Comfort is a word that means different things to different people. To a lift truck operator, it may mean just being able to operate the vehicle throughout one’s shift without creating aches, strains or other soreness. One source of irritation for operators, sometimes quite literally, is often the seat.
While the seat is only a piece of the overall comfort story, its focus should not be surprising given that an operator may spend nearly their entire shift seated within the compartment of their lift truck. Providing an operator with an ergonomically designed and comfortable seat can help combat fatigue and be easier on the body, which can ultimately affect warehouse productivity and safety.
Crown Equipment focuses heavily on designing operator-centric lift trucks to confirm that operator comfort, safety and productivity can all be maintained. Approaching each design with the needs of the operator in mind helps ensure that vehicle operation will be a positive and satisfying experience.
Here are four key questions to ask when assessing options for your forklift operators’ seated comfort:
1. Will the seat adjust to fit your operators’ physical seating needs?
Operators come in all shapes and sizes and so do seats. Adjustability is one of the most important design considerations, allowing for better calibration of touchpoints to the needs of your operators, the application and the environment.
For instance, if the floors are uneven, consider a full suspension seat which can include important adaptations, like adjustable backrests, lumbar support and operator weight-preloading to help offset some of the bumps and jolts.
2. Does the seat reduce pressure points and absorb shock?
Over time, continued bumps and jolts to an operator’s spine due to inferior, worn or broken seating could contribute to pressure and misalignment of the spinal cord. Seats designed to help dissipate this pressure through the use of cushioning or suspension can help offset the forces felt by the operator. Extended backrests support the back and help reduce upper body sway.
Crown has raised the bar on comfort by utilizing innovations in materials and design to reduce pressure points. For example, Crown’s FlexSeat™ features a polymer bushing that allows the seat backrest to flex backward while simultaneously absorbing and dissipating the jolts and vibrations felt by the upper body of an operator. Additionally, a layer of Dymetrol® mesh within the seat’s bottom cushion helps avoid pressure “hot-spots” found with some conventional “foam-on-steel” seats. This flexible mesh sits beneath an easily replaceable industrial cover and two inches of high-density vibration-damping foam.
3. Are the seats replaceable or easy to maintain?
Due to the continuous contact between the operator and the seat during use, seats tend to be a high wear item on a forklift. They must be easily replaceable or serviceable. Crown’s One Source Lift Truck Parts® and accessories program includes quality seat replacements and components, manufactured to OEM specifications, for more than 50 brands of material handling equipment.
4. Does the seat cater to the unique functional needs of your operators?
The right seat selection will depend on a number of decision factors, most significantly the task requirements. Some tasks require a lift truck that provides multiple operating positions. Crown’s TSP Series is a versatile man-up very narrow aisle turret truck that features the MoveControl® Seat, which includes a swivel design, cushioned armrests, height adjustability and 110-degree rotation to better facilitate multi-directional usage. These operator-centric design features can be paramount to the success of an operator performing many man-up style tasks.
Consider then, what someone operating at ground level would need. Operators who spend a great deal of time driving in reverse might benefit from features like backrest shoulder cut-outs or pivoting functions, for instance. A wider seat will also allow an operator to swivel more easily within the seat and seatbelt/hip restraint.
In applications where the operator may frequently get on and off the lift truck, a seat with a different profile, such as Crown’s FlexSeat, might be better as it provides nearly the same cushioning as a full suspension but sits lower in the lift truck’s cab so the operator does not have as much distance to climb when entering/exiting the vehicle.
When choosing a forklift, it is important to consider the tasks, environment and needs of your operators. The same rules apply when considering individual components or options, such as seats. Listen to the conversations that operators are having around their comfort on the job and consider implementing that feedback into your equipment search. Asking these four questions could be the secret to improving operator comfort and enhancing the productivity of your entire operation. Those are bottom-line improvements in more ways than one!