The global supply chain depends heavily on material handling equipment. Therefore, when a machine goes down, operations can quickly grind to a costly halt. In fact, downtime events can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour, which is why 72% of businesses say eliminating them is one of their top priorities. So what can you do to keep your equipment humming along at peak productivity levels? Here are five simple tips you can start with.
1. Conduct pre-shift inspections
Before using, operators must inspect their forklifts, pallet jacks, tow tractors, or any other powered industrial truck (PIT) they intend to use for anything that could compromise safety. This rule comes straight from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).
Besides the important safety function, these inspections can also help find small problems before they balloon into big (and expensive) repairs. Issues like small oil leaks, noisy drive motors, and intermittent electrical shorts may not impair the operation of the lift; however, they can snowball over time if not corrected early enough.
Use a daily pre-inspection checklist to make tracking these issues easy. These documents typically list all the major inspection actions, so operators won’t miss a step. In addition, most forms have extra space so operators can record any issues they find. Just be sure that your maintenance team is notified so they can promptly correct them.
2. Commit to a regular maintenance schedule
Here’s a worrying statistic: 70% of companies don’t even know when their machinery is due for repair or improvement. That means most companies are risking an expensive downtime event each shift they operate that equipment. Not to mention the potential safety implications.
A simple way to get on top of maintenance is to keep track of how many hours your equipment is used. A spreadsheet or computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help with this task. That way, your maintenance team can regularly check the meter readings against the industry standard 200-hour and 2,000-hour maintenance intervals for material handling equipment.
You should be aware, though, that different pieces of equipment may require different maintenance intervals. That’s why you should always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Check the operator’s manual for the piece of equipment in question to find out what those guidelines are.
3. Give your operators better training
An often-overlooked way to keep your material handling equipment running well is by providing your drivers with best-in-class operator training. In fact, OSHA estimates that proper training can help prevent a whopping 70% of operator errors – many of which commonly result in equipment damage.
The logic is simple: poorly trained operators make more mistakes, are less likely to take care of their equipment, and are more likely to be involved in dangerous and damaging incidents. And each one of those incidents can cause a lengthy and expensive shutdown of operations.
Any quality operator training program should consist of formal instruction, plus a hands-on training and evaluation component. Just remember that you – the employer – must perform the final certification, based on the operator’s performance in the actual areas and conditions of your facility where they’ll be operating.
4. Don’t neglect your batteries
Increasingly stringent emissions standards combined with improvements in battery life have made electric-powered material handling equipment more common than ever. In fact, in 2017 alone, electric forklifts accounted for 64% of all forklifts sold in North America!
And with production demands ever-increasing, there’s pressure to keep lifts running around the clock. But without proper and consistent care, this kind of heavy-duty use can wreak havoc on the lead-acid industrial batteries that typically power these trucks.
That’s why it’s crucial to fully charge batteries before putting them back into service. And once the battery is charged, it’s critical to fill the cells with an adequate amount of water. Doing so will go a long way towards maximizing the useful life of your batteries.
5. Trade-in and up
You’d probably think twice about putting a new engine in a car with 250,000 miles on it, right? After all, the car is likely close to the end of its useful life. Well, you should also think in those terms when it comes to your material handling equipment.
This is the concept of a machine’s “economic life.” And it’s the point at which it becomes too expensive to continue maintaining it. When a piece of equipment has crossed that threshold, you should consider getting rid of it and replacing it with something newer.
Keeping careful track of your equipment’s economic life can play a significant role in reducing costly shutdowns. In fact, 50% of businesses reported old equipment was the top reason for downtime!
With downtime as costly as it is for businesses, it’s key that you do as much as you can to reduce the amount of time your material handling equipment is out of commission. By following these simple tips, you can help keep your equipment and operation running smoothly.
Photo courtesy of: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Alex Hilke is a marketing writer with Conger Toyotalift, a material handling dealership and service center headquartered in Green Bay, Wisconsin.