Cost efficiency, productivity, and safety are always top of mind for shippers and their fleet managers. With Material Handling Equipment (MHE) routinely accounting for 19% of a supply chain’s operating costs, effective management of these assets is critical to warehouse performance and a company’s bottom line.
And, as we recently celebrated National Forklift Safety Day (June 9), it is a good opportunity to reinforce safety practices and examine your overall fleet management program. A good place to start is looking at ways to extend the life of a forklift.
By properly maintaining forklifts, fleet managers can extend the lives of these vehicles and directly reduce costs and increase productivity. To extend the life of a forklift, fleet managers must ensure they are taking the following four measures:
Implementing a scheduled preventative maintenance program
Every company’s fleet needs a scheduled preventative maintenance program if they want operations running optimally. But, before a preventative maintenance program can be implemented, warehouse operations must have the necessary data to allow programs to naturally run their course. All data should be integrated within your program – operator abuse, inventory of all assets, batteries, chargers, labor costs, number of times specific equipment has been worked on, etc. – to enable a holistic view of fleet health at any time.
These programs are managed by data management systems, which not only ensure maintenance occurs regularly through alerts and notifications, but that costs are controlled. Shippers that only perform corrective maintenance, simply responding to breaks and malfunctions across MHE and forklifts will experience larger repairs, increased equipment downtime, and higher costs.
Hiring skilled technicians
Thoroughly vetting technicians during the hiring process is critical to proper fleet management and extending forklift lifespans. While it may seem obvious that having a workforce with proven experience and expertise to maintain equipment is important, many shippers underestimate how much of a cost-, time-, and resource-saver it can be to make sure the job is done right the first time. Your technicians are essential for optimizing maintenance processes and ensuring turnaround times are kept to schedule, which in turn allows forklifts to return to work and continually support productive operations.
Rigorously training operators
As vital as technicians are to effectively repair forklifts to extend their lives, highly trained operators are as important to reducing the need for unplanned maintenance. Fleet managers can leverage workforce management systems to find the best talent, but that does not eliminate the need for deeply engaging training.
If you don't have a well-trained workforce operating your forklifts and other MHE, you are substantially increasing risk in your environment and with OSHA compliance measures. Untrained operators can directly decrease the life of a forklift through their daily habits if left unaddressed. Reckless driving, whether done consciously or not, increases wear and tear on MHE and immediately puts forklifts and employees at risk – turning corners too fast, overall speed control, etc., are all contributors.
Properly and efficiently taking care of forklift batteries will not only prolong their life but the life of your forklift. Ensuring all vehicle batteries are watered, equalized, and charged appropriately is key to ensuring healthy, long-lasting batteries, and high-performing forklifts.
Adequately charging batteries is vital to ensuring that batteries and vehicles are not undergoing any added strain. During the workday, opportunity charging – leaving batteries in forklifts and charging them at docking stations – allows operators to save time and use their breaks to charge batteries. When done with the break, operators return to a refreshed battery and can further extend their production. When the workday is finished, conventional charging – removing batteries and placing them on a traditional station – is best-practice and will benefit operational and workforce efficiency by allowing operators to begin their day with a vehicle that is primed and ready.
Forklift fleets are an integral part of your daily warehouse operations and have a direct influence on the productivity and safety of your workforce. Ensuring that they are properly and regularly maintained will not only extend their lives on the warehouse floor but also prove beneficial to your bottom line. To learn more about best practices for fleet management and the importance of National Forklift Safety Day, click here to speak to one of our professionals.