6 questions to check if a tow tractor fits your operations

Businesses are constantly being challenged in terms of quality, efficiency and safety, especially with e-commerce and online orders becoming a natural part of the customer buying behaviour. Having to move more products and material around, may require to rethink your material handling operation in order to reach this increased throughput while also maintaining safety. One solution could be to go “forkless”: moving materials via load carriers with wheels pulled by a tow tractor. By asking yourself these 6 questions you can find out if a tow tractor could improve efficiency in your operation.

Do you handle items instead of pallets?


Item handling

In 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, item handling is necessary to avoid excessive material throughout the process. In the e-commerce business, where single items are selected for end customers and sorted during the picking round, efficient solutions to move products are needed. Item handling is common with roll cage handling.

Here pedestrian tow tractors such as the Toyota Tracto W-series are a good solution to improve ergonomics and it is safer than transporting the cages by hand. Overall, pedestrian or rider towing solutions are a good alternative to traditional forklifts when handling single items. They are safe, easy to manoeuvre and perfect for transporting pallets and picking single items.


Do you need to move multiple loads at the same time?


Efficient tow trains

A tow tractor with a train of trailers will give you great flexibility in the type of goods you can transport. There’s a large variety of load carriers which you can pick and choose from to put together a tow train. This enables you to handle different load sizes, load from one or both sides, move goods via pallets, boxes or other load carriers. Tow train solutions allow for efficient use of manpower and maximise the value added for your business.


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Do you pursue lean production?


Just-in-time delivery

The idea behind fork-free handling is replenishing material as it is used, rather than keeping excess material on the production floor. Tow tractors like the Toyota Tracto TSE can be used for so-called ‘milk runs’, which is a continual route tow tractors follow around the factory with stops at designated points, either dropping off or collecting trailers or goods.

Tow tractors are very useful if your operations apply JIT (Just In Time) and Kanban processes. This gives you lower risk for bottlenecks, with more flexibility and a leaner way of working.
Towing vehicles support an efficient flow; fewer people are needed to move the same amount of goods, and less equipment on the floor leads to a safer working environment and less incidents.

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Do your customers expect high flexibility in growing e-commerce?


Optimised picking

With the growing e-commerce businesses, customers expect very fast delivery times. Therefore single-piece or multi-order picking should be quick and easy.

Dedicated tractor and trolley solutions with customised shelves can optimise your order picking operation for e-commerce. The tow tractors can also be used for stock replenishment as they provide the flexibility to transport quantities of large and/or small items stock to various locations.


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Do you have safety and operator comfort high on your priority list?

Safe operation 

In a fork-free operation, operators have a clear view from the tow tractor driving position. Tractors tow the load carriers behind them and are only moving forward, which is a big advantage when it comes to visibility and the possibility to communicate with other tractor drivers.

Especially in busy areas such as airports, visibility and safety are of high importance. In addition, driver-seated tow tractors such as our Simai range with fully enclosed cabins offer the operators a comfortable workspace during long-distance driving in all weather conditions.

Going from forklifts to a fork-free facility is quite a change. That’s why it’s important to educate your employees to understand how they will be moving materials and interacting with tow tractors.


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Are you considering automation in your warehouse?


Repetitive load handling

Automation optimises the flow of goods while minimising damage, time and cost. Workers become available to handle more complex tasks instead of repetitive processes. By automating your material handling, you can more easily work just-in-time and have a lean material handling approach.

Automated tow tractors can take over repetitive transport and deliver the goods precisely and safely to the designated station. A good way is to start off with standard tow tractors and when the operation is optimised you can switch to a semi- or fully automated solution.


How Toyota implemented automated towing

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