Itamco, a manufacturer of precision-machined components, specializing in gears—from mining gearing to production runs of CBN-ground transmission gears, has connected its forklifts to the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

In 2012, Itamco implemented an MTConnect-enabled machine-monitoring program. After key pieces of machinery were connected to MTConnect and to its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Itamco developed a communication system for their forklifts.

“We developed the application because both of our facilities are rather large and forklift operators where always looking for forklifts to move their material but could never find one,” explains Joel Neidig, an engineer and lead technology developer at Itamco.

“Also, material would sit for hours at a machine, delaying the next operation. This application solved the problem by notifying a material handler as soon as the materials were ready to go to the next work area,” Neidig adds.

Now, as soon as a machine operator scans the barcode on a pallet, signifying the completion of the product cycle at his machine, a forklift operator and forklift are on their way to the machine. Each forklift is linked to Itamco’s ERP system through its GPS and an application on a smart tablet mounted in the forklift.

Forklift operators are notified via their smart devices—employees use iPods, iPads and smartphones—when they’re needed. The communication system is so efficient it will summon the closest forklift to the machine.

The forklift operator will also know how many pallets need to be moved and where they should be taken. If the product is being moved to another workstation, the workers in that area will be notified that the product is on its way.

“We’ve seen a 10% reduction in the time it takes to get material ready for the next operation,” says Neidig.