused to pallets.  By reducing the amount of damage the life cycle of pallets can be increased, which improves the CO2 footprint.

* Figures from Timcon – Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation

 

“SUMOLevel is a simple concept to assist the forklift driver, in getting the forks level, so as to minimise any potential damage that may be caused when picking up pallets”

David Huxley

AM Operations Manager (S-O-T), , DHL International

“Why is it that the best ideas are nearly always the simplest!

There have been many different methods over the years for trying to set the angle of forks, mostly electronic, expensive and complicated. SUMOLevel is simple, easy to install and works.

I also think it will be very useful when teaching novices. All in all, a very good idea, it will pay for itself the first time it prevents damage and is virtually maintenance free. Nice one.”

Rob Dalton

Training Manager, Stan Robinsons (Stafford) Ltd

“A simple, yet innovative, visual tool that assists the everyday operation of FLTs in a manufacturing / warehouse environment.  By immediately knowing the forks are level, our drivers can load / unload items faster and more importantly, safer.  The service received was also excellent.“

Dave Cadman

Group Warehouse Manager, , Churchill China

“As a Fork Lift Truck instructor of approx. 20 years experience I have come across many ideas and systems to help operators work in a safe manner, but I have never come across a piece of equipment that can make such a difference to operator safety and product integrity as SUMOLevel.

I have tested SUMOLevel with a number of novice and experienced operatives in many different environments and everyone who has used SUMOLevel has said they are amazed at how easy it is to fit and use and what a difference it makes when lifting and lowering loads.

Many of my operators have been very reluctant to give me the system back when the trial has been completed!

Philip Sanderson

R.T.I.T.B. Registered Instructor, A.I.T.T. Registered Instructor

“I have spoken to all our staff regarding the device, and have had a lot of positive feedback.  The dedicated driver of this truck has also made many constructive comments. He has told me that he would not want to be without this aid as it makes his job a lot easier and there is less chance of damaging pallets where there is restricted vision.

I would be more than pleased to fit your SUMOLevel device to all our trucks in the future”

Paul Manser

Fleet Engineer, R.G.Bassett & Sons Ltd

“We have found the SUMOLevel device to be a cost effective method of aiding the truck operators to line up the forks when stacking/de-stacking product at height, the device has reduced the instances of forks damaging finished product.

The service provided was professional and prompt at every stage of the project.“

Phil

Animal Feed Manufacturer

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