Forklift Review: Mitsubishi Velia and Premia

By: Andrew Norton


Mitsubishi Velia order picker. Mitsubishi Velia order picker. Mitsubishi Velia order picker.
Velia's multifunctional steering wheel (left) and state of the art design (right). Velia's multifunctional steering wheel (left) and state of the art design (right). Velia's multifunctional steering wheel (left) and state of the art design (right).
The Velia has plenty of room for operator. The Velia has plenty of room for operator. The Velia has plenty of room for operator.
The Mitsubishi Premia. The Mitsubishi Premia. The Mitsubishi Premia.
Premia's compact dimensions long steering arm. Premia's compact dimensions long steering arm. Premia's compact dimensions long steering arm.

Stand-on or pedestrian? Both these trucks will hasten order picking duties

 

Until I ventured into the world of order pickers I never would have believed there were so many variants. Sure I've tested conventional counter balance, pantograph and reach forklifts but until recently never the core machines of warehouse operation.

Mitsubishi has two lines of low level order picker machines – the Velia range of low-level order pickers and the Premia range of pedestrian power pallets. Both ranges having capacities of one to two tonnes.

 

Velia

Shortly before I was able to test the two tonne Velia OPB20NE, Harris Farm Markets had bought the first two units.

Here's a machine that provides excellent ergonomics and operator safety yet is energy efficient.

There's plenty of room for even a porker like me to stand at the controls with a comfortable padded backrest and cushioned floor.

It can be driven at up to 12 km/h with the operator aboard or walking pace with the operator alongside.

When released, the steering self-centres so once aligned along a stacking row the operator doesn't have to constantly adjust the steering to maintain a straight course.

The floor height is just 105mm above the factory floor reducing knee stress when an operator is constantly getting on or off the machine.

 

 

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The heart of the Velia is the "Maxius" steering wheel, that's height-adjustable and has controls on either side (no hardships for left handers here) for speed, forward or reverse, horn and emergency stop.

Within the hand grips are paddle controls for raising or lowering the fork tynes and on the steering column provision for entering a four digit operator code.

The operator can choose normal or turtle mode depending on their experience and proficiency.

Either side of the steering column is a bin for documents, while behind the operator is a deep tray with hand grip, to which can be attached clip boards and a drink holder.

Waist-height switches either side of the backrest moulding control tyne lift and lower and forward speeds as the machine can only be run forward with the operator walking alongside.

The slim-line battery pack compartment is attached directly to the fork tynes and has a single-point electrolyte top-up attachment.

Once the access lid is raised, the battery can be rolled out of its enclosure onto a dolly for easy replacement.

The machine has a clean underside to reduce the possibility of floor debris being trapped in the traction wheel.

Access to the vertically-mounted AC traction motor and hydraulics for operating the push crank that raises the fork tynes and flips the load wheels into the upright position is by a removable panel under the steering column. There's plenty of room above the floor panel to reach all the components for normal servicing.

 

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Drive time

A button to the right of the steering column fires up the controls.

The operator code panel lights up as do the battery state indicator and speed mode.

In ‘turtle mode’ the speed control needs to be turned quite a bit for forward or reverse but even in the normal mode the AC control gives precise inching.

Turning the steering wheel fully to right or left actually allows the machine to move slightly in reverse for really tight turns into a stack. Being able to set the steering column at the right angle relative to operator girth makes a huge difference to operator comfort.

Even at full speed, the AC traction motor gives off only a low hum and steering is precise with the machine tracking beautifully and no hint or instability as expected in a three-wheel machine.

Over joints in concrete warehouse floors, the cushion tyres provide more shock absorption than I would have through possible and help maintain a straight course without needing constant steering adjustments.

When the speed control was released, the regenerative braking system quickly stopped the machine but without any jerking, so any fragile stock being carried on the forks would not be damaged. Pressing the stop button stopped the machine almost instantly and the soft-touch steering wheel absorbed the G-forces from my massive girth contacting it. 

The highest amount of noise comes from the hydraulics raising the fork tynes but this is still less than a conventional counter balance machine having an exposed mast and chains.

The hydraulic crank lift system provides millimetre control of the tynes.

This is essential when picking up a conventional Chep pallet. Unlike Euro pallets that have no bottom perimeter frame, the Chep pallet design means an operator has to carefully inch the tynes in over the bottom frame using small guide wheels behind the main load wheel either side.

 

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These wheels eventually need replacing and this wear would be eliminated were Euro pallets adopted by factories in Australia.

