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An uplifting proposal: Lift truck fleet management cuts long-term costs

Surveys estimate that fewer than 6 percent of companies accurately can identify their lift truck operating expenses.

If you don’t know what your costs are, how can you manage them?

Operating a lift truck fleet is a reality of your business, but managing a lift truck fleet in addition to focusing on your core business responsibilities can get complicated. Trying to keep tabs on service schedules is tough enough. When you add in the varying degrees of usage of each unit, multiple facilities in different locations, and the possibility of several service providers and parts suppliers, it gets even trickier.

When lift truck fleets are not maintained or utilized efficiently, downtime increases, productivity is reduced and you end up with more equipment than you really need. Spending money on an aging fleet that doesn’t perform as cost effectively as it should affects your bottom line.

Do any of the following scenarios in the table sound familiar? If so, an effective fleet management program might be the answer.

Issues Resolved by a Sound Fleet Management Program

Issue

  • Underutilized or excess equipment
  • High operating costs
  • Specification/configuration inconsistencies
  • Aged fleets
  • Low productivity
  • Mix of makes and models; range of service plans and providers
  • Short-term rentals used to supplement fleets long-term
  • Inability to determine and review fleet operating costs
  • No formal training programs

Fleet Management Benefit

  • Comprehensive fleet and facility analysis determines optimum fleet size and best use of each unit.
  • Outsourced maintenance programs and parts consignment programs offer cost-effective solutions for immediate and long-term fleet expense reduction.
  • Fleet surveys identify opportunities for commonality of specifications and configurations to provide flexibility for fleet rotation and relocation.
  • Planned replacement programs keep lift truck fleets operating within the optimum economic life cycle.
  • Maintenance programs and planned replacement strategies maintain fleet productivity and reduce downtime.
  • A single-source solution for service and parts, no matter the make or model of lift truck.
  • Improved equipment uptime helps reduce the need for short-term rentals; competitive leasing programs can help address acquisition issues.
  • Continuous monitoring and analysis of fleet data ensures strategy remains relevant.
  • Comprehensive operator and technician programs help increase productivity and cut down on equipment repairs, product damage and risk of injuries due to accidents.

A well-defined fleet management program helps determine your overall materials handling costs and identifies ways to reduce them through lower service expenditures and increased productivity. This can accomplish several goals, including:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Reduced fleet size
  • Improved or eliminated on-site parts inventory
  • Monitoring costs
  • Reduced supplier base
  • Maximized fleet efficiency

Research has shown that only 20 percent of the total cost of materials handling is associated with the price of acquisition. The other 80 percent is directly related to operator and maintenance expenses.

Consider also that on average, companies have 10 to 20 percent more units in operation than are necessary to do the job. This expense can be avoided with a well structured fleet maintenance program.

Identify and Solve

With so many companies unable to identify their lift truck operating expenses, the problem is obvious: If you don’t know what the problem is, you can’t manage it.

Most companies deal with fleet maintenance on an as-needed basis rather than under a formal periodic maintenance program. A comprehensive PM program is the best way to identify and correct problems while they are small rather than waiting until repair issues have reached crisis mode.

Proper fleet management begins with selecting the right lift truck for the application—tough enough to handle your most difficult loads without giving you more truck than you need.

Planned Replacement

A key component of any successful fleet management program is a planned replacement strategy. As a general rule, lift trucks have an economic life of approximately 10,000 to 12,000 hours. This varies based on maintenance practices, operating conditions and the type of equipment used.

A More Efficient Fleet

Fleet management is a step-by-step process that can’t be taken lightly. A long-term commitment by your company is vital to your success. Follow these steps, and you’re on your way to managing your lift truck fleet.

Step 1: Survey
Step 2: Analyze
Step 3: Propose
Step 4: Implement
Step 5: Monitor

Each element of the plan is reassessed at regular intervals to ensure your materials handling equipment remains in optimal condition and that hours and usage are reflected appropriately in service schedules. This also enables any necessary adjustments due to changes in your business needs. Ongoing tasks include continuous fleet size review and replenishment, maintenance cost analysis and management reporting.

Pat DeSutter is the director of fleet at Hyster Co., Greenville, N.C. More information can be found at www.hyster.com.