A factory or warehouse is like a machine: every person and every piece of equipment is a part that keeps the overall operation moving forward. Like in a machine, if one part is out of commission, then that affects the machine’s ability to perform the task it’s trying to accomplish. That is the difficulty with the costly problem of forklift downtime.
What Is Forklift Downtime?
Like any machine, forklifts won’t run indefinitely. The average forklift will run for about 10,000 hours before it needs service. When the forklift is down and not performing, it is experiencing forklift downtime.
What Affects Forklift Downtime?
How much downtime forklifts experience will depend on several factors. First – what is the service and repairs that need to be done to the forklift? If a machine is well made and well maintained, downtime will be significantly less because the forklift will be able to go longer without breaking down. The environment is another factor that will impact a forklift’s downtime. Extremely cold buildings, for instance, or buildings with rough flooring, will cause a forklift to run down much more quickly than ones with mild temperatures and smooth floors. Inexperienced operators can also create a machine to break down more because they are more likely to make easily preventable mistakes.
What Does It Cost?
While forklift downtime is inevitable, it does generate consequences for warehouse and factory operations. There is the straightforward monetary cost of the repairs done to the forklift itself, but there is also the cost of lost production caused by the forklift not being on the floor. Consider also the issue of the employee running the forklift, if that employee’s only job is to run the forklift and is unable to do any other job in the warehouse. Depending on the company, total costs can range upward to thousands of dollars.
There are also “soft” costs that can’t be calculated in money or hours, such as the strain it puts on the workstation and employee morale. Anytime a workplace is unable to function, as usual, employees suffer across the board, which harms morale. There is also the amount of time lost as employees have to figure out a way to adapt to a new temporary “normal” until the repairs are complete, which slows production in the meantime. Managers and higher-ups are unable to focus on the rest of the floor because they have to tend to the forklift issue.
With the high cost of forklift downtime, the question of how to minimize forklift downtime becomes immediately significant. Fortunately, there are several proactive measures that factory and warehouse owners can take.
How Can We Minimize Downtime?
Know Your Machines
Every machine is different and requires maintenance following operation—and different lengths of operation time necessitate different maintenance procedures. Be aware of what the various forklifts in operation can handle so that you can then use that data to inform protocol regarding that machine. It is also essential to know how different environments impact the quality life of a forklift and plan accordingly, based on the factory or warehouse environment.
This information should be taken into consideration when buying or selling a machine, as well. As previously mentioned, well-built machines will naturally have less downtime than ones of lesser quality. When considering the cost of extra equipment downtime, it is well worth it to invest in quality equipment. Also, be aware of when a machine has outlived its usefulness. Selling a forklift before getting one’s money’s worth is not ideal, but waiting too long to sell it will result in maintenance costs exceeding the machine’s cost of ownership.
Keep Accurate Records
The best way to know what a machine can handle is by keeping accurate records about its use. If employees log how much time a forklift is used every day, then that data will inform managers how long it has been since a machine had maintenance and allow them to make informed decisions regarding it. Keeping accurate records of how much maintenance an individual forklift has needed will also help guide managers when it is time to sell it.
Using information obtained from the manufacturer at the time of a forklift’s purchase and records made during a vehicle’s use, one can easily set a maintenance schedule for one’s forklift. Scheduling consistent maintenance will prevent large-scale repairs from needing to be made by taking care of small, less expensive problems before they become more severe. Proper maintenance will also ensure a machine lasts longer.
Properly train employees
Misusing a forklift will for more likely break down the machine and generate more forklift downtime. Employees should be well trained not only in how to operate a machine best, but how to maintain them, such as how to tend to a forklift’s battery properly and how to use the right forklift for the right job so as not to put unnecessary strain on a machine. Employees should also be aware of the different maintenance tasks required for various types of forklifts, such as what is needed for an electric vs. a hydraulic forklift.
Keeping one’s facility in ideal condition will also help protect the operating capability and longevity of a forklift. Although it isn’t always possible, depending on the facility, keeping a factory or warehouse at a milder temperature will put less strain on a machine. So will making sure that the flooring of a facility is smooth and free of obstructions. A facility that is cluttered or not easily navigated will also put more strain on a machine and make forklift accidents more likely, putting not only equipment but employees and merchandise at risk.
Repairs to machinery will always be necessary, so downtime is inevitable. However, being proactive and knowing how to minimize forklift downtime will help prepare facilities to meet the challenge with little harm to their production.