With all the pressures of the usual end-of-year scramble, and the need to be planning now for 2023, it might seem like the worst possible time to overhaul the management of forklift fleets.
Yet there’s always a laundry list of reasons to push fleet-management improvements to the back burner. Companies look for the ideal time to attack this beast — when they expect to finally have the resources to address longstanding concerns — but quite frankly, that moment simply never arrives.
Managing the forklift fleet lifecycle can be overwhelming. A lot of facility leaders simply don’t know where to begin, so they do nothing at all. They make assumptions about the status of the fleet, and what they believe will happen when something goes amiss with equipment. They seem to think things will simply work themselves out when the pivotal moment arrives.
Even if they wanted to make changes, they don’t have the data and the insights to make informed decisions. Forklift management might not be centralized in one place, or the institutional knowledge might be scattered across multiple teams or individuals.
The problem isn’t just a lack of organization and attention; it’s the astounding number of losses companies are facing on a year-over-year basis, without being fully aware of it. Fleet management is a top-five spend for any warehouse facility, and when equipment fails or needs replacing, it causes serious delays in uptime.
How to begin tackling this pervasive problem? The solution isn’t a simple one. And that’s precisely why so many facility leaders avoid it — much to their later consternation.
The forklift fleet needs a thorough overhaul. That means a thorough audit and evaluation of the management system as a whole (including centralization of the various processes, if they’re currently scattered across the organization). Companies need to scrutinize the way they procure and from whom, while educating procurement on the wide variety of equipment types out there; the way that they monitor and maintain the fleet and its power systems; their operator training procedures, and their action plan for responding to failures and crises.
The audit will take time and resources, but the payoff is a strong start to a refreshed fleet-management strategy. Facilities that choose to devote the time, resources and people to creating a truly streamlined, holistic management process can expect to see tangible benefits in four key areas:
There’s a major disconnect between what managers think is true about the way their forklifts are procured, maintained and utilized, and what the practical realities are. Now more than ever, it’s time they got a better handle on what’s really going on in the facility.
Tom Ryder is chief commercial officer at TFS.
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