“Smart Cart” a Dumb Idea? What is Safer, Smarter, and Stronger in Manual Material Handling?

posted on: Friday September 18, 2015

uspo Load MoverIt seems like a great idea. A batter powered, electrically operated “Smart cart” solves two relevant problems in manufacturing and warehousing. 1) It reduces the need for a forklift, thereby increasing safety and sparing costs. 2) It also eliminates a lot of manual pushing and pulling. This keeps people working longer with less fatigue and reduces significant costs in workers’ compensation.


Those two issues alone are huge opportunities for a safe, more efficient and more profitable operation. If the “Smart cart” concept gives results in these benefits, what is the downside?


What is accomplished with a smart cart can be equally accomplished with an alternative that’s a fraction of the capital expenditure costs. A smart cart is a powered cart used to replace the physical labor of pushing and pulling. It allows product to be safely transported on the shop floor without a forklift, and the operator doesn’t exert any strain to move it.


Conversely, a “Dumb cart” (one without power) and a smart electric powered tug will accomplish the same feat. (It can actually accomplish more, but we will get to that later.) The tug is simply attached to the cart and operated in a similar fashion to the smart cart. It is one extra step, but essentially the same thing.


Here is where the difference lies. A smart cart is around $6K-$8K. When you have product on the cart and it isn’t moving, you’ve got that $6-8.000 tied up and sitting idly. Obviously, product sitting on a $500 “Dumb cart” is a lot less money. If you have 20 “Dumb carts” sitting with product on them, it ties up $10,000. You’d also need a smart tug to move the carts, which adds $8,000 for a grand total of $18,000 in capital expenditure. If you have 20 smart carts (at an average of $7,000), you have $140,000 tied up in capital equipment.


We only factored in the cost of one tug for two reasons. First, you can obviously use the same tug to transform all of your carts into battery-powered vessels. Second, by hooking your “Dumb carts” together, that one tug can pull numerous carts in one load. In this case, you would not only reduce your capital expenditure by almost 87%; you would also increase your productivity exponentially. Additionally, with one piece of equipment, you’re not dealing with the time, labor, and cost of repairing 20 units.


A smart cart is a solution for manual material handling; however, it is not the best solution. A “Smart tug” with loaded carts will yield the greatest benefits for these processes. Load Mover Inc. has a line of electric powered tugs that are “Safer, Smarter, Stronger” solutions for manufacturing and warehousing. Call us today to discuss your needs: 952-767-1720. You can also email us at info@loadmoverinc.com.