A forklift truck is a vital tool, and significant investment, that should be regularly maintained and productively managed across its whole lifetime. But how many businesses fall short, wonders Ross Farquhar, Strategic Planning Manager at Rushlift.

Across a broad swathe of industrial and commercial concerns the forklift truck fleet is a key enabler, responsible for the smooth movement of goods between manufacturing processes, through warehouses, and onto vehicles – an absolute necessity for the competitive performance and financial wellbeing of the business.

And yet, how well planned, maintained and managed is the average fleet? How sophisticated is the analysis of vehicle usage data – is utilisation evenly spread across the fleet? What are the damage trends and causes? And is servicing regularly carried out? Up-time for each and every vehicle is critically important. Breakdowns or failures of any description, whether they are due to mechanical issues or problems of compliance, can result in lost production, poor performance, delays and unhappy customers, not to mention safety issues.

Reducing risk, controlling costs and ensuring productivity requires attention to detail – and some applied knowledge. Monitoring every aspect of the fleet should be an on-going process, controlled and managed by specialists that understand the importance of regular servicing, damage control, compliance issues and cost analysis. A forklift truck fleet, of any size, is a significant investment that should be appropriately assigned to the tasks at hand, efficiently put to good use, regularly maintained and managed productively across the whole life of a contract.

All those roles can be taken on by carefully selected service organisations.

Outsourcing fleet management

At Rushlift, for example, we work closely with the fleet owner over the entire length of the contract, to maximise the overall performance of the fleet: from specifying and recommending the most appropriate trucks for the duties to be performed – and that means providing the best truck for the job, whatever the make – to providing full, regular servicing, fast breakdown call-out, and on-site meetings to review fleet performance.

Illustrating the importance that businesses place on service support excellence, Fraser Boyd, Transport Operations Manager at Buildbase, commented: “Ensuring the uptime of our forklift trucks is absolutely essential to the efficient running of our sites. So having reliable and fast service back-up and support, across all our sites, requires a service organisation that can provide nationwide coverage – even to really outlying areas such as the Highlands and the Shetland Islands.”

Of course, fast and easy access to parts is a fundamental support function ­– waiting for parts to arrive from a distant European parts store can cause delay and increase down time. It is therefore important to check that a potential service provider has quick and easy access to parts. Rushlift’s UK Parts Distribution Centre in Northampton carries in excess of £1.2 million worth of stock for next-day delivery. 

Important too, the ways the business can contact the provider. Rushlift offers a free online platform that enables customers to access up-to-the-moment information on their forklift truck fleet, log breakdowns on a 24/7 basis and access maintenance records, account details and other vital information. Importantly, live data is fed through the engineer’s tablet, making site visits simpler, with all maintenance records updated in real-time.

Looking at the bigger picture

Looking strategically across the length of the contract enables the delivery of extended value. From analysing the usage of individual trucks it is possible to make recommendations that may save significant costs, whilst improving operational performance.

For example, when the contract on Hydrobolt's forklift truck fleet came up for review Rushlift identified the potential to rationalise the fleet by introducing new vehicles of a different type capable of working both within the facility and for unloading containers.

“Having just one truck that can be used in our transport area inside and for both yard duties and unloading containers, meant that we could take a truck out, which was quite a big cost saving,” says Ian Butler, Operations Director at Hydrobolt.

Rushlift also recommended and supplied two Combilifts for Hydrobolt’s steel bar store, providing a complete handling solution.

Service support is everything, as Ian Butler says: “In running a manufacturing business where product quality and lead-times are critical, you need reliable handling equipment. So for me, it’s all about the service support.”

Effective management of its fleet of vehicle can make a huge difference to a business. It is not something that should be overlooked but on the contrary it should carefully considered.