Managing a warehouse and its fleet can be a continuously evolving challenge. Often, it’s the same old problems that reoccur. But there are a few secrets to solving the most common forklift problems, reducing costs, and eliminating a lot of frustration.
Here are a few of the most common forklift problems and the solutions:
1. Operators using forklifts they’re not qualified to operate
Without monitoring operator certification continuously, it’s hard to be certain that each driver is qualified to be operating their vehicle.
Solution: Using telematics software, each vehicle can be locked out if the operator about to use it is not in compliance. Software with an operator-certification-expiration option can provide managers a list of operators whose certification are nearing expiration.
2. Forklifts keep breaking down
This may be because forklift maintenance is spotty or non-existent — until there is an issue. Excessive downtime may also be because some of the fleet is getting old and needs to be replaced.
Solution: Mandatory safety checklists help identify maintenance issues at the beginning of each shift or with each change of operator, locking vehicles until the checklists are successfully completed.
At some point, the cost to maintain a truck — if it is frequently down for repairs — exceeds the cost to replace it. Monitoring the frequency of repairs for older lift-trucks can identify replacement needs. The average useful lifespan is about 10,000 to 12,000 hours, or approximately 6 years.
3. Careless accidents occur frequently
This might be due to erratic driving, horseplay, or risk-taking by operators. Or maybe the pressure to produce more in limited time has drivers exceeding speed limits and ignoring pedestrian warnings.
Solution: Implement short rest periods for operators under high-production stress or that have been completing strenuous tasks. Use telematic operator report cards to get a quick view of operator performance, speeding infractions, and correct use of safety checklists and protocol. Managers should identify areas where warnings and more training are needed.
4. Improper load procedures
Some drivers fail to recognize an unsafe load or are more focused on getting the job done quickly than doing it safely. Improper loads include those that are too heavy, poorly stacked, block vision, or are unstable.
Solution: Once an operator is trained, it should not end there. Refresher training should be conducted every three years — or more frequently, if operator behavior indicates poor judgement and risk-taking.
5. Lockout/tagout measures are not completed
Three out of 10 warehouse or distribution facilities lack a proper lockout/tagout program for lift-truck vehicles sidelined for repairs.
Solution: Telematic lockout/tagout alerts employees that certain pieces of equipment have been temporarily taken out of service. It prevents the vehicle from being operated until it’s repaired.