Big Joe developing autonomous forktrucks

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

Big Joe Forklifts is creating a division to develop autonomous material handling equipment.

The company says it sees a need to develop an autonomous division as warehouse and manufacturing environments look to adopt new technologies in response to labour shortages and other operations challenges. It plans to offer simple machines that can be set up and deliver positive ROI beginning on day one.  

“Big Joe is known for making small utilitarian lift trucks matched to a task, and what we are preparing for customers is so well aligned with what we have done for over 70 years. It is just hugely exciting for everyone involved with the brand,” said Bill Pedriana, chief marketing officer. 

Pedriana has been highly involved in the development of the company’s initial autonomous products and strategy over the past few years, which has focused on developing user directed cobots, like the BUD prototype unveiled at MODEX in Atlanta earlier this year.  

Big Joe has begun building a team with several recent new hires, including Nick Malewicki who will serve as general manager.  Malewicki joins the company from Pactiv Evergreen, a manufacturer of fresh food and beverage packaging in North America. In his most recent role at Pactiv Evergreen, he was responsible for providing the strategic initiatives for over US$100 million of capital projects for a business unit, including implementation of automation solutions, warehouse facilities improvements, and managing over 1,500 leased material handling assets. 

As general manager for the new Big Joe autonomous division, Malewicki will be drawing from his considerable end-user expertise to focus the new divisions’ efforts on making automation easy and practical for customers to understand, deploy and support. 

“My intense immediate focus is on commercialization and preventing scope creep temptations as we move into 2023. Our upcoming autonomous products are on track to be simpler and lower priced than traditional offerings that our distribution partners and potential customers will simply be amazed,” said Malewicki.

“Our big differentiation is that we will be able to quickly and successfully deploy autonomous products that actually work, every day, and exceed end user expectations. As a former end user, I couldn’t be happier to be building a team and leading our efforts to deliver on that promise for our customers.”

Big Joe Forklifts plans to announce additional details on automation products and technology partnerships during Q1 2023, with a formal product introduction at ProMat 2023 which runs March 20-23 in Chicago.