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Installation tips to maximize the lifespan of vehicle-mount computers

Inappropriately installed vehicle-mount terminals (VMTs) stand the risk of impaired usability and could, as a result, suffer early product failure. The following tips will help you avoid the biggest in-service pitfalls and maximize the return on investment for your equipment. 

JLT’s rugged computers by their very nature are built to withstand the operational rigors of warehousing and logistics operations, with their ability to handle vibration and shock levels far in excess of those experienced by off-the-shelf computers. 

But to extract the maximum operational longevity, operators must consider their means of mounting too, especially in relation to the frequencies and amplitudes of vibrations they may experience. These vibrations will be created by engines, gears, and motors, and then compounded by the truck type, driving speeds, the condition of the floor and the type of wheels used. This combination of factors means that most applications will be unique and could even vary within the same site. 

However, the good news is that there are many appropriate installation steps and methodologies that can eliminate the effects of excessive shock and vibration in both ordinary and extreme environments. 

 

Proper placement reduces shock and improves user ergonomics  

As trucks drive over debris, stones, or cracks in the floor, they will tilt slightly, creating sudden sideways movements. This lateral movement can create shock loads on the VMT, the severity of which will depend on where the computer is mounted in relation to the solid body of the vehicle.  

Mounting the unit lower is also advantageous from an ergonomic point of view, making data entry and VMT usage easier for the operator. This not only delivers a more comfortable and safer user environment but can also boost productivity. 

 

Rigid mounts increase steadiness 

The mounting location within the vehicle is not the only thing that affects a VMT’s susceptibility to shock; what it is mounted to also has consequences. Metal plates and long beams can cause unwanted amplification, so to avoid this, the computers should be mounted on the sturdiest part of the vehicle, such as chassis elements or roll-over cages and frames and with appropriate mounting equipment. 

Ensuring that the mounting equipment used is tightly installed while being short and rigid stiff will help reduce the risk of resonance, which is a primary cause of costly vibration-related fatigue failures of parts and components.  

 

Vibration and shock dampers 

The use of custom-designed mounting dampers may be required in certain specialist situations. One example being a German logistics company, which had a four-centimeter-high steel doorstep preceding a loading-bridge. Forklift drivers had to speed up to get over the doorstep and, in this instance, dampers were the most suitable remedy to counter the extreme impact caused by the step. 

For dampers to be effective, they should have a resonant frequency that differs from any of the vibrational frequencies created by the installation.  However, with vibrations of different kinds, certain frequencies can actually be amplified, bringing more pressure to the unit instead of removing it. In production machines the vibrations are normally known (such as an electrical motor running at a constant rotation speed), but in a vehicle, even the unevenness of the ground can cause vibrations to vary over the whole spectra of frequencies, making it impossible to design a damper that doesn’t create self-oscillation. In those cases, a fixed installation without dampers is the preferred way. 

For optimum vibration isolation, it is important that the dampers are made of a suitable material, with the right characteristics. Natural rubber is preferable in environments where the temperature varies, as it has a good damping coefficient at both low and elevated temperatures. Synthetic rubber compounds, such as silicone rubber, are often preferable when the vehicle is being exposed to direct sunlight, as it offers better UV resistance compared to natural rubber. However, synthetic rubber has lower fatigue resistance and is in most cases more expensive than natural rubber. 

 

Air-filled tires with large diameters create less vibration and shock 

The tire material and the diameter of the wheels used on the vehicle will directly impact the vibration and shock levels. Air-filled tires naturally have a higher damping factor compared to solid plastic wheels, which transmit almost all the vibrations and shocks to the truck and onto the VMT. Smaller diameter wheels create a larger vertical displacement as the truck drives over cracks in the floor – another cause for increased shock levels. 

Consequently, the type of wheels used on the warehousing vehicles will also impact the durability of the installed VMT. Air-filled tires of the biggest suitable diameter will have a positive impact on the lifespan of the computer. Just like your car, it’s also important to keep them inflated properly. In circumstances where it is unavoidable to use solid plastic wheels, it is even more important to follow the installation tips above to keep vibration and shock to a minimum. 

 

Other factors impacting the lifespan of VMTs in logistic operations 

Overall, a well-maintained warehouse floor, clear of debris and obstacles is beneficial not only to the equipment but also to the health of the drivers, who often complain of joint pains due to excessive shock – especially in the case of lift trucks with solid plastic wheels where drivers stand throughout their work-shift. 

Last but not least, the impact force generated by a truck as it drives over cracks and obstacles is directly related to the driving speed. Therefore, driving at the recommended speed not only contributes to a safer working environment, but also improves the usability and lifespan of equipment. 

At JLT we are extremely proud of our hardware’s capabilities, but we are equally as proud of our domain experience across the entire lifecycle of our technology – from initial designs and specification, all the way through mounting, operation and maintenance, and onto upgrades and enhancements. We don’t just supply hardware; we supply the knowledge and experience behind it too, which ultimately gives you peace of mind and confidence. Contact us today… I am positive we can help!  

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Christian Funk

Christian Funk

Director of Product Management

September 29, 2022

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