Toll deploys driverless forklifts to shift pallets

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Toll deploys driverless forklifts to shift pallets
AGV No. 5, otherwise known as Flash.

At new e-commerce fulfilment centre.

Toll has deployed a fleet of 10 driverless forklifts at its new "next generation" e-commerce fulfilment centre in NSW.

The logistics giant brought the fulfilment centre in Prestons, NSW online last month. It was created to cater to the growing online retail market.

The "highly specialised and customised" processing and fulfilment centre - which was designed with Toll customer and retailer Speciality Fashion Group - is intended to enable "fast, efficient, reliable and cost-effective order fulfilment".

Toll has fitted the 33,830sqm facility out with 15,600sqm of automation equipment able to pick process and pack 375,000 items a day.

This includes driverless forklifts, or what Toll calls automated guided vehicles (AGVs).

Six are larger, double-tyre vehicles capable of shifting two pallets at a time, while the remaining four can move single pallets at a time.

The driverless forklifts - built by Dematic - are used to move pallets from the manual areas of the warehouse to the automated areas. Facility workers have given each vehicle a superhero moniker. 

Safety sensors on the vehicle exterior detect when a person enters the forklift's operating area and alerts the vehicle to come to a complete stop.

"When you combine the AGVs with the introduction of other new on-site technology – such as automated storage and retrieval systems and ergonomic goods-to-person picking stations – improved automation has led to a reduction in manual intervention by 70 percent, improving safety for the site’s 200 workers," a Toll spokesperson said.

However, despite the initial results there are no current plans to expand the fleet.

"We are always reviewing our facilities for safer and smarter ways of operating," Toll said.

"If an opportunity presents itself, given the AGVs’ current performance, we would not hesitate."

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