Lift Truck Tips: Maintain the Lift Truck Fleet, Sustain the Business

Once a fleet is wrapped in a layer of data collection, it can be connected to warehouse and labor management to drive improvements.

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To control and optimize fleet maintenance costs, you must have some amount of data capture. Even those interested in pursuing full telematics for fleet management are likely to start with simple impact monitoring and electronic pre-shift checklists that relay information to maintenance.

“Once you get the system in place, we like to have a customer get a baseline view,” says Dick Sorenson, product director for TotalTrax. “When you see the behaviors and performances of operators and equipment, then you can start truly seeing trends. What KPIs that are near and dear to you are being impacted?”

Sorenson suggests waiting for a short time before revealing the impact data to operators. “You want to get a baseline of current behavior before you activate alarms and show drivers how their behavior, speed or impacts adversely affect the facility, the equipment or product,” he says. “There’s your first bump of improvement. The next level will reveal things that have been hiding in the background.”

By identifying the correlations between fleet metrics, for example, one customer discovered they were using forklifts with the wrong capacity rating. Customers might design the telematics dashboard around their specific objectives. Whether they want to track weekly, monthly or yearly, fleet managers should be empowered to drill down to the root causes with a few clicks. After all, Sorenson adds, information is useless if not actionable.

After establishing true utilization and productivity of equipment and operators, many customers look to fold battery monitoring into the system. Sorenson cites research by the National Renewable Energy Lab indicating that batteries can account for 50% to 60% of a forklift’s operating cost—a number most operations could reduce. The labor associated with battery charging is by far the largest of battery-related costs, to speak nothing of the operational impacts of undisciplined battery management.

By connecting battery management data to operator and lift telematics, Sorenson says it’s possible to pinpoint a specific lift, battery or driver operating outside the norm.

“It’s about continuous improvement. When you dig deeper, that’s when you uncover those nuggets you didn’t expect,” Sorenson says. “You can tease out the ideal staffing levels, the most productive operators, true utilization, fleet right-sizing, and those things that really impact the bottom line.”

The next phase of fleet management targets the top line. By adding load detection sensors, for example, a comprehensive view of data can help optimize how many pallets get moved. “Because you can address issues of resource allocation, now you can actually move more product in and out,” Sorenson says. “Bits and pieces of this were done in the past, but there’s a major push to integrate the lift truck with other supply chain systems like labor management and warehouse management systems, which track movement of goods, but don’t have a good sense of real-time activities on the floor.”

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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