Warehouse operations are a crucial component of the logistics industry.

A common industrial vehicle used in warehouse operations is a forklift. A forklift is used to lift cargo from underneath and then raise or lower the cargo and move it to another desired location. Only warehouse employees, whom have received the required certification as a result of specialized training, can operate forklifts.

Forklift operators are occasionally faced with navigation difficulties within the warehouse due to limited space, blind spots and timing constraints imposed to satisfy shipping schedule deadlines.

Often, accidents occur which can lead to equipment or cargo damage and even injured personnel. It is estimated that 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries involving forklifts occur annually, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  In even worse scenarios, fatal forklift accidents can happen. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded that 96 U.S. workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts in 2015.

Accidents from operating forklifts not only can cause physical damage and personnel injuries or fatalities, but they also can lead to substantial financial loss for companies.

According to the National Safety Council, the average direct cost of just one forklift accident that causes an injury is $38,000, and with additional indirect costs including lost work time, costs can balloon to as high as $188,000. Calculating the costs of forklift accidents will also involve a sometimes-lengthy investigation that requires proper time management of the employer to fully address the accident and determine how to resume work effectively afterwards. Investigations also arise for cargo damage claims and can even be more costly depending on the value of the freight. The National Institute of Standards and Technology suggests that forklift accidents cost nearly $135 million per year in freight damages.

Bosch, a global engineering and electronics company based in Gerlingen, Germany, has introduced a potential solution to prevent future forklift accidents from happening. The technology was showcased at the LogiMAT 2019 17th International Trade Fair for Intralogistics Solutions and Process Management. Their technological solution is a multi-camera system to be installed on forklifts that will enable a full 360-degree view around the forklift.  Andrew Allen, who is the Business Unit Leader of Commercial Vehicle and Off Road Units at Bosch, explained the thought process behind the innovative technology by stating that, “A driver’s eyes cannot be everywhere at once – that’s where the Bosch multi-camera system comes in.” The system helps a forklift operator maneuver with precision, accurately calculate distances and eliminate blind spots while on the move.

The camera technology is similar to the backup cameras that have been installed on vehicles globally for personal use.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Loss Data has reported that rear vehicle cameras have decreased crashes by 40 percent for drivers 70 and older and 15 percent for younger drivers. The statistics suggest that camera technology has proven to be helpful for vehicle drivers so it is possible that forklift operators may also benefit. There may not be a method to avoid all forklift accidents, but if the logistics industry can benefit by utilizing technology to prevent some accidents, there will be a less costly, safer and ultimately, brighter outlook for the future.