Fleet Management & Forklift Safety Blog

Fleet right-sizing: The costly mistake of using too many lift trucks

Posted by Phil Van Wormer on Oct 7, 2014 6:00:00 AM

piggy-bankThe workhorse of your warehouse or DC operations could also be the biggest drain on your bottom line. A quick look at the cost of running a single lift truck underscores the importance of knowing exactly what each member of your fleet is doing at all times.

Consider the following numbers:

Despite the obvious cost of lift truck ownership, it is not uncommon for managers to be unaware of how many lift trucks are being used simultaneously or whether the fleet is really used at capacity. Some simply assume their fleet is being fully utilized throughout the shift and are surprised to discover that is often far from the case. In fact, real-time monitoring technology will frequently reveal that your typical fleet is underutilized, working at 50 percent or so of capacity. In one extreme case, a user who had expressed a need for more lift trucks found out two trucks in his fleet were never being used.

It begs the question: Why do managers make such assumptions?

One analyst participating in the 2014 Technology Roundtable of SupplyChain 24/7 explains managers in manual warehouses tend to steer clear of lift truck savings because of the continuous need to move product and the laborious task of collecting and managing historical information. He draws a parallel to how most of us manage our own personal vehicles:

“It’s not always on the top of your mind to get the quarterly oil change and regular tune-ups. And, the paperwork finds itself in the glove box and file cabinets in your home. Now, imagine a fleet of 20 or more lift trucks driving all over a warehouse with multiple drivers.”

Such disorder is a recipe for inefficient fleet use. The lack of maintenance tracking alone increases the risk of vehicles being sidelined for costly emergency repairs – and downtime is one of the biggest productivity killers in the warehouse.

Michael McKean, fleet management sales and marketing manager for Toyota Material Handling, makes a good point when he cautions against confusing fleet management with other capital expenses. He says: “The company might have five projects on the agenda, like a new roof or a new dock. But those are just projects. Materials handling equipment is not a project, it’s an essential part of a well-run business.”

A well-run business cannot rely on assumptions of fleet utilization. Real-time tracking solutions are equipped to collect thousands of data points and translate them into actionable information. Use those fact-based insights to right size your fleet and save thousands - if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Topics: real-time visibility, warehouse productivity, fleet management, right size, fleet utilization

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