Pfronstetten-Aichelau: Torsten Krohn's joy was evident when he was able to take a look at his new work tool - a Linde E 25 forklift truck - for the first time. It was a long road for the 49-year-old from Saxony, who lost his right arm in a motorcycle accident on his way to work 28 years ago, to get to this moment in the mobility park of the PARAVAN company in Aichelau, Swabia.
Since 2013, Torsten Krohn has been working as a sweeper driver at the company Maja Möbelwerk GmbH in Wittichenau. A job that the passionate hobby tinkerer really enjoys. In 2020, however, his job will be outsourced due to restructuring at the company. Krohn is threatened with unemployment. But the employer and the employers' liability insurance association are working to find Torsten Krohn a new job as a forklift operator in the company. But how is Krohn supposed to operate a complex forklift truck with just one arm? After all, in addition to the vehicle controls with gas, brake and steering, the fork and fork arm must also be operated. A real challenge with only one arm.
The search for a suitable conversion partner begins and initially remains unsuccessful. The solution comes via his regional advisor at the employers' liability insurance association, Thorsten Junkers. "I might know someone who can help us with the project," says the BG consultant, who contacts Dietmar Bendinger, branch manager of PARAVAN GmbH in Heidelberg, and describes the case. Bendinger gets in his car and drives directly to Wittichenau to see the case for himself. At a joint meeting with all those involved, the solution comes within reach: "We have to compensate technically for the function of the
missing right arm by compensating for the steering of the truck via the Space Drive joystick steering system," quickly becomes clear to the experienced PARAVAN mobility tinkerer. "In addition, we have to convert all the operating functions of the fork from right to left."
The next steps are initiated: A suitable Linde forklift truck is ordered, a conversion offer from PARAVAN GmbH is prepared and approved by the employers' liability insurance association. But the project is delayed again because the desired forklift is not available in a timely manner due to the Corona pandemic. Further months pass until the forklift finally arrives at the conversion experts at PARAVAN GmbH in Pfronstetten-Aichelau in June 2021.
The conversion can begin: The conventional steering of the truck is removed, and the Space Drive steer-by-wire system is installed. Instead of a steering wheel, the truck is now steered using a specially adapted joystick. In cooperation with the manufacturer Linde, all operating functions of the fork are moved from the right side of the truck to the left. In addition, a 360-degree camera system with monitor is installed in the driver's cab so that Krohn always has an optimum view of its surroundings.
After almost a year and a half of project work, the moment has come and Torsten Krohn can take a seat on his customized work truck for the first time. But the initial joy is quickly dampened: due to phantom limb pain in his amputated right arm, the planned operation of the joystick with this shoulder is not possible. "Physically, I can't do that for six hours a day at work," Krohn explains to the technicians.
Together with technician Norbert Hain and Dietmar Bendinger, a solution is found. Instead of using the right shoulder, Torsten Krohn suggests that the Space Drive steering system could be controlled with the left thigh using left-right movements. The joystick is relocated, repositioned underneath the seat and fitted with a suitable mounting bracket. It works!
In the next step, Krohn learns to drive and operate the forklift safely. Pallets are stacked on top of each other, cones are circled and wire mesh boxes are placed in the high-bay warehouse. The driving instructor is impressed by Krohn's driving skills: "Torsten is really doing very well. A real natural on the forklift, and that despite the new and unfamiliar steering," says Ralf Buhmann, head of the PARAVAN driving school at the Aichelau site. After a week of training, the driving instructor can present his protégé with the coveted "yellow" forklift license. Exam successfully passed!
"I'm just happy. What the guys here at PARAVAN have made possible is totally impressive. Everything was adapted exactly to me and my needs, and the Space Drive System implements what I'm thinking in my head. A perfect symbiosis. Now I can get going again in my company," says Krohn happily.
For the final tests with the converted truck, all those involved in the project meet again in Aichelau. Dietmar Bendinger, the representative of the Employer's Liability Insurance Association for Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BGRCI) Tobias Meurer and Thomas Euchner, Safety Officer of Maja Möbelwerk GmbH, inspect the conversion and are satisfied with the project. "It took a while, but the result shows what is possible when it comes to inclusion. But when the company, the cost unit and the conversion professional work together closely and with a focus on results. We are proud to have enabled successful reintegration into our company with this conversion project," says Thomas Euchner.