Data collection is key to effective lift truck fleet management

To ensure uptime and profitability, efficient data collection and management is key. Here are some tips to use lift truck data to implement best practices for greater productivity and uptime.


Unexpected lift truck downtime or reduced productivity can be a direct result of poorly managed operating and maintenance data; failing to collect and analyze that data has the potential to impact a company's bottom line. To ensure uptime and profitability, efficient data collection and management is key. Here are some tips to use lift truck data to implement best practices for greater productivity and uptime.

Establish a baseline for comparison
In evaluating the total cost of ownership for an electric lift truck, the purchase price typically accounts for only 20% of the overall cost. The remaining 80% is attributed to maintenance and operator salary over the life of the truck.
Maintenance tracking software can help facility managers uncover hidden cost drivers. Software of this nature generates reports on lift truck fleet service that are customizable to evaluate the fleet by truck, facility, region or company. Facility managers can examine cost-per-hour information for each lift truck, allowing them to zero in on the costs of maintenance practices and cost differences between trucks or different locations to set benchmarks for maintenance throughout the organization. If a particular truck, region or facility displays unexpectedly higher maintenance costs compared with the rest of the fleet, facility managers can further investigate to determine the root cause of the maintenance requirements. This may result in the ability to fix issues within the warehouse or on the truck itself to prevent the need for further maintenance.
Facility managers can use maintenance tracking software to establish a baseline for current cost drivers. By understanding the factors that contribute to current operating costs, facility managers will be able to set goals and can use the baseline as a point of comparison to evaluate the success of any changes implemented in lift truck maintenance.

Determine the cost-per-pallet-move
Understanding the cost-per-pallet-move is a good way of measuring the efficiency of the lift truck fleet. Knowing the cost-per-pallet-move helps companies better understand the current rate at which materials are being handled, and knowing this information can drive optimum warehouse and rack layout to encourage increased efficiency.
The cost-per-pallet-move is calculated by dividing the cost per hour to maintain the lift truck by the number of pallets moved per hour. The number of pallets moved typically is obtainable by using data from a warehouse management system, and a maintenance tracking system helps provide the cost per hour of operating a lift truck. For example, if a truck costs $2.40 per hour to operate and it moves 30 pallets in an hour, then the cost-per-pallet-move is $0.08 per pallet move. If another truck costs $2 per hour but only moves 20 pallets per hour, then the cost is $0.10 per pallet move. A facility manager can then determine if it is appropriate to remove or replace trucks that do not offer the same throughput as the rest of the fleet.

Implement a comprehensive scheduled maintenance program
According to various industry estimates, almost 10% of lift truck cost of ownership is associated with the ongoing maintenance to keep the lift truck operating. A comprehensive fixed-price maintenance program (CFPM) is designed to help companies manage lift truck fleet maintenance costs. Through CFPM, all maintenance is covered under a predetermined monthly fee, allowing a company to focus on its core competency, rather than worry about unexpected repair costs.
By evaluating historical data related to parts and labor, a company or its lift truck dealer can ensure the fixed fee will cover the maintenance a company's lift truck fleet typically requires. In addition, data regarding maintenance performed beyond the fee will help facility managers recognize circumstances in which unexpected maintenance was required that may go beyond the CFPM agreement.

Analyzing impacts
Analyzing the impacts that take place within a warehouse or distribution center aids the proactive facility manager in supervising the lift truck fleet and determining whether the trucks are being used correctly. A real-time alert module, which can be part of a fleet optimization system, notifies warehouse and service managers if there is an impact or other significant event while the truck is in motion. This module offers an opportunity for companies to quickly identify operational concerns, or whether some aspect of the facility design leads to increased potential for impacts. By analyzing impacts, facility managers can implement changes that can help reduce costs resulting from damage to lift trucks, racking or products.

Right-size the lift truck fleet
On average, companies have 10% to 20% more lift trucks than are needed. Ensuring the right number and mix of trucks are being used may lead to considerable revenue savings in both capital expenses and labor.
Tracking the number of trucks being used at a given time, as well as the hours spent in horizontal transport and lifting, can be a valuable tool. If reach trucks spend a lot of time in the dock area moving pallets or are being used to transport products from one area of the facility to another, then it may be possible to trade in some reach trucks for pallet trucks, which are more cost-effective for these applications. Switching to a more economical truck for transportation tasks can quickly reduce lift truck costs and expenses over the life of the truck.

Data collection tools
A fleet optimization system that taps into the vehicle manager of lift trucks pulls comprehensive, accurate information about the fleet in real time. However, for companies without a fleet optimization system, data collection can be accomplished by observation of the fleet, analysis of maintenance invoices or consultation with a service-focused lift truck dealer.
Regardless of how data are collected, taking the time to evaluate it leads to a better understanding of where costs are generated and what practices can be implemented to encourage greater efficiency and productivity. Regularly reviewing data and fully understanding lift truck costs and operation can truly yield superior fleet management.

Joseph LaFergola is the manager of business and information solutions for The Raymond Corporation. He is responsible for supervising the support and analysis teams for Raymond's fleet management programs. LaFergola earned a BSEE from the University at Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y. He is a senior member of the American Society for Quality.


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