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The company has been supplied with 27 new three- and four-wheeled counterbalance forklifts from Toyota, along with a number of powered pallet trucks, reach trucks and stackers – all powered by lithium-ion battery technology.

Whitworths said the switch had delivered significant productivity gains, thanks in part to the removal of the time-consuming process of refilling gas bottles present in the older equipment.

Reducing downtime

As outbound front line manager Jim Rattan explained: “Our old LPG ​[liquefied petroleum gas] counterbalance trucks had to have their gas bottle topped-up at least once every shift which meant 15 minutes of truck downtime every time a refill was required.”

Availability of trucks has also increased as a result – lithium-ion batteries allow for ‘opportunity charging’, which means the trucks can be recharged anywhere on site during breaks in a shift or other periods of operator downtime.

Demand for lithium-ion battery tech has been on the rise for some time, according to Toyota key account manager Jeff Morley – a trend driven by heightened environmental concerns, rising fuel prices and greater awareness of staff welfare.

Lithium-ion future

“In fact, nearly a quarter of all Toyota electric-powered forklift trucks ordered for delivery in the UK now feature Lithium-Ion battery technology,” ​he added.

“After listening to​ [Whitworths’] needs, were confident that switching to lithium-ion battery power would bring real operational benefits to the company. This has proved to be the case.”

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