Lift Truck Tips: Avoiding downtime, dispatch and disappointment

The most wasteful service call is the one that didn’t need to be made in the first place.

By ·

In the battle against lift truck downtime, an emphasis on speedy response times has allowed an insidious money drain to persist: the unnecessary service request. According to Josh Landreman, senior manager of product support for UniCarriers Americas, the goal is to make sure each expense is valid, and that means service providers have to act as managers, not just dispatchers.

“If I were setting out on the fleet management path, I’d look for savings in erroneous repairs,” Landreman says. “Say a technician repairs a starter, comes back later and identifies a battery issue. Why didn’t he identify that on the first visit? If a dealer improperly diagnoses something, they should absorb those costs instead of passing them on to the customer.”

The dealer team can often identify these trends better than the customer, but managers should be able to review service events on a per-unit basis. Whether or not that kind of visibility is easily accessible, Landreman says more communication can only help the process.

“Take a common call, an emergency, and the customer doesn’t hear anything from the service provider until the technician shows up,” Landreman says. “But if he’s four hours away, the customer might call again and re-dispatch a technician. We have acknowledged the call and the problem, but we should also provide a time frame for the customer.”

Proactively notifying the customer will ensure ideal management of the precious minutes between equipment failure and repair. Will three hours be OK, or should we try something else? Maybe an emergency subcontractor in the area can address the problem quicker.

Of course it’s even better to prevent problems in the first place. High turnover makes operator behavior tricky to monitor, but basic data can track the root cause. “If lift truck No. 1 continues to fail between two operators, there’s a problem with the truck,” Landreman says. “If there are similar issues across several trucks, the operator might be the problem.”

While telemetrics can grant quick access to plentiful data, Landreman suggests adoption has not taken off at the pace some expected.

“Instead, we as service providers are taking as many avenues as we can to collect and present data somehow electronically so customers can quickly see the costs of a specific lift truck, or the status of one under repair,” he says. “In the past, we have even seen telemetrics create negative experiences for some customers, which has prevented them from considering similar technologies again, even as advances address some of their concerns.”

In addition to scrutiny of each service event, granular data can help control costs over the long term. For example, Landreman describes a facility in the California almond industry, which only produces during a certain time of year. “They know they are going to run the fleet hard and have higher costs,” he says, “but instead of paying that entire bill in a short time they can spread costs across a year in the contract.”

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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