In many logistics operations the requirement is to handle individual items, instead of traditional unit loads. The most obvious example is order picking – but there are many other situations in industrial as well as non-industrial environments.
One example is manufacturing, where lean just-in-time thinking calls for exactly the right components to be assembled at a given point in the production process to match order throughput. This way, mini-stockholdings can be avoided throughout the process, which otherwise ties up capital and risks waste through damage or obsolescence.
Another fast-growing type of application is the fulfilment of orders in the world of e-commerce. In this case single items are selected for end customers and sorted during the picking round. Most operations of this type simply require horizontal transportation, with occasional picking from higher levels.
Toyota has developed a range of solutions for these types of item-handling applications, under the concept name T-motion. The solutions have been based on the company's long and proven experience in lean manufacturing, translated into lean logistics planning. There are many different situations in which the towing solutions offered by T-motion can make a difference – reducing human effort, increasing safety and saving time and money.
The concept is based on a wide range of load carriers that enable customers to develop solutions that ideally match operational requirements. These can include bespoke designs to suit, for example, manufacturing operations where kits of components need to be delivered to the production line. In addition to load carriers, Toyota also offers an extremely wide range of tractor units, including simple pedestrian-operated units, up to long-distance 49 tonnes capacity machines. The total range includes the BT Movit family for internal operations and Toyota Tracto models with pneumatic tyres, which are also suited to outdoor operations.
“Our T-motion concept brings some interesting ideas, even for our traditional order picking customers,” explains Sam Coles, SVP Marketing and Sales, “because with tow trains we can accommodate more load carriers – which are typically roll cages – on taxi-style units. And even though the train is longer, you need less space for turning as the steering system that we use allows accurate steering for the whole consignment.”
Toyota’s T-motion concept also allows for automated transportation and remote driving, ideal in order picking as it allows the operator to concentrate on handling the items rather than repetitive driving.
Other non-industrial applications include lightweight load carriers and tractors that can work easily in offices or retail premises, and special models for the healthcare sector.