And if the floor is the slightest bit slippery, the Chep pallet will slide along the floor as the guide wheels roll over the bottom perimeter frame.

Were Australia factories to adopt Euro pallets, transfer speed from the stack to delivery point would also be dramatically increased. But as Chep pallets were designed for conventional counter balance machines, they're likely to be around a long time to come!

 

Premia

This machine is great for reducing operator flab as they have to walk with the machine.

No more sitting down on the job and no need to pay for expensive gym classes.

The Premia range won the Red Dot design award in 2012 for design excellence against 14,000 entries from over 70 countries.

Frankly this is not surprising. Mitsubishi really analysed what factory operators wanted when designing and engineering the Premia range.

The second generation PBP20N2 model I tested had ergonomics I didn't expect to see in a pedestrian power pallet.

The long steering arm not only gives precise control of all operating functions but instantly stops the machine if it flicks upwards or downwards should an operator fall over. Or the control hub contacts the operator while the machine is moving. Suitable for right or left handed operators the arm has speed, forward or reverse controls, fork tyne lift/lower, horn and stop button.

Like the Velia, the fork tynes are raised using a hydraulic mechanism with crank-driven load wheels.

 

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Guide wheels are fitted to pass over the bottom perimeter frame of a Chep pallet and the controls provide precise inching of the tynes into the pallet.

Access to the vertically-mounted traction motor and the hydraulics is via a removable panel below the steering arm and all serviceable components are instantly reached.

A nice touch is the in-built battery charger which has a pull-out plug for connecting directly to a wall socket.

The smart charger enables the battery to be constantly trickle-charged between uses and eliminates having to connect up a separate charger. A battery discharge indicator is standard and there's a single-point top up of battery electrolyte.

Because the operator walks with the machine and doesn't ride on it, the traction motor can be much smaller than in the Velia range.

This gives a massive increase in battery charge life considering both machines can take the same-output battery pack, which is lead acid and capable of withstanding constant trickle charging, unlike lithium ion batteries.

 

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Walk time

With my right hand firmly gripping the steering arm I was able to inch the machine from stationary to a brisk pace thinking of all the good this exercise was doing me.

The machine steered exactly where I angled the arm without constant direction changes up to the maximum travel speed of 6.0 km/h which is a good pace for flab reduction. The cushion tyres provided good surface shock isolation for items on a pallet and the tight turning circle enabled me to back into stacks where I could inch the fork tynes into a pallet.

When I released the speed control the regenerative braking system quickly stopped the machine without any jerking. When stopped the automatic parking brake engaged and is capable of holding the machine even on ramps. The ground clearance of 35mm prevents shoes being caught under the machine should an operator fall over.

 

Final words

Mitsubishi has obviously put a lot of effort into designing and engineering these machines to handle a wide range of warehousing conditions and to provide a quick ROI through minimal maintenance and servicing costs.

They have features I wouldn't have expected in basic factory forklifts and combined with an electric reach truck such as Mitsubishi's RBF20CA could handle all the requirements from stacking through to order picking.

The Premia model was the first machine I've tested that actually improves health working in a warehouse!

For more on these machines contact MLA Holdings on 131 652 or www.mlaholdings.com.au

 

Brief specifications

Specs  Velia OPB20NE Premia PBP20N2

Maximum load

2,000kg 2,000kg
Load centre 600mm 600mm
Load wheel axle to fork face 961mm 960mm
Lift height 115mm 135mm
Fork length 1,150mm 1,150mm
Travel speed (Laden, unladen) 12.0/9.0km/h 6.0/6.0km/h
Lifting speed (Laden, unladen) 0.1/0.1m/s 0.034/0.043m/s
Minimum turning radius 2,224mm 1,518mm
Wheelbase 2,041mm 1,424mm
Overall length 2,413mm 1,776mm
Length to fork face 1,262mm 562mm
Overall width 810mm 720mm
Ground clearance 35mm   30mm  
Tyre – traction; Tyres – load 250 x 100mm; 85 x 75mm

85 x 90mm; 230 x 70mm

Castor wheels 150 x 50mm 100 x 40mm
Gradeability (laden/unladen) 7/15% 10/20%
Service weight with battery  1,070kg 634kg
Battery 24 volts 375 A/h 24 volts 375 A/h
Traction motor; Lift motor 2.2 kW at 60 minutes; 1.2 kW at 15% duty   1.0 kW at 60 minutes; 1.2 kW at 15% duty

 

 

 

